Apocalypticism used to be packaged as the forever-looming punishment for man’s sins against God. These days it is Gaia who has been sinned against, according to her legion of environmental Jeremiahs. Unlike the Old Testament prophet, these retailers of the woe to come richly deserve to be scorned
Once again, the Australian people are about to be sold out, offered up as human sacrifices on the altar of the new religion of Gaia. Having successfully staged a coup to dislodge climate change moderate Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, along with Greg Hunt and Julie Bishop, can now make their pilgrimage to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the objective of which is to establish a legally binding and universal agreement on draconian climate change action from all the nations of the world.
In this fashion they will deliver us all into the gaping, insatiable maw of the global warming racket, with hundreds of billions of dollars to be expropriated annually from the middle-classes of the West and funneled into financial institutions, giant rent-seeking corporations, UN bureaucracies, and Third World kleptocracies.
The mendacity, gullibility, and self-interest of these politicians and their accomplices (especially in academia and the media) is breathtaking, but ultimately they are building upon a carefully choreographed campaign of eco-apocalyptic agitation and propaganda that has been underway for decades. While the machinations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and similar agencies are notorious, the longer-term history of the campaign to enchain the people of the world under the pretense of preventing a climate catastrophe is extremely illuminating as it discloses the true nature of the crusade presently being waged.
Central to this strategy is the mobilization of a new form of secular apocalypticism centred on the dogmatic assertion that the world is about to end as a result of human industry and technological ingenuity. The tremendous momentum of this otherwise unlikely global warming panic exists because it has been able to build upon and exploit the long history of apocalypticism.
Traditional apocalypticism is a major religious phenomenon based on the belief that the world and/or all human civilisation will shortly come to a catastrophic end through Divine intervention. It has had a firm grip on the Western culture for some 2500 years, and has reached fever-pitch on many occasions, frequently inspiring the widespread conviction that Armageddon was imminent and that humanity would shortly face Divine judgement.
The 20th century was one of the most apocalyptically obsessed periods in history, driven by world wars, revolutions on a continental scale, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. This has had a massive impact on popular consciousness, as I have previously discussed in an academic article. Above all, it made people extremely susceptible as traditional apocalypticism took on a secular guise, “evoking world destruction and transformation through ecological disaster … and technological breakdown”, with both religious and secular versions “converging upon the belief that the accepted texture of reality is about to undergo a staggering transformation, in which long-established institutions and ways of life will be destroyed”, as Paul Boyer explained in When Time Shall Be No More (1992).
Remarkably, the central role to be played by the global warming myth in this agit-prop campaign was spelt out by some of its ideological leaders 22 years ago:
“Humans need a common motivation … either a real one or else one invented for the purpose. … In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill.”
So declared Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider in The First Global Revolution, A Report by the Council of the Club of Rome (1993). The book was a sequel to The Limits to Growth, the infamous 1972 jeremiad produced by the Club of Rome, an incredibly well-resourced NGO consumed by the belief that the world was about to end unless global political control was placed in the hands of a technocratic elite (i.e., themselves and their protégés). Despite none of its predictions coming true it was translated into 30 languages and sold over 30 million copies, becoming the best-selling environmental book in history.
It was able to exploit the popular hysteria and moral panics that surrounded such best-selling eco-apocalyptic polemics as Rachel Carson’s hysterical Silent Spring (1962), which led to a ban on DDT and other insecticides and resulted in the preventable deaths of between 60 and 80 million people (mainly in the Third World) who might otherwise have been protected from malaria and other diseases. Even more sensationalistic was Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968). This alleged that a global ‘population explosion’ would lead to hundreds of millions of people starving to death within 20 years. It intentions to terrify were emphasized by its cover, which depicted a black anarchist bomb with a lit fuse and the slogan: “The population bomb is ticking”.
Ehrlich was expanding on Paul and William Paddock’s eco-apocalyptic prophecy, Famine 1975! (1967) and this was followed by Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1970), which predicted that the Armageddon promised in the Bible would shortly bring global destruction; it consequently became one of the best-selling religious books in history. Barry Commoner’s The Closing Circle; Nature, Man, and Technology (1971) declared that the impending environmental catastrophe was caused by capitalism and insisted that only global eco-socialism could save the world. Similarly, the communist historian, Lefton Stavrianos, argued in The Promise of the Coming Dark Age (1976) that environmental equilibrium would only be re-established when the present Imperialist world-order collapsed as the Roman Empire had done previously and the world entered a new ‘Dark Age’. He insisted this would sweep away the destructive elements of modern industrial society and purify the world.
