Theodore Dalrymple quips that “’Do you care about the health of the planet?’ is a question not quite in the class of ‘Have you stopped beating your wife yet?,’ but it is approaching it:”
Some questions are asked in a spirit of inquiry, to obtain answers, but others are asked to intimidate or badger or coerce agreement with a point of view and establish the irreproachable virtue of the persons who ask them. I received such a question by email the other day from the Lancet, one of the most important medical journals in the world. Addressing me by my first name (already sufficient to irritate me), it asked me, “Do you care about the health of our planet?”
Frankly, the answer is that I don’t. Planets, unlike dogs, are not the kind of thing I can feel affection or concern for. My bank account occupies my mind more than the health of the planet. I am not even sure that planets can be healthy or unhealthy, any more than they can be witty or self-effacing. To call a planet healthy is to make what philosophers used to call a category mistake. This is not to say that I wish the earth any harm; on the contrary. Indeed, in a multiple-choice examination, I might even tick the box for wishing the world well rather than ill, at least if I had any reason for wanting to pass.
Of course, the people asking the question care about their bank balance far more than “saving the planet” themselves. NBC runs periodic “Green Weeks” urging individual viewers to turn all their their lights off, but they can’t quite seem to turn away the revenues from NASCAR and the NFL. As with CBS’s original leftwing naif Walter Cronkite going all-in on “Earth Day” in 1970, Scott Pelley, his latest replacement as the network’s nightly newsreader, smears global warming skeptics as Holocaust deniers and approvingly chats up the Obama-funded Tesla, yet CBS’s cable sports channel happily runs programming devoted to gas-guzzling muscle cars. (Really bitchin’ gas-guzzling muscle cars, too. Perfect for Iowahawk’s next Earth Week Cruise-In, to celebrate, as he likes to say in his own inimitable style, “Mother Earth — the Ultimate MILF®!”)
If either of these networks actually believed the “we only have five years to save the planet” rhetoric that radical environmentalists have been continually insisting since 1970, they would pull their financial backing from all of these shows, and begin scheduling programming, a la the 15-minutes into the future doomed Australia depicted in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (and Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film adaptation) that prepared the nation for the holocaust to come.
To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds just slightly, I might be more willing to consider thinking of global warming as a crisis, when and if the people who tell me it’s a crisis begin to act like it’s one themselves, first. Don’t tell me to change or cut back on my lifestyle, until I first see very visible and dramatic proof that you’ve reduced yours.