Ed Driscoll

Watching The Mask Slip

Nothing gets past CNN, Don Surber writes. The pioneering television news network has discovered electricity!

By golly, using the Internet consumes electricity, which means some carbon dioxide has been created — as with most other human activities.

I have to hand it to CNN for finally figuring it out.

Every second on the Internet means 20 milligrams of carbon dioxide have been created as oxygen mixes with carbon in the production of electricity. Half the electricity in the United States comes from coal. It might have been less if we had kept building nuclear plants after Three Mile Island.

What might have been.

CNN reported: “Now, depending on how quickly you read, around 80, perhaps even 100 milligrams of C02 have been released. And in the several minutes it will take you to get to the end of this story, the number of milligrams of greenhouse gas emitted could be several thousand, if not more.”

The news channel quoted Bill St. Arnaud of Canarie, a Canada-based internet development organization: “”Most people don’t appreciate that the computer on your desk is contributing to global warming and that if its electricity comes from a coal power plant it produces as much C02 as a sports utility vehicle. Some studies estimate the internet will be producing 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases in a decade. That is clearly the wrong direction. That is clearly unsustainable.”

This begs the question: How many milligrams of carbon dioxide does a person use in every second of watching cable news on television?

No matter. As surely as the citizens of leftwing Austin Texas have embraced “green power”, CNN will quickly shut its Website down, to do its part to save the planet.

Mark Steyn’s newest column dovetails nicely with Don’s post:

I always enjoy it when the masks slips and the warm-mongers explicitly demand we adopt a massive Poverty Expansion Program to save the planet. “I don’t think a lot of electricity is a good thing,” said Gar Smith of San Francisco’s Earth Island Institute a few years back.

“I have seen villages in Africa that had vibrant culture and great communities that were disrupted and destroyed by the introduction of electricity,” he continued, regretting that African peasants “who used to spend their days and evenings in the streets playing music on their own instruments and sewing clothing for their neighbors on foot-pedal powered sewing machines” are now slumped in front of “Desperate Housewives” reruns all day long.

One assumes Gar Smith is sincere in his fetishization of bucolic African poverty,with its vibrantly rampant disease and charmingly unspoilt life expectancy in the mid-forties. But when an hereditary prince starts attacking capitalism and pining for the days when a benign sovereign knew what was best for the masses he gives the real game away.

Capitalism is liberating: You’re born a peasant but you don’t have to die one. You can work hard and get a nice place in the suburbs. If you were a 19th century Russian peasant and you got to Ellis Island, you’d be living in a tenement on the Lower East Side, but your kids would get an education and move uptown, and your grandkids would be doctors and accountants in Westchester County.

And your great-grandchild would be a Harvard-educated environmental activist demanding an end to all this electricity and indoor toilets.

Environmentalism opposes that kind of mobility. It seeks to return us to the age of kings when the masses are restrained by a privileged elite. Sometimes they will be hereditary monarchs, such as the Prince of Wales. Sometimes they will be merely the gilded princelings of the government apparatus – Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi. In the old days, they were endowed with absolute authority by God.

Today, they’re endowed by Mother Nature, empowered by Gaia to act on her behalf. But the object remains control – to constrain you in a million ways, most of which would never have occurred to Henry VIII, who, unlike the new cap-&-trade bill, was entirely indifferent as to whether your hovel was “energy efficient”. The old rationale for absolute monarchy – Divine Right – is a tough sell in a democratic age. But the new rationale – Gaia’s Right – has proved surprisingly plausible.

Beginning with FDR, wily statists justified the massive expansion of federal power under ever more elastic definitions of the commerce clause. For Obama-era control freaks, the environment and health care are the commerce clause supersized. They establish the pretext for the regulation of everything: If the government is obligated to cure you of illness, it has an interest in preventing you getting ill in the first place – by regulating what you eat, how you live, the choices you make from the moment you get up in the morning.

Likewise, if everything you do impacts “the environment”, then the environment is an all-purpose umbrella for regulating everything you do. It’s the most convenient and romantic justification for what the title of Paul Rahe’s new book rightly identifies as “Soft Despotism”.

As I wrote back in March:

A few years ago blogger Val Prieto described “omnipotent tourist syndrome”, in which leftwing tourists drop in on cities such as Havana and become enraptured by the urban ruins they encounter, wishing them preserved forever, with little thought of the daily hell that transpires amidst them. Nowadays, one needn’t bother to leave the country to experience such horrors firsthand.

Or wish them upon your brethren.