The 1970s also saw the first appearance of catastrophic climate change theory. Ironically, this new form of eco-apocalypticism focused on the insistence that the earth was confronting a new Ice Age caused by global cooling! A NASA scientist, Stephen Schneider argued in 1971 that industrialization was producing high levels of atmospheric dust and that this would prevent sunlight reaching the earth’s surface and cause a temperature drop of some 3.5 degrees Celsius. Science News concluded in its March 1975 cover story that such a percipient decline would trigger an Ice Age, and this assessment was confirmed by a 1975 report from the US National Academy of Sciences. Subsequently, Lowell Ponte published The Cooling in 1976, carefully describing the global effects of such a catastrophe, while the BBC produced a documentary on the subject. Later, the resurgence of Cold War tensions later provoked Jonathan Schell to publish The Fate of the Earth (1982), a best-seller that depicted the annihilation of most life on earth in a nuclear war, with a ‘nuclear winter’ freezing the planet and leaving only “a republic of insects and grass”.
It was at this time also that Jack Sepkoski and David M. Raup published “Mass extinctions in the marine fossil record” in Science (March 1982), identifying five mass extinction events in the history of the world, headlined by the demise of the dinosaurs. This eventually overthrew the prevailing gradualist model of planetary history and established the theoretical foundations for the central eco-apocalypticist idea that the earth could undergo sudden, cataclysmic and irreversible physical and environmental change.
The apocalyptic mood intensified further in the 1980s with the appearance of AIDS, which brought the ‘Sexual Revolution’ of the Sixties to a screeching halt and led celebrity opinion-makers to proclaim the approach of a carnal Armageddon. This was exemplified by the 1987 on-air declaration of Oprah Winfrey that “research studies now project that one in five heterosexuals could be dead from AIDS at the end of the next three years – believe me!”, as Simon Pearson recalls in The End of the World: From Revelation to Eco-Disaster (2006). In Australia this moral panic was accompanied by the infamous ‘Grim-Reaper’ TV advertisements which depicted the average heterosexual family (including grandma and her grand-daughter) being bowled over by AIDS. Building on the pre-existing dread of nuclear annihilation, life increasingly was seen as vulnerable and contingent.
The 1980s also saw the emergence of the Gaia Hypothesis, which restored the religious dimension to eco-apocalypticism. It was first formulated by the biologist James Lovelock and popularized in Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1979), followed by many other books by Lovelock, including such panic-inducing tomes as The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity (2006) and The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can (2009).
According to this new form of pagan theology, the earth (‘Gaia’) is a transcendent superorganism, and is indeed the largest known living being, with its own super-complex nervous system (of which humanity is a small but significant part). As such, in a quasi-Divine fashion, Gaia deserves and demands reverence while severely punishing (indeed, making extinct) those species, e.g., humanity, that threaten its equilibrium or survival. Gaia theology quickly became a New Age cult and remains extremely influential throughout the environmental movement.
(To his credit, Lovelock has proven to be more of a genuine scientist than a theologian, recently conceding the rate of global warming has not been as predicted: “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he observed in a 2012 interview on MSNBC. He also criticized environmentalists for treating global warming like a religion, advocates fracking as a major source of energy, and dismisses the claims that modern economies could be powered by wind turbines as meaningless drivel.)
The 1980s also saw the rise to pre-eminence of the Deep Ecology movement and related eco-extremism. Deep Ecology was invented by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess and is based on the premise that human life has no priority over non-human life, such as animals, plants, amoeba, or bacteria, or even over objects in the natural environment –mountains, wilderness and the like. Consequently, Deep Ecologists demand a 90% decrease in the human population if Gaia is to be saved. Naess visited Australia in the early 1980s and had a massive impact, inspiring the fledgling Greens and the floundering communist parties which went on to construct the watermelon form of leftism: green on the outside, red on the inside. These activists became and remain extremely influential in universities and schools, and some sit in our Parliament.
Other eco-apocalyptic extremists from this period that had significant influence on Australia include the Earth Liberation Front and Earth First! eco-terrorist organizations, which advocated economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare in what they saw as a fight to the death with modern industrial society for the honour of Gaia. Consequently, for many years they engaged in ‘eco-tage’, ‘monkey-wrenching’, and tree spiking, and also (for obscure reasons) waged a war on SUV dealerships in the United States. Prior to the 9/11 attacks they were on top of the FBI list of domestic terrorist threats.
The eco-apocalyptists found their most influential ally in Al Gore, who published in 1989 Al Gore published an opinion piece in the New York Times that likened industrial society to a drug addict continually in need of a fix to feed its self-destructive habit. He also compared the threat of global warming to the rise of Nazism. We face, he declared, an “ecological Kristalnacht” and an “environmental holocaust”. Later, his eco-apocalypticism took full flight in Earth in the Balance (1992) which insisted that global warming was “the most serious threat we have ever faced”, discounting true catastrophes like the Black Death, which killed half the population of Europe in a matter of a few years, or the Mongol invasions, which nearly destroyed the European and Islamic civilizations. He even overlooked the scourge of 20th century totalitarianism, which accounted for several hundred million lives.
In this Gore gave voice to one of the central conceits of eco-apocalyticism – its insistence that the most critical moment in history is right now and that the present time is always just one step away from Armageddon and the Final Judgement.
