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They've Already Got the Right Man for the Job in the White House

“Environmentalists champion economic ‘de-growth,’” Michael Bastasch writes at the Daily Caller:

Environmentalists are pushing a new way to deal with global warming and overpopulation: the U.S. needs to “de-grow” its economy.

What is “de-growth”? It means forcing people to work less to make them more equal, consume fewer goods and use less electricity. Think of it like camping, but for the rest of your life.

Environmentalists at the New Economics Foundation in London and the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C. argue that cutting the 40-hour work week and using less electricity is necessary. This includes a living wage requirement and a more progressive tax code.

“There’s no such thing as sustainable growth, not in a country like the U.S.,” Worldwatch senior fellow Erik Assadourian told Sierra Magazine.

“We have to de-grow our economy, which is obviously not a popular stance to take in a culture that celebrates growth in all forms,” he said. “But as the saying goes, if everyone consumed like Americans, we’d need four planets.”

De-growing the economy means working less and consuming fewer goods and electricity — the foundation of modern life. Most cheap, reliable electricity that businesses and homes rely on to power their everyday needs comes from sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear power — which environmentalists argue are killing the planet.

“If we had a livable wage and could each work a 20-hour week,” Assadourian said, “we’d have time to choose more sustainable options that are also better for ourselves.”

And thus, yet another radical environmentalist stumbles into his religion's Catch-22 trap. Or as Walter Russell Mead wrote in 2011, “Top Green Admits: ‘We Are Lost!’”

[George Monbiot of the Guardian] also acknowledges the contradictory and inconsistent nature of the green solutions.  He acknowledges that there is no prospect for democratic politics to impose the draconian limits on consumption and economic activity that green dogma requires.  Every ‘solution’ the greens have come up with has a fatal flaw of some kind; none of it works, none of it makes any sense.  As Monbiot concludes,“All of us in the environment movement, in other words – whether we propose accommodation, radical downsizing or collapse – are lost. None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess. None of our chosen solutions break the atomising, planet-wrecking project. I hope that by laying out the problem I can encourage us to address it more logically, to abandon magical thinking and to recognise the contradictions we confront. But even that could be a tall order.”

This is an awesome admission of categorical intellectual, political and moral failure.  For two decades greens have arrogated to themselves the authority of science and wrapped themselves in the arrogant certainty of self-righteous contempt for those who oppose them.  They have equated skepticism about their incoherent and contradictory policy proposals with hatred of science and attacked their critics as the soulless hired shills of the oil companies, happy to ruin humanity for the sake of some corporate largesse.

Monbiot has worked his way through to a cogent description of the dead end the global green movement has reached, but he has not yet diagnosed the cause.  In particular, he remains a staunch Malthusian.  In his view, humanity is good at creating new ways to destroy itself, but not at finding solutions to the problems we create.  Our ingenuity is magically good at finding new fossil fuels, but we have no skill whatsoever at managing the consequences of our discoveries.  The unknown technologies of the future will create horrible new disasters, but they will offer no new ways to contain or manage the disruption they cause.

Economic growth is a cancer, in this view.  Its bad effects are permanent and cumulative, its blessings are evanescent and ultimately trivial. [Emphasis mine -- Ed]

Malthusianism is a religious conviction that desperately needs to think of itself as a science.  From Thomas Malthus and his mathematical certainties to Paul Ehrlich with his famine timetables and the Club of Rome with its ‘scientific’ predictions of resource exhaustion, Malthusians have made confident predictions about the future and claimed scientific authority for statements that turned out to be contemptibly silly.  That is the brutal fate that often awaits people who can’t keep the boundaries between science and religion straight.

As we noted in 2011, linking to Mead's post, ever since the start of the Great Recession, we’ve noticed the weird Catch-22 that dogmatic environmentalists find themselves in. In 2009, when pushing cap and tax, John Kerry said:

The United States has already this year alone achieved a 6 percent reduction in emissions simply because of the downturn in the economy, so we are effectively saying we need to go another 14 percent.

Earlier [in 2011], Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) let the mask slip herself, getting caught on camera telling her supporters:

“Well, the good news is, our [carbon] emissions are way down because of the recession. I mean, really, if you want to find a silver lining in the cloud, the number that we were looking for [with cap and trade legislation] … we are well, well [ahead of our goal]…because we have had such a real drop in manufacturing output.”

And of course, there this were the infamous soundbites from 2008, when Candidate Obama admitted that he’d rather bankrupt coal companies than provide Americans with affordable energy.

In her interview in 1999 on C-Span's Booknotes with Brian Lamb, when she was promoting The Future and its Enemies, Virginia Postrel perceptively noted what the endgame of radical environmentalism would resemble:

The Khmer Rouge sought to start over at year zero, and to sort of create the kind of society that very civilized, humane greens write about as though it were an ideal. I mean, people who would never consider genocide. But I argue that if you want to know what that would take, look at Cambodia: to empty the cities and turn everyone into peasants again. Even in a less developed country, let alone in someplace like the United States, that these sort of static utopian fantasies are just that.

Perhaps Mr. Obama could spin the latest economic news as an example "de-growth" for Gaia: "Unexpectedly, Decent 4Q Growth of 3.2% Revised Way Down to an Anemic 2.4%"

Good news! Right, Mr. Kerry?