High Priest of the Eco-Apocalypse
As I pointed out in a recent article on Quadrant Online, apocalypticism has a firm grip on Western Civilization, reaching fever-pitch on many occasions over the last 2500 years. Critically, in the 20th century, apocalypticism assumed a secular guise, as various cultural historians have observed, “evoking world destruction and transformation through ecological disaster … and technological breakdown”, with both religious and secular versions “converging upon the belief that the [world] is about to undergo a staggering transformation, in which long-established institutions and ways of life will be destroyed” (Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More, 1992, p.336).
As a further example of such doom-laden prophecy, here is the latest sermon on the impending eco-apocalypse, according to James Lovelock, “the closest thing we have to an Old Testament prophet”, as the Sunday Times observed in its review (19 February 2009) of his latest Jeremiad, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning (2009). According to Lovelock, in the next few years we will face an abrupt leap in average global temperatures of 9 degrees Celsius, leading to the collapse of global civilization and the virtual extinction of humanity in an orgy of violence that Lovelock gloatingly dismisses as a “massive natural cull of humanity”.
Quite quickly, “the earth’s landmasses will be largely destroyed by flood and drought, and most of the world’s seven billion inhabitants will not survive”, while those who do will struggle for life amidst billions of rotting corpses backing in the sun of a “desert world” that stretches across the globe. Such a prospect might be expected to appall most people but the reviewer just remarks that, “all this should make for a bleak read [but] the effect is strangely exhilarating” – such is the morbid fascination with the eco-apocalypse in our culture.
There is some hope, with fortuitously located island nations like Britain and Australia serving as life boats in this ocean of misery, although some crucial decisions will have to be made – not democratically, for democracy is a luxury that the world cannot afford, but by ruthless, environmentally aware warlords who rise to the top amidst the chaos. They will determine who is kept aboard and who is jettisoned, with evolutionary theory dictating that the old, the sick, and the infirm will have to go, along with those who choose to accompany them as helpers, in a last fleeting expression of human compassion, while the rest surrender to the ruthless amorality of natural selection.
Because “genocide by tribal mobs is as natural as breathing”, human beings will embrace various forms of Green fascism and eagerly agree to the suspension of constitutional rights, convinced that blind obedience is the only way to survive and that their free will and personal autonomy must the surrendered to a self-selected elite of omnipotent environmental scientists and the strutting self-righteous Green politicians who exist to implement their dictates – a species that Australia possesses in abundance.
As a fundamentally religious thinker, Lovelock claims that the earth should be properly known as ‘Gaia’, the Earth Goddess, because she is allegedly a living organism – indeed ‘the largest living being on the planet’ (because she is the planet!) – and ‘she’ operates according to scientific laws that dictate that humanity is an evolutionary dead end – a sort of sentient stool – that will be excreted by Gaia as she continues to ensure her own homeostatic well-being through her manipulation of various environmental parameters, as she has done for millions of years in the past and will continue to do for millions of years after humanity’s apparently well-deserved demise.
Not long ago, most people would have thought that such ideas were best left to bad science fiction, but no longer. Indeed, it is a measure of the corruption of science amidst the moral panic of global warming that Lovelock’s ‘Gaia Hypothesis’ has now been elevated to the status of a scientific theory, which Tim Flannery – one of Australia’s own eco-apocalyptic prophets – assures us means that it has “been tested and is considered true” (“A Great Jump to Disaster”, New York Review of Books, 19 November 2009). Consequently, in 2006 Lovelock was awarded the the Wollaston Medal by the Geological Society of London, for opening up a “whole new field of Earth Science study”, apparently some sort of geo-theology.
Moreover that Lovelock feels confident in making such dire predictions on the basis of experiments conducted on a “simple” computer model, while this impending catastrophe is made all the more sinister and irrefutable by his insistence that just “before the jump to a desert world, the climate will briefly become cooler again”, which means that “a cold summer, or even a series of them, is not proof that global heating has ended”. In other words, global cooling – like we are currently experiencing – will only be confirmation that global warming is real and is accelerating towards ‘the final jump’ into the eco-apocalypse.
Such extreme claims, and the invocation of allegedly ‘scientific’ arguments that cannot be falsified, because even negative observations confirm their predictions, is further evidence that the global warming panic and its projected catastrophic effects is a fundamentally religious phenomenon and signals the emergence of an eco-fundamentalist cult that follows a 2500-year old pattern in predicting an apocalypse according to which the world and all human civilization will shortly come to a catastrophic end.
The vital question that we now face is whether our politicians really believe this type of hysterical nonsense or whether some have the courage to step back from the brink of eco-apocalyptic hysteria to insist that Australia’s national interests are best served by a rigorously skeptical attitude towards what is emerging as one of the greatest moral panics the world has faced since the witch-craze of the middle ages.