Meanwhile, the leading theorist of global cooling, Stephen Schneider, adroitly re-invented himself as a leading theorist of global warming as this was adopted as the preferred scenario by the Club of Rome and other NGOs and agencies. In Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century? (1989) he predicted a 5 degree Celsius rise in temperature by 2050, sufficient to severely degrade most societies on the planet. Predictably, the IPCC (which was constituted by the UN in 1988) declared such catastrophic global warming a reality in its first report in 1990 and this set the scene for the developments of the past quarter-century, including the Kevin Rudd-led hysteria leading up to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Schneider also made some revealing comments in 1989 about how he saw his role as a scientist committed to the ideology of global warming:
“As scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method [but] our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change [means that] we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
This signaled a paradigm shift in the role expected of scientists with a significant input into the policy process and the political sphere – it was henceforth seen as acceptable and even required that scientists deliberately mislead the public and obscure the implications of their research if it conflicted with pre-determined political outcomes.
(In 2006 Schneider served as an advisor to the South Australian Government on climate change and renewable energy policies. He was instrumental in increasing the state’s reliance on ‘renewables’ to over 30 %, with predictable effects on its economy.)
It was after these developments that The First Global Revolution with its similarly revealing confession appeared in 1993. This was in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The Club and other NGOs saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seize control of the global political agenda, initiating what they saw literally as “the first global revolution”. With the defeat of communism it declared a new enemy was needed to mobilize the masses under elite control:
“The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor … With the disappearance of the traditional enemy [communism] the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised”.
Global warming was to be that contrived enemy.
The strategy therefore was to move eco-apocalypticism to the centre of global political concern. Freed from the spectre of communism the global masses could now be terrified into action in a new war, this time against carefully contrived threats of global environmental catastrophe. Nothing exemplifies this better than Gore’s Oscar-winning eco-apocalyptic documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (2006), with its images of the polar ice-caps and enormous glaciers expiring while hurricane victims scurry for shelter. America, he declared, must lead the fight against global warming, just as it allegedly did against slavery (?!).
This was accompanied by Alan Weisman’s non-fiction celebration of a post-human world in The World Without Us (2007). This celebrates in excruciating detail what would happen to the natural and built environment once human beings are removed from the world. As The Guardian’s review (3/5/2008) exalted, people “learn during the course of this book, to feel good about the disappearance of humanity from the Earth”. It is a measure of the penetration of eco-apocalyptic ideas that Western intellectuals, enjoying the greatest freedoms and highest standards of living in history, nevertheless think that “there is something about a description of our own extinction that pulls at the heart”, and muse about “what is it that is so seductive about the idea of complete human extermination?”
Notoriously, Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister around this time and eagerly adopted the eco-apocalyptic perspective, casting himself as the global savior at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, maintaining the Prime Ministerial jet on stand-by at Canberra airport, ready for him to intervene at a moment’s notice in the conference negotiations, in order to save the world. Now, all too conveniently, Australia has another true believer as Prime Minister, eager to pay homage to Gaia at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in the City of Light.
While the alleged objective of this campaign is to prevent alleged catastrophic global warming its real aim is to enmesh countries like Australia in a legally binding framework that would require a vast re-distribution of wealth away from economically successful nations like Australia, while also establishing the basis for a form of global governance that would entail the surrender of national sovereignty.
Led by corrupt UN agencies, unaccountable NGOs, wealthy foundations, mendacious politicians, opportunistic academics, and Third World kleptocracies, the eco-apocalypticists are committed totally to re-shaping the world and its people into a Gaia-friendly and easily administered mass.
Indeed, despite the emphasis on environmental threats the real target of the campaign has always been human beings, as The First Global Revolution made clear:
“In their totality and their interactions these phenomena [global warming, pollution, famine, etc.] do constitute a common threat [but] all these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”
In this respect modern environmentalism is no different to the earlier forms of totalitarianism, with their fierce desire to re-make humanity according to their fanatical conceptions of race and class. Where its obsessions differ from those of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot is in its anti-humanism, as exemplified by Gaia theology, Deep Ecology, and the other misanthropic ideological tendencies present throughout the movement.
Ultimately, the role of apocalypticism as a major cultural and political force throughout history should make people pause and examine carefully all suggestions that the world is facing extinction or a cataclysmic global upheaval. At the very least people should be skeptical, and so should their representatives. However, such reflection and skepticism is difficult or even dangerous, because intolerance of all dissent and doubt is a core characteristic of apocalyptic systems of thought, and apocalypticists are always eager to punish those who question their prophesies.
The tragedy of the accelerating moral panic about alleged global warming is that we know a great deal about the history of traditional apocalypticism and the devastation it has wrought in the past, and yet we seem unable to place the contemporary eco-apocalyticism in that historical context and see it for what it really is: a fundamentally religious phenomenon being exploited by very powerful interests intent on enchaining the world under their control.