Beware of utopian political ecology

In recent months, political ecology has been making more and more headlines. Parties and NGOs are competing to bring out ever more imaginative programs calling for ever more radical solutions. Yet, most of the time, the proposed solutions seem totally unrealistic, completely out of step with reality, and oblivious to the fact that real societal revolutions always rely on scientific innovations. Without succumbing to scientism, it is undoubtedly science and technology that define the conditions of the possible in our societies, and the evolution of these societies is not determined by a political ideology, whether it claims to be “ecological” or not. “.

In competition for the most “anti-consumer society” plan

Recently, green parties have stepped up their efforts, using the bogeyman of climate change to gradually reveal their plans, and we have started to notice more and more frequent statements from them. For example, at the beginning of February, the American candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that she wanted to set up a Green New Deal. This ambitious plan aims to eliminate pollution and 19 greenhouse gases in the transport sector. And to achieve this goal, she went so far as to announce that she would replace air travel with train travel, when the plane is not mandatory.[1]. A proposal that seems totally disconnected from reality and which would cost American taxpayers a fortune.

And in France, also at the beginning of February, the Novethic media, which presents itself as a “responsible transformation accelerator”, published a infographics online which summarizes the proposals of the analysis firm B&L evolution. They recognize that these measures are “unrealistic for many but demonstrate the urgency of the climate issue”. They are nothing if not ambitious, as they aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 63% between 2017 and 2030. And to achieve this objective, they are ready to do anything, such as the ban with immediate effect on “the sale of new vehicles to individuals”, the introduction from 2025 of “coverage thermal fire”. between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to maintain an average temperature of 17°C in homes”… “ban online advertising on websites”, “limit the marketing of new clothing to 1 kg per year and per here 2022”, “put in place national lottery regulations distributing 500,000 flights per year” or “raise meat consumption per person from 90 kg to 25 kg per year”… To name just a few of the absurd proposals of this report. You can also find various proposals to limit or even prohibit human reproduction. Similarly essayist Antoine Bueno offers a license to procreate to save humanity.

Icons at the service of a green ideology

Along with these plans and proposals that have a genuinely murderous intent towards our current model of societal freedom, we are witnessing the rise of icons, old and new, that are being deployed to work on popular emotions. They ostensibly convey messages of well-being that hide ideological intentions and stir up fears. Pope Francis called on his followers to declare more sins against the environment: “When I administer the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) – and also when I did it in the past – it is rare for anyone to accuse themselves of violence towards nature, the Earth, Creation.”

We have recently seen another type of icon when “faces” invite themselves alongside NGOs, as with “The Case of the Century”. [The Scandal of the Century] petition. Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, singers LEJ, filmmaker Cyril Dion and singer Abd Al Malik have joined forces with Greenpeace, Oxfam, FNH and “Notre Affaire à tous” to sue the state for climate inaction.

Finally, the new face of militant ecology, the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, made a name for herself in the media following her speech at COP 24 and recently called on high school students to strike for the climate.

Real revolutions must be based on science and technology

We see that political ecology has a tailwind and is gaining ground. the The “die Grünen” party seems very well placed for the European elections. All these movements are accompanied by radical proposals to change society, most of which put the end before the means: the important thing is to achieve the set climate objective.

Unfortunately, it is undeniable that most of the lasting revolutions that have succeeded in bringing real benefit to humanity have only been possible because they were based on scientific and technological innovation. This is the case, for example, of Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which allowed agriculture to make a technological leap between 1960 and 1990. Thanks to technological advances in chemistry, seeds and mechanics, industrial and agricultural development policies have been carried out with great strides. successes, which have made it possible to feed humanity. On the other hand, we know, for example, that the experiments carried out by the Russian biologist Lyssenko, who relied heavily on political ideology to declare, for example, that genetics played no role in the varietal selection of wheat species, led to many terrible famines causing several million deaths. Sure, intensive farming needs a second wind, but smart farming and NBTs are well on their way to picking up the slack and achieving the goals that environmentalists want while leveraging technological innovation.

In the energy sector, the advent of nuclear power is another example of a technology that has made a real societal revolution possible. As energy and environment expert Michael Shellenberger says in Forbes, the only Green New Deals that have ever worked have been with nuclear, not renewables. And to support his claim, which is a response to candidate Ocasio Cortez, he cites the case of France and Sweden: “In the 1970s and 1980s, they built nuclear power plants at the rate required to meet the so-called Green New Deal climate goals.

In 2017, Sweden generated 95% of its total electricity from carbon-free sources, including 42% and 41% from nuclear and hydropower.

France produced 88% of its total electricity from zero-carbon sources, with 72% and 10%, respectively, coming from nuclear and hydropower.

Green Revolution, Green New Nuclear Deal, here are two good examples that illustrate how real revolutions are taking place that are beneficial to society, based on science and technology and making possible new sustainable developments that can change and mature; it is the opposite of a political ecology that would arbitrarily dictate how to live on a daily basis, in total disregard of our freedoms and totally disconnected from reality. However, it is not incompatible with the values ​​of scientific ecology, rather the opposite. One more reason to be wary of utopian visions of political ecology, and a call to return to a scientific ecology of common sense.

[1] “to build a high-speed train on a scale where air travel no longer becomes necessary.” https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729035/Green-New-Deal-FAQ.pdf

This position is also available in:
IN (IN) OF (OF)