Posted 10 January 2010
It's impossible to open a magazine on any topic anymore without encountering a barrage of "tips" on how to live a greener life. Cooking magazines tell you how to carry on eco-friendly cooking. Computer magazines warn readers about the dangers of "vampire power" from their plugged in devices. Business publications lecture on carbon neutral business practices. Entertainment mags offer pieces on celebrities and their ecologically friendly mansions. Anyone a century from now who picks up a present day magazine will assume that the people of the early 21st century spent all their time sorting compost and calculating their carbon emissions, when they weren't recycling their toilet paper.
|The Flying Global Warming Monster|
The tips are of course not really tips, but 'nudges' in Cass Sunstein's terminology. Lectures and prompts masquerading as suggestions. Much like Michelle Obama's menus. The assumption being that the average American would welcome digging through his or her own trash or eating bugs, so long as they're given a few tips on the best and most efficient way to grill a grasshopper or walk 10 miles to work instead of driving there. And while the self-proclaimed saviors of the ecosystem take the limo from the jet to their latest eco-conference, the ordinary citizen is called on the carpet for spending an extra minute in the shower.
But no amount of tips is ever enough. Because there is no such thing as a green lifestyle. Trying to do things the "Green" way usually ends up being worse for the environment. From ethanol to reusable bags to organic food, everything you do only makes the planet sicker.
Want to walk to the store instead of driving? No, you're not saving the planet. You're killing it. Because walking takes energy which must be replaced through food. And producing food for human consumption is bad for the environment. (There is now a heady debate among environmentalists whether it's better to exercise and burn calories or to remain fat. Either way a lot of food gets consumed.) Don't think that you can get out of the conundrum by shopping online. Do you have any idea how many carbon emissions are expended by having a delivery van come to your house. Or how many calories the deliveryman must consume in order to get that package of sweaters to your door.
That's without even going into all the carbon dioxide generated by just doing a product search online. According to a report, from one of those institutes tasked with measuring absolutely useless things, "performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle". There you have it. If you search for a product online, you might as well boil a kettle. And boiling kettles kills the planet. Every time you make a cup of tea, a polar bear dies. If you have a tea party, you might as well just call it a polar bear massacre.
Ah, but you probably think you can still save the planet by growing food in your own backyard. What a horrible monster you are? Don't you know that growing things in your own backyard also kills the planet. Trees are actually major producers of methane. And methane (like everything else in the universe) causes Global Warming. Those trees that you so trustingly thought were on our side have been covertly emitting methane and carbon dioxide all along (and possibly dihydrogen monoxide). It's time to stop hugging trees, and start chopping them down to save the environment.
What will you eat then? Well nothing. You see, you're also bad for the environment. And you have to go. There's no two ways about it. But at least you can still breathe. Right? Wrong. Every time you breathe out, you're releasing carbon dioxide into the air. And then there's your demand for clean air. Don't you know that clean air causes global warming. That's right, clean air is destroying the planet. Cutting down pollution actually causes the planet to warm up. Which kills polar bears. So get that smokestack going or all the polar bears will die.
Don't drive a car. Don't ride a bike. Don't walk. Don't leave the house. Don't eat. Don't breathe. Don't think. Thinking burns almost as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle of fish. Every time someone thinks skeptically about Global Warming, the temperature goes down by 0.001 Celsius, except sometimes it actually goes up by 0.001 Celsius, depending on how you juggle the numbers or turn the hockey stick graph around. And since your mind is a major source of pollution, you had better turn it off and do what you're told.
You might think that none of this makes sense. And you'd be right. It's not supposed to make any sense. This has nothing to do with the planet, the polar bears or anything besides green. Not the kind of green you find growing on trees, but lying in wallets.
