The Red Pill: Looking at the Other Side of Global Warming

February 2, 2008

Global warming is happening. Al Gore said so.

But look what controversial author Alexander Cockburn brings to the fore in his piece on the spiked Review of Books. Cockburn, known for his radical politics — showcased most brilliantly in his “Beat the Devil” column in The Nation — will release his latest book, A Short History of Fear, in March. In it, Cockburn tackles the fearmongering implicit in what he calls “climate catastrophism,” i.e., the clamor to rescue the planet from rising temperatures and shrinking ice caps.

While Cockburn concedes that global warming isn’t all myth, he’s not convinced that it is caused by us high-rolling humans, as we are so often asked to take for granted. Listen to this:

…[I]n California, if you drive upstate you can see the pollution all up the Central Valley from Los Angeles, a lot of it caused, ironically, by the sulphuric acid droplets from catalytic converters! The problem is that 20 or 30 years ago, the politicians didn’t want to take on the power companies, so they fixed their sights on penalising motorists who are less able to fight back. Decade after decade, power plants have been given a pass on the emissions from their smoke stacks while measures to force citizens to change their behaviour are brought in.

Moreover, he discusses the extras that more “envrionmentally friendly” corporates and businesses have received as a result of the overwhelming switch to eco this-and-that. Certainly, the giants of nuclear power have benefited, given the push toward that and other forms of clean energy. The trade in organic food — a term that, as we know, means less and less — grows bigger and more corporatified daily. Green has less to do with the crunchy folks than with the bourgeoisie. All told, this climate catastophism lines the pockets of those who attempt to ameliorate, in big-business style, the slow destruction of our planet. Case in point, per Cockburn:

You can now buy Indulgences to offset your carbon guilt. If you fly, you give an extra 10 quid to British Airways; BA hands it on to some non-profit carbon-offsetting company which sticks the money in its pocket and goes off for lunch. This kind of behaviour is demented.

Now, I’m not sure that the dollars spent on carbon offsets fund soup and sandwich runs. Then again, I’m not sure where the money goes. Many carbon-counting websites hold that the bucks support alternative energy. But what does that mean? Are they going toward research? Are they supporting hydroelectric plants and wind farms? Or are they buying Diet Cokes and potato skins? Cockburn makes me wonder.

As expected, Mr. C. has been labeled a firebrand by the global-warming gnomes and their corporate backers. Rightly so. As he notes, to challenge the general belief in the impending climate apocalypse is to become an apostate, wildly unorthodox and navel-gazing, even. Following the grand reception of Nobel Prize–winner Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, billed as a must-see film for those who “love [their] planet and [their] children,” Cockburn’s discourse doesn’t really stand a chance. Once heartstrings are plucked, once emotions are engaged, it’s hard to logicize. Consider the Truth trailer:

After watching fellow Americans perish in a storm-induced infrastructure breakdown, after inducing nostalgia for the snows of Kilimanjaro, what chance does anyone, even a mildly well-known, way-out writer like Cockburn, have to disagree? Indulge me for a moment, and check out another video, this time from JustA11en, a regular guy encouraging everyone to do his or her own research:

So? Why not? Why are we “drink[ing] the Kool-Aid,” as JustA11en says? Why are we persecuting those who challenge the belief that Science (with a Capital S) agrees that people-produced global warming is despoiling the Earth, instead of engaging in discussion and debate, à la No Impact Man and Michael Shellenberger?

One time, I saw this movie, in which the main character is given a choice between a blue pill and a red pill. The blue pill renders everything as-is, for all time; the red pill lets him embark on a storybook quest for knowledge and self-edification and all that. It seems to me that this other side of global warming, this heretic’s side, is not unlike that red pill. As the sagacious pill-pusher tells the hero, “You take the red pill: You stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Of course, following the hero’s move toward that carmine capsule, the bespectacled wiseman says: “Remember: All I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

And an inconvenient one, perhaps.

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3 Responses to “The Red Pill: Looking at the Other Side of Global Warming”

  1. Justin said

    Wonderful post! Always a joy to read.

    Neo would be proud.

  2. Sarah said

    OMG! I was just trying to explain the beauty of your highly-edited Matrix to Bryan last week. It made me long for my own copy.

    I only have one tw0-word for you.

    YouTube, you two. YouTube.

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