In the annals of "just when you thought sh*t couldn't get any weirder..."
Weirder it done gotten.
Just read a couple of articles and had a conversation with two friends that slightly broke my brain.
The ecological crisis, which has always been a fraught affair, with Tree Huggers to the left and "Drill Baby Drillers" to the right, has now schizo-fractured into a million tiny pieces.
At this point, it's impossible to tell who stands for what, let alone get to a consensus on fixing things.
This is happening right at the same time that over 49 million people on the planet are heading into famine in the next 6 months, and all the major bodies of water in the American West are turning into mud puddles (see Great Salt Lake an "environmental nuclear bomb", Lake Powell and Lake Mead just for starters).
It's pretty clear we're in an undeniably tight spot, regardless of what (or who) we think caused what.
While most folks tend to assume the Birkenstock and patchouli crowd cornered the market on “Save Mother Earth!”, there's another version gaining traction. The alt-right camp doubles down on all the nature mysticism, but weaves in Nordic mythologies where white Aryans are the only ones who can truly commune with the spirits of the wild. (and that dirty immigrants are the ones trying to ruin it). AKA “Save Mother Earth for the Fatherland!”
"Although eco-fascism can manifest in different ways," the New Statesman writes, "there are consistent sets of beliefs that crop up among eco-fascists…Most Twitter profiles of self-defining eco-fascists are a bespoke cocktail of alt-right memes, pictures of forests and cabins, hatred towards Jews, and rants about animal rights. Between calls for a racial purity and plastic bans, most accounts have tweets or retweets honoring Thor, celebrating Tyr Day, or glorifying Sunna, the Norse Sun Goddess."
So you've got vegan, recycling, #cabinporn NeoNazis sharing common cause with Natty Dread Ewoks from Vancouver to defend the old growth...
Talk about politics making for strange bedfellows!
The next touch point was a chat with an old friend who's dedicated his life to ecological preservation. He's spent over twenty years leading some of the most advanced forestry efforts in his country, anticipating and "midwifing" natural habitats through projected climate change, and innovating fire mitigation efforts that have become new best practice across the American West and Canada.
during Covid, he also became increasingly concerned about government overreach on vaccine mandates, and the seemingly fishy coordination with transnational actors like the WHO and World Economic Forum.
"Mark my words," he said, "the next thing They try will be implementing Social Identity Carbon Credit Scores." (That phrase alludes to some hybrid of China's social credit scores where all citizens are digitally tracked and docked for behavior, with the addition of our carbon or energy consumption woven into the mix).
This is the kind of thing that Tucker Carlson and Trump aide Sebastian Gorka have been on about on Fox, warning "they're going to take away our hamburgers!"
So I had to really stop for a second and think through the implications of what my friend had said. For his whole life, he's been a dedicated eco activist, meaningfully left of center on almost all social issues, but due to the Topsy-Turvyism of the last few years, and the New Age Plandemic Anti-Vax movement, has now come to see global decarbonization programs as likely signs of the New World Order.
So the very kind of globally coordinated efforts to mitigate the climate crisis he's been pioneering, is now going to be a sign (for him) of totalitarian overreach to be resisted at all costs!
To be clear, if we ever did get to some form of carbon credit monitoring and "Nudge" style behavioral economic incentives at a global scale, it will absolutely positively create howlingly bad collateral damage, leave gaping loopholes, and promote all sorts of cynical workarounds to game that system. (see: plastic recycling debacle, carbon credit scams, etc)
But so does the Department of Motor Vehicles! So does the Social Security Administration! So does any bureaucracy trying to corral human nature into tidy boxes. They almost always suck at it. (Doesn't mean we should abandon drivers licensing or social safety nets for Grandmas).
That's not what bummed me out though. It was the dawning realization that someone who is, in every way, dedicated to mitigating the climate crisis is now hyper vigilant against coordinated efforts to address it. He now views global carbon reduction in the same light (and drawing from the same sinister playbook) as engineered pandemics, orchestrated market crashes, and dark plans for world takeover by shadowy elites.
So even the most unlikely positive possibility (like a toothless UN actually rallying a transnational consensus on the Paris Accords) will now be resisted by some of the people who are most aligned with its stated goals.
It's precisely this kind of narrative confusion that I wrote about in Recapture the Rapture.
"The Intertwingularity has become a giant muddy Meme Soup, unmoored from any kind of narrative continuity whatsoever. We might even look at the same things, agree that what we’re looking at is both real and important, but come to completely opposite conclusions about what it means and what we should all do next.”
