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The Rearguard of Modernity: Environmental Skepticism as a Struggle of Citizenship
Environmental skepticism doubts the importance and reality of environmental problems, but it is not about science. It is about politics—global politics to be speciªc. In 2001, Cambridge University Press published Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist,1 which argued that the world’s environmental conditions and human well-being were nearly universally improving, using Julian Simon’s work as an inspiration.2
This is my long-run forecast in brief: The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indeªnitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today’s Western living standards. I also speculate, however, that many people will continue to think and say that the conditions of life are getting worse.3
In its elemental form,4 the skeptical program asserts that there are no environmental problems that threaten environmental sustainability, except perhaps the environmental movement which they believe is obstructing human progress.5 Importantly, environmental skepticism is distinct from, if sympathetic to, what is often referred to as “free market environmentalism,”6 which questions the legitimate role of government in environmental problems but does not argue that environmental problems are imagined or politically fabricated. Skepti* I am especially grateful to Riley Dunlap for his comments on this paper. I am also grateful to Zachary Smith, Dwight Kiel, and Sharon Ridgeway for their comments at the Western Social Science Association April 2005 where this paper was initially presented. Finally, I thank the four anonymous reviewers who provided substantive and important suggestions. 1. Lomborg 2001. 2. See for example Simon 1981, 1995, 1999; Simon and Kahn 1984; Moore and Simon 2000; and Myers and Simon 1994 (a debate). 3. Julian Simon, quoted at the front matter of Lomborg 2001, emphasis in original. 4. McCright and Dunlap 2000 and 2003 describe elements of a political movement detailed below. 5. For example, Arnold and Gottlieb’s 1994 title and premise is, Trashing the Economy: How Runaway Environmentalism is Wrecking America. 6. Anderson and