Doomsday predictions, bizarre lifestyle restrictions and constant guilt. What does that sound like. That's not science. It's a cult. Al Gore predicting that the North Pole will vanish in 5 years follows in the proud tradition of cult leaders who gave their own constantly shifting dates for armageddon. The eco lifestyle tips don't make any sense. Their only goal is to make money for eco-merchants and inflict guilt on everyone else. Nothing you do is ever right. And like most cults, trying to do the "right thing" eventually turns out to be worse than doing the wrong thing. Because cults know that their own disciples are the best marks.
News stories now attribute hot weather and cold weather equally to Global Warming. The Atlantic is more salty because of Global Warming... except when it's less salty because of Global Warming. Bridges collapse in Minneapolis, bubonic plague and cholera threaten, maple syrup vanishes, the earth spins faster, the number of avalanches increases (but is also reduced)-- all because of Global Warming. Like worshipers attributing any and all events to their deity-- the Eco-Cult points to any significant event as proof that their Flying Global Warming Monster is about to unleash doomsday on all the infidels, unless everyone stops doing laundry right now. It doesn't matter how little the events actually have to do with Global Warming, or if they attribute mutually contradictory events to Global Warming. Faith in the Flying Global Warming Monster is the mark of the true scientist.
Global Warming is not science, it's six-tenths greed and four-tenths ideological fanaticism angled against the unlimited potential of humanity. Some will grow rich off it. Most will be impoverished. Like most cults only a privileged few are allowed at the top. Ted Turner has already proposed a child-trading scheme under which there will be a One Child Per Family global standard, but rich people like himself will be able to buy the right to have more children from poor people. In his exact words, "fertility rights could be sold so that poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce". The good news about this modern brand of eugenics is that this time around, black people in Africa will be paid money not to have children, so that Ted Turner can have his five children. (Arguably many of the more eco-friendly celebrities have already jumped on the bandwagon by buying children from less developed countries and then adopting them.)
Nobody can say that being a leading member of the eco-cult doesn't have its privileges. Like driving around in a Mercedes Benz while advising people to drink rat's milk in order to save the planet. If this was being done by some hairy lunatic in a compound, the smart set would be quick to ridicule anyone for falling for such madness. But when it's celebrities advising people not to take showers, in between participating in film shoots where entire makeshift lakes are created just to film a 10 minute scene-- then they all nod their heads.
But there are different rules for the anointed of the Flying Global Warming Monster. Just like there are in every cult. And like in every cult, it's very important to give up your money and worldly possessions to the Flying Global Warming Monster's acolytes. Lest the North Pole melt in 5 years and smite you with fleeing polar bears riding their floes directly into your very living room.
The Eco-Cult serves two important purposes for the cultural elite of an irreligious society. It provides meaning and offers atonement by monopolizing and then licensing sin. And what is 'sin' in a society that no longer believes in most of the commandments? Sin is vice, and the vice of a consumer society is consumption. The Eco-Cult taxes consumerism and by doing so licenses it. Buy "Green" and you are forgiven for the sin of spending 500 dollars on a pair of shoes. Shower less and splurge elsewhere.
For a jaded secular culture, the worship of the Flying Global Warming Monster offers all the exciting drama of sin, guilt and redemption-- available at their local mall in their choice of three colors, white, green and fuchsia pink. And by making the right buying choices, they can profit (with the right Cap and Trade investments) and save the planet. Just like their favorite superheroes. There's your meaning right there. The great biological metaphor of Gaia, the maternal force of the ecosystem, as lifegiver and destroyer, mother and victim. The modern echo of an ancient cult dressed up with new symbols and slogans.
But Gaia can never be truly saved. Each attempt at ecological grace only leads to new ecological sins. Ride a bike and you're still killing the planet. Walk and you might as well be shotgunning polar bears from a snowmobile. Use the internet and you open up a whole new boiling kettle of carbon dioxide. There's never any true redemption except insincerity. Like all cults, the only way to be exempt from the rules is to rise to the top. And then you can live in a huge mansion and jet around the world-- and still be the Prophet Albert Arnold Gore, Jr who serves the Flying Global Warming Monster.