Joey Moncarz is the co-founder and principal of the Deep Green Bush-School in Auckland, Aoeteroa (AKA New Zealand). Featured image: solar panels at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Public domain.
By Joey Moncarz
The climate crisis and the global ecological crisis are the direct results of severe ecological ignorance; in other words, generations of people not living within the Earth’s limits and not living in a way which maintains or increases biodiversity. Essentially, the state of the world is a reflection of cultures rooted in both ecological ignorance and ecological hostility. Put another way, the climate crisis is a result of generations of people who didn’t and still don’t know (or care) how to live within the Earth’s limits. It’a also a result of historical ignorance – not knowing our past, and how we once did have ecological intelligence. This is a big problem, because the people now devising solutions to the climate crisis were all raised and educated in ecologically and historically ignorant cultures, in schools which promote ecological ignorance and especially ecological hostility, and they are still ecologically and historically ignorant, which means that any proposed solutions will solve nothing. (Bowers 1993, 1995, 2000, 2001)
This is exactly the case with the current feverish calls for so-called “renewable energy”, which is only possible with a great deal of ecological ignorance. The fact is, any attempt to replace the current fossil fuel infrastructure with a renewable energy infrastructure guarantees extinction for life on Earth. Sometimes these attempts are called a “Green New Deal”. But any version of building renewable energy or “green new deals” will make the current miserable state of the planet even worse. Of course, it’s also true that doing nothing guarantees extinction. But taking idiotic action only guarantees making things worse. The only effective solutions are always overlooked because they require questioning the very “need” for energy and our entire civilized way of life. But one thing at a time. Let’s focus for now on the persistent fantasy of renewables and Green New Deals (GNDs).
Whichever renewable energy plan you look at, the differences are only superficial, since they all make the same assumptions and leave many institutions unquestioned – which means that nothing will change and climate change (and the state of the world) will continueto get worse.First of all, the push for renewable energy does not challenge capitalism. Capitalism, in essence, is the exploitation of everything and everyone for the benefit of a handful of rich, mostly white, men. (McMillan 2015) Any GND would allow capitalism to remain in place,giving it a nice, green face-lift, often calling it “socialism”. Corporations remain, along with their psychopathic, profit imperative. (Bakan 2005) If the GNDs actually threatened corporations, it wouldn’t even be discussed. The money economy remains, along with wageslavery. All those solar panels and wind turbines still leave the greedy psychopath elite in place, ruining life for everyone else, though it does offer some reforms to try to hold back and mildly restrain the murderous elite, just enough to make sure the masses don’t revolt – much like the actual purpose of U.S. President Roosevelt’s celebrated New Deal back in the 1930s. In other words, put all the solar panels you want, the majority of us will continue to be exploited just the same, in the exact way Karl Marx described in 1844:
First, the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., it does not belong to hisessential being; that in his work, therefore, he does not affirm himself but denieshimself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical andmental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore onlyfeels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working, and when he is working he is not at home. His labor istherefore not voluntary but coerced; it is forced labor. It is therefore not thesatisfaction of a need; it is merely a means to satisfy needs external to it. (Marx 1844)
And those needs “external to it” are the needs of the elite. Clearly, nothing has fundamentally changed in the last 170 years, and renewable energy and GNDs won’t change anything, either. But nothing has fundamentally changed in the last 6,000 years, which is why capitalism is not the root cause of climate change, ecological destruction and social miseries, but rather just a symptom of a larger sickness. Any analysis which stops at capitalism will lead to ineffective solutions. The disease that needs to be dealt with is the social arrangement we call civilization. This will become clearer as we review the other taken-for-granted assumptions which renewable energies and GNDs fail to consider.