(Check the full Intertwingularity excerpt for a fun three page distillation of these dynamics––once you see it, you can’t unsee it)
Then I saw a post from another friend––this one a super-genius film maker (who skews live-and-let-live Texan, is an increasingly devout Christian and did more than almost anyone I know during quarantine to reach out and help folks in need all across the country).
come the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos last month, he was posting funny memes about electric private jets (which don't exist), and the hypocrisies of excess consumption by the same liberal elites, ESG enforcers, and New World Order stooges that have been behind the engineered pandemic, market crashes...(you can see where this is going)
At first I thought it was just his own point of view, but then I started seeing a remarkably similar drumbeat of cynical postings on the same theme––that the Fat Cats convening at Davos don't have a leg to stand on when dictating what the rest of us do. That Teslas are worse for the planet than the new Ford F-150 pickups, and that China is a terrible polluter so why should anyone else even bother.
Then I read a study, published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Climate Action Against Disinformation that just came out this week…
Deny, Deceive, Delay: Documenting and Responding to Climate Disinformation at COP26 and Beyond
And realized that despite my Texan friend being a generally savvy dude, his playful shitposting had been seeded quite deliberately by a handful of coordinated actors. Even his ideas, weren't really his ideas.
“Climate disinformation has become more complex, evolving from outright denial into identifiable ‘discourses of delay’ to exploit the gap between buy-in and action,” said Jennie King, head of climate disinformation at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
The report identified a number of specific “discourses of delay”, including:
But here's another key finding from that report: "It is noteworthy that COVID-19 and climate skeptic accounts overlap both structurally and in the content they share. The network includes several anti-vaccine clusters within the wider anti-science groups." (This is how my forestry friend got bent from dedicated one world/one love ecologist to someone deeply suspicious of almost all trans-national organizations).
"The report found that the most prominent anti-climate content along these lines came from a handful of influential pundits, many with verified accounts on social media."
Among a few names you might recognize in that core group pushing these "discourses of delay" are Dinesh D'Souza (right wing gadfly), Jordan Peterson ("chin-up" "shoulders back!" overwound moralist), Bjorn Lomborg (famous for writing the Skeptical Environmentalist) and Sebastian Gorka (former Trump aide who also hatched that meme about Them stealing our pickups and hamburgers).
Millions of people are meeting in the Public Square of social media, primed by the last few years of lockdown mania, social justice challenges, and vaccine skepticism. As lockdowns fade from view there’s been a seamless bundling of all those concerns into a new New World Order freakout #becuzcontent.
In this weaponized dialogue, we're potentially sabotaging the very sort of coordinated global activity we would need to fix our collective problems.
And a sizable chunk of our population is more freaked out about losing their “sovereignty” to a fascist takeover than addressing our problems together.
So what does all this boil down to?
On the one hand, we have long term progressives becoming deeply suspicious of globally coordinated climate action, because it's been piggybacked onto the prior narratives of vaccine skepticism and lockdown resistance.
On the other, we have a rising alt-right movement of eco-fascists doubling down on their commitments to protect wild lands, but only for themselves and to the explicit exclusion of immigrants (who, if we remember those 50M souls facing famine this year, is a class of humanity that will be growing exponentially).
And for anyone confused by all of these mixed messages, wondering who or what to believe, we have now identified that stories about hypocritical elites, over-polluting China, and ineffective renewable energy aren't just regular citizens voicing natural concerns––they're part of an orchestrated series of "discourses of delay" which are really just new and improved versions of Exxon's stall tactic of "climate change might exist…but we need more research."
Really, this all comes down to the Book of Revelations (as all things eventually must, I suppose).
Because if you’ve ever read that forty odd pages of crazy, you'll remember that the Anti-Christ, the one who must be resisted at all costs, first shows up as a silver-tongued prophet.
He might walk like a savior, and quack like a savior, but for at least half the population, all of those signs of goodness, are actually proof of his evil ways.
Which kinda fucks the lot of us.
Even if we were graced with the Second Coming, (or the Buddhist Maitreya world teacher, or a benevolent ET, or Oprah and Tom Cruise’s secret Thetan love child) we're gonna have a serious chunk of the population itching to shoot him down or nail him up as a False Messiah, just like they did the first time.
Because the Good Book said that the most evil one of all will show up almost exactly perfect, our Hermeneutics of Suspicion will always give us reason to doubt.
We've built in the negation of the very things that might be our salvation. And right now, that includes a rising of collective awareness that there is only one planet and we are only one people and we better get to fixing things together, or the suffering will tear us apart.
That's what broke my heart reading those couple of articles and talking with those two friends. At the final shootout at the OK Corral, we’re not even rooting for the White Hats vs. the Black Hats.
It's High Noon, and we're awash in 50 million shades of gray.
But in the end, it won’t matter which side we thought we were on, or which flag we were flying. It will simply come down to Fear or Love. All of us, or only some of us.
And that, friends and neighbors, is about as black and white a choice as we’ve ever had.
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