The Blogosphere has had quite a collective chuckle this weekend at the tweets of Eric Holthaus, a former Wall Street Journal weatherman now employed by an Internet start-up. The tweets above, assembled by Twitchy, illustrate his meltdown on Friday; the London Daily Mail has more of the backstory:
A meteorologist who has covered weather for the Wall Street Journal tweeted that he has decided not to have children in order to leave a lighter carbon footprint, and is considering having a vasectomy.
He also vowed to stop flying after the world’s recent climate-change report made him cry.
Eric Holthaus was reacting to the findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which released a report on Friday that found it was ‘extremely likely’ that humans are causing warming trends seen in the last several decades.
On Friday afternoon the weatherman tweeted: ‘No children, happy to go extinct, which in and of itself, carries a certain sadness. #IPCC’
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Holthaus, who now writes for Quartz, has decided he will also reduce his carbon footprint by giving up on air travel.
‘I just broke down in tears in boarding area at SFO while on phone with my wife. I’ve never cried because of a science report before. #IPCC,’ was his first tweet on around 2pm on Friday.
‘I realised just now: This has to be the last flight I ever take. I’m committing right now to stop flying. It’s not worth the climate,’ he tweeted a few minutes later.
“Hahahahaha!!!! Classic!,” commenter Tim Maguire responded to that last tweet at Instapundit, paraphrasing Holthaus’s future no-flight vow as “I feel so strongly about this that I vow here and now to change my behavior some other time.”
And the Small Dead Animals blog focuses on this hilarious tidbit: “According to another tweet from Holthaus, the Dutch artist known as Tinkerbell, who calls attention to animal rights issues through works that use the remains of dead animals, had herself sterilized last week for a similar reason.”
Holthaus tweeted that “I’ve never cried because of a science report before.” And as Oscar Wilde would say, it would take a heart of stone not to roar with laughter at the eco-apocalyptic meltdowns by Holthaus and “Tinkerbell.” But the astonishing thing is: why aren’t there more people on the left having similarly hysterical eco-epiphanies when faced with imaginary eco-doom?
Of course, the leftwing elites who’ve grown the wealthiest pushing apocalyptic climate change fantasies are immune from such a reaction, yet another reminder that they don’t believe their own rhetoric, as they cheerfully hop from one apocalyptic climate conference to another on their private planes. A recent post at Newsbusters illustrates this sort of double-track thinking perfectly. At the liberal Brookings Institute this past Friday, Al Gore provided a fresh new update on his past rhetoric of calling conservatives “digital brownshirts.” Perhaps responding to President Obama’s call for an era of new civility, Al is now calling conservatives “political terrorists”:
Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America? It cannot be allowed. But it can only be stopped if people in both parties independents as well say, “look, I might not agree with everything that’s in the Affordable Care Act, but it did pass, it was upheld by the Supreme Court, it is the law of the land. You didn’t succeed in the constitutional process by which this was considered, and now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government, but blow up the world economy?….How dare you! How dare you!”
But in 2006, Al was busy telling people that the world was coming to an end a decade later — which means we have less than three years to go. If Al really believed his own rhetoric, wouldn’t he want the “the world economy” to “shut down,” to reduce warming and to extend the planet’s life? (Gore’s fellow Democrats, Sen. Claire McCaskill and then-Senator John Kerry, have both praised the diminished Obama economy for its Gaia-cleansing ways.)
But when Gore was cornered in the US Senate by Sen. Jim Inhoffe (R-OK) in 2007 to personally take the pledge that he had guilt-tripped audiences with in An Inconvenient Truth, “to consume no more energy for use in my residence than the average American household,” Al of course refused. As Ann Coulter quipped at the time, Gore “may be a hypocrite but at least he’s not a moron.”
Hey, anybody who can parlay a low-rated environmentally themed cable TV channel into a $100-million paycheck by selling out to Big Middle Eastern Oil is no moron. But I don’t worry too much about Elmer Gantry; I worry about those in the pews who blindly follow him.
And it’s a form of religious hucksterism almost as old as Sinclair Lewis’s legendary preacher.
As Julia Gorin noted in the Christian Science Monitor in 2006, the cult of global warming returned to the forefront in the first decade of the 21st century as part of the left’s reaction to 9/11. “Freud called it displacement,” Gorin wrote. “People fixate on the environment when they can’t deal with real threats. Combating the climate gives nonhawks a chance to look tough. They can flex their muscle for Mother Nature, take a preemptive strike at an SUV. Forget the Patriot Act, it’s Kyoto that’ll save you.” Though the mindset of “the moral equivalent of war” dates back a century to William James and the earliest progressives; and Jimmy Carter explicitly used those words in 1977 to describe his war on fossil fuel, which is why we spent the end of the 1970s with gas lines and rationing. Carter followed up his non-energy energy speech with his infamous “malaise speech” of 1979, in which he assumed that the crisis of confidence he and his fellow leftists were suffering applied to the nation as a whole. The American people gave him their answer the following year at the ballot box.
Actually, since the mid-to-late-1960, and long after Carter’s malaise speech, an increasing number on the left have existed in a sort of permanent malaise. Liberalism, as it called itself back then, entered the 1960s a confident ideology, believing that no problem was unsolvable. However, the one-two punch of not being able to process the cause of JFK’s assassination, and his successor LBJ attempting to tackle every American dilemma simultaneously, created a crisis of confidence that the left has never fully recovered from. Having given up on making America better, the left’s diminished élan manifested itself in two ways, which often overlap.
It gave rise to the punitive left, which sees America as the locus of evil in the world, and therefore wishes to diminish its power, both globally and domestically, and belittle its exceptionalism. (See also: Barack Obama.) But it also gave rise to those with a much more fatalistic outlook.
During the first Earth Day in 1970, all sorts of doomsday rhetoric was in the air promising the demise of man from anywhere from five years in the future to the end of the 20th century; this post at the I Hate the Media blog collates the nuttiest of them. In his classic 1976 essay, “The Intelligent Co-ed’s Guide to America,” Tom Wolfe mentioned sharing the podium at a college lecture on the topic of “The United States in the Year 2000,” with a speaker who was convinced that the world would be uninhabitable by the year 2000 because of aerosol spray use. And in order to put their doomsday prophesies into wide circulation, a number of Hollywood films were released during the early 1970s that used science fiction to illustrate the horrors to come: the famine and overpopulation of Soylent Green, the dehumanization of THX-1138, the population control of Logan’s Run, the deforestation depicted in Silent Running, and Rollerball, a corporatist warning of the scariest 21st century scenario of all: James Caan on roller-skates.
Back then, the big fear was global cooling; today it’s global warming – and occasionally, some of the same “scientists” have been spotted frightening audiences about both calamities — but the mindset is the same, as Josiah Neeley writes at the Federalist on “Malthus at the Movies”:
Where is Hollywood getting this stuff? The answer, improbably enough, is that they are getting it from the 18th Century Anglican Priest and economist Thomas Malthus. In his 1798 work An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus argued that, if left to its own devices, human population growth would outstrip improvements in agricultural productivity, leading inevitably to war, famine, pestilence, and death.
History has not been kind to Rev. Malthus’ arguments. Shortly after the book first appeared, the Industrial Revolution began and living standards began rapidly increasing even as the world’s population exploded. And while there were periodic warnings that we were about to run out of coal, or oil, or some other vital resource, these predictions were largely ignored, and ultimately proved false.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Malthusian fears began a strange rebirth. In his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich relied on Malthus’ theories to argue that overpopulation would inevitably lead to disaster. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” Ehrlich wrote. “In the 1970′s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” The situation was so dire Ehrlich even went so far as to say that “[i]f I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” This, mind you, in a work that was purportedly non-fiction, not science fiction.
Ehrlich wasn’t alone. In 1972 the prestigious Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth, a report predicting that the world would run out of various commodities within 40 years. Ehrlich was a frequent guest on “The Tonight Show,” where he propounded his theories to a sympathetic Johnny Carson. Political figures as diverse as Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr. began to speak about the “population problem.” Even the normally clear-headed Alexander Solzhenitsyn uncritically accepted the Club of Rome’s predictions in his 1974 open letter to the Soviet leadership.
It was only natural that these dire predictions would start to work their way into film.
For those true believers who share the fatalism of Eric Holthaus, who’ve bought into the doomsday rhetoric, and yet have actually had children, a post in June at the Maggie’s Farm blog explored what they tell their kids about the horrible future and doomed planet into which they’ve been brought into. Picture Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 telling her son about the doomsday to come in just a few years when Skynet becomes self-aware, and you get the gist of it.
But such apocalyptic beliefs have been a staple of the left since the mid-1960s. Who knew just how old gray Chicken Little would become believing that world’s end was imminent? It’s this close. I can feel it. I know it’s going to happen. Any…day…now.
Update: “Time to Get Your Hockey Stick Tied,” quips Mark Steyn. “Eschewing procreation in order to spread their message only through conversion? Well, it worked for the Shakers…”