The obsession with renewable energy also does not challenge our grossly pathological addiction to energy. With our lack of historical perspective, most of us don’t realise that the fossil fuel age is only 200 years old. Fossil fuels are the most concentrated and easily-exploited source of energy humans have ever found. There is no replacement. (Nikiforuk 2014) Before fossil fuels, for several thousand years, civilised humans relied on animal slaves and human slaves. That was cruel and wasn’t sustainable, either. But for the two million years before even that – for 99% of human existence on Earth – humans relied only on the energy they could get from their own two hands, and the hands of their friends and family – and there was no such thing as slavery. This is the way of life that we know as hunting and gathering. That, in fact, was the only sustainable way of living humans have ever developed. (Diamond 1987; Ingold 1994; Sahlins 2009; Suzman 2017; Woodburn 1982) As Sahlins writes:
Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per person yearly than any other group ofhuman beings. Yet the original affluent society was none other than the hunter’s,where all people’s material wants were easily satisfied. (Sahlins 2009)
With historical intelligence we’d recognize that once humans decided they needed more energy, society became hierarchical, coercive, all of modern life is a form of slavery, whether we’re working in a mine in the Congo or China for rare earth metals needed for modern gadgets and solar panels, or working in a sweatshop or factory where all our products are made, or whether we’re doctors, lawyers, plumbers, waiters, or other wage slaves. Modern life is slavery, just as capitalism is slavery and was only made possible through slavery (Williams 1994). This is something we must keep in mind when we attempt to envision what a healthy society would look like. If you want energy, you’ll be enslaving someone or something.
Current demands for “100% renewable energy” miss the fact that any demand or expectation for more energy is pathological. Instead, we should be aiming for zero-energy living. That means that if we can’t do it with our own hands and the help of friends and family, then we don’t need it. Unfortunately, this contradicts both the requirements of capitalism and the requirements of civilization (see below) and is beyond what most people are capable of considering.
Since renewable energy and GNDs question neither capitalism nor energy use, it makes sense that it relies on industrial solutions to industrial problems – which, being industrial, still rely on extraction (mining and drilling), fossil fuels, toxic chemicals, factories, resource wars (as they usually are), and the use of militaries and governments to force people to do the mining, soldiering, and all the other slave work that has to be done, that no one would ever willingly choose to do. There is widespread denial and/or ignorance of what it takes to make solar panels and wind turbines. Where do we think the 150-200 tons of steel comes from that makes up each wind turbine? Or the rare earth metals that go into each solar panel? Or the toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of our beloved renewables? (Driesson 2011; Fisher 2013; Fitzner 2018; Kelly 2017; Parrique 2019; Sadasivam 2019; Shellenberger 2018; Vartabedian 2012; Zehner 2012) Would you want to work in those factories? Would you send your kids to work in the mines? Of course not. So why the hell should anyone else?
There is also widespread ignorance of just how much of the planet would have to be covered in panels and turbines to meet our current pathological needs – which is only possible with total disregard for the natural world – i.e., ecological ignorance and ecological hostility. Or the fact that renewables, for many technical and other reasons, simply cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels, no matter how much we fantasize (Friedemann 2019, 2019; Gorman 2009; Huessmann 2011; Shellenberger 2019; Trainer 2010; Waldermann 2009).
Thus, renewable energy and GNDs mean continued growth. An industrial-capitalist solution can only mean more growth or else they would never suggest it. The fact that everything must be replaced with solar panels and wind turbines means that there is still endless amounts of manufacturing to be done. More production, more production, more production! That means endless amounts of mining, drilling, chemical-making, and warring – all very good for business as usual, which means more profit for the psychopathic elite and more control of domination over everyone else.
Just consider, that while politicians pretend to care about climate change and hold large international conferences, fossil fuel use keeps on increasing and increasing and increasing. There is absolutely no intention or plan to reduce fossil fuel use 28% increase in global energy use in the next twenty years, with 83% of that coming from fossil fuels and nuclear power (EIA 2017). Air travel is expected to nearly double by 2036 (IATA 2017). Plastics production is expected to quadruple (Qualman 2017). That’s the reality.
Renewable energy and GNDs do not question the industrial economy, a world full of meaningless jobs, or the entire notion of “jobs” to begin with – now they promise us more jobs! We’re still forced to pay to live on the planet (a first for any species), made possible only by allowing ourselves to be endlessly exploited and abused by others, and we’re still forced to spend our lives doing meaningless work when we’d rather be doing something else. Does meaningless work feel better when it’s called a ‘green job’? You see, it’s business as usual.
But let’s get serious. Renewable energy and GNDs do not question the root causes of climate change, which are also the root causes of all the misery, oppression, and endless destruction we face. In other words, this renewable energy ideology does not question civilization. Since most people have never stopped to consider what civilization means, let’s define it: it is a social arrangement based on living in cities, always reliant on someone else to bring us our food, made possible only through agriculture (developed 10,000 years ago), and always suppressing how we evolved to live. The denial of the wild and the attempt to control the wild, which is the suppression of how plants and animals evolved to live, is domestication, which is agriculture. We, like our cows and sheep, have been domesticated.
Civilizations arose a mere 6,000 years ago, after two million years of humans living as hunters and gatherers. We’ve been taught to believe that civilization was a beneficial social arrangement, as some form of “progress.” This is the biggest lie of all. As historian Clive Ponting (p. 108) points out,
An existence under the constant threat of starvation and in the face of the daily reality of an inadequate diet and malnutrition has been the common lot of most of humanity since the development of agriculture. (Ponting, p. 108)
Richard Manning (p.68) writes:
The best evidence that hunger was a way of life in agricultural societies is the persistence of famine. Indeed, accounts of famine, like history itself, date to the beginning of agriculture. (Manning, p. 68)
Anthropologist Marvin Harris (pp. 234-235) describes it this way:
Century after century the standard of living in [ancient] China, northern India,Mesopotamia, and Egypt hovered slightly above or below what might be called the threshold of pauperization…The ancient empires were warrens full of illiterate peasants toiling from morning tonight only to earn protein-deficient vegetarian diets. They were little better off than their oxen and were no less subject to the commands of superior beings who knew how to keep records and who alone had the right to manufacture and use weapons of war and coercion. (Harris, pp.234-235)
Even today, one billion people are hungry – and the rest largely are suffering from malnutrition and the brain damage that results. They may get enough calories, but it’s not real food.
Civilization has note and civilization spread, not because it made life better and everyone said, “Hey, let’s become civilized! It’s so much better!” Rather, as Richard Manning says, it “spread by genocide.” (Manning, p.45) Agriculture spread because agricultural societies were vastly superior in one key way – they were much better at killing. Agricultural societies all have large standing armies, while hunter-gatherers do not.
Furthermore, without historical intelligence we would be unable to question the institutions of hierarchy, violence, and exploitation which go along with civilization and only exist in civilizations: kings and queens, an elite, bureaucrats, courts, prisons, police, militaries, endless wars, taxes, slavery, etc. – which humans never needed for two million years, and which we still don’t need. But if it’s civilization we insist on, then that’s what we get. Especially slavery.
It’s no surprise then, that the history of civilization is also the history of child abuse (deMause 1988). Children, like women, became objects of male ownership whose value was simply as cheap, expendable agricultural labour. Modern treatment of youth and compulsory schooling are an extension of that abuse and the world reflects exactly that (Gatto 2002, 2010; Mwanzia 2013; Narvaez 2010, 2014). On the other hand, hunter-gatherer childhoods were characterised by freedom, play, leisure, joy, caring adults, a deep connection to the natural world, and a meaningful, nurturing culture (Friedman 2010; Gray 2015; Hewlett and Lamb 2005; Narvaez 2013). To simply think about switching energy sources to continue the same way of living is clearly insane. Solar-powered child abuse is just as bad as fossil fuel-powered child abuse.
Along with not questioning civilization, our addiction to energy does not question human superiority – the pathological idea that humans are superior to all other life forms (Jensen 2016). This myth is necessary which makes it possible to also accept the overpopulation of the planet. Ecological ignorance plays a huge part, too – which is very easy when people live in cities. What else could we expect but ecological destruction if we keep multiplying and multiplying? The Earth has only so much space. That’s why humans and their livestock now make up 96% of all mammals by weight (Carrington 2018). It’s besides the point whether you’ve got a big ecological footprint or a small one. Ancient civilization had much smaller footprints but all destroyed their environments (Diamond 2005; Redman 1999; Tainter 2017). The simple ecological fact is, more humans means less of every other living thing. This is not a difficult concept! (Unfortunately, it is a difficult concept for those raised in cities and educated in schools.) This is the reason why by far the most effective personal lifestyle choice in regard to climate change (and all other ecological problems) is having less children – not becoming vegans or using solar or driving an electric car (Wynes 2017).
Tied very closely to the idea of human superiority and overpopulation is patriarchy — also unquestioned by renewable energy. Patriarchy means the domination of women by men. This is also quite new in human history – again, only as old as civilization itself, and inseparable from civilization. (Lerner 1986; Zerzan 2018) This is not just a coincidence.
Since our obsession with renewable energy does not question any of these other assumptions, we’re right back where we started: endless oppression, misery, and environmental destruction – along with our own extinction.
Politicians and climate activists in the U.S., Europe and the other neo-Europes have been confusing the public (and themselves) by interchanging the “Green New Deal” term with references to wartime economic mobilisations that the U.S. enacted during World War II. President Roosevelt’s New Deal was an attempt to save capitalism from itself, and World War II was a further attempt to strengthen American and Western capitalism. There was no benevolent reason to the New Deal. Roosevelt was saving business from its own insatiable greed. Furthermore, we should never forget that governments love wars – wars are good for business! But climate change is beyond their ability to solve, because wars are good for the economy, whereas an adequate response to climate change would be to shut down the global economy and reduce overall consumption by 95% – and that will never be allowed to happen by governments or corporations. Not even a 1% reduction would be allowed. The elite never relinquish their wealth and power, never. They would rather kill – anything and anybody.
Believing in capitalist reforms such as renewable energy and Green New Deals is a tragic waste of time and energy, and it’s sad to see so many well-meaning and caring (but well-schooled) activists drooling over solar panels and begging governments to solve their problems. If a concerted effort was actually made to replace all energy with the so-called “renewable” energy sources, that would not only not halt the ongoing process of climate change or mass extinction, but guarantee the end of life on Earth, because the entire endeavor is based on increased extraction and production, as noted above, and does not challenge this diseased modern way of life based on energy addiction, civilization, patriarchy, human superiority, endless wars, and so on.
No adequate solution to climate change will ever come from bureaucrats or corporations – never. They’ve already known about it for 30-50 years and fossil fuel use has risen exponentially in that time. People who organize and join in protests and disruptions that are based on “demands” of the government must realise this. Environmental groups are “demanding” a healthy response from psychopaths who have been unable to make healthy responses for 6,000 years. No government, ever, has brought about a healthy society, and it’s not about to happen now. Historical intelligence would make this clear to us. No government will ever reduce fossil fuel use.
There’s a reason why billionaires are donating more than 60 million dollars to these climate groups – because they don’t fundamentally challenge anything (Conley 2019). Climate activists who dream of negotiating with bureaucrats and corporate executives have not learned a thing from history. It’s a game that the elite always win. One does not negotiate with psychopaths. The American Indians did, and the U.S.government broke every single treaty it ever signed (Dunbar-Ortiz 2014; Forbes 2008). Slaves in North America did not negotiate away slavery with their slavemasters. The Jews did not negotiate an end to the Holocaust with the Nazis. They either allowed themselves to be killed – or they took action. Does one negotiate the terms of being murdered with a murderer? Does one negotiate the terms of being raped with a rapist? Have we forgotten what self-defense is? (Churchill 2017; Gelderloos 2007, 2013)
Instead of relying on “leaders”, we are the only leaders we need. Our only chance is to organise among ourselves, taking things into our own hands. It would also serve us well to pay attention to those indigenous cultures which still exist and which have existed for countless generations, those which reflect a way of life which humans lived for 99% of our time on Earth, which was based on ecological and historical intelligence. We never evolved to live this meaningless, alienated, pathetic, and pathological existence. (Historical intelligence, by the way, is only possible in cultures based on the oral tradition. Writing destroys historical knowledge and makes people easier to control and manipulate.)
The path to solving climate change will take real courage. Courage. It means that we must come to terms with our own history on Earth, to learn from indigenous cultures based on the oral tradition, and to realise that the social arrangement known as civilization, with its always-pathological elite, corporations and bureaucrat servants, will forever be the enemy. We must look beyond civilization to social arrangements that have been proven, over hundreds of thousands of years, to be healthy, meaningful, and ecological intelligent. To get there, the wealth and power of the elite must be destroyed. Any proposed solution that leaves them in existence, or that leaves civilization intact, will fail and waste everyone’s time and energy.
It’s time for ecological and historical intelligence.
And it’s time for self-defense.
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*Author’s Note: Be wary of this graph, as the impact of having less kids is skewed by cutting the bar. If it was drawn to scale on an ordinary piece of paper, all the other bars would barely register at the bottom of thepage, and the bar representing having fewer kids would reach to the top of the page. Reporting on this study is also dishonest, making it seem like the other choices are just as effective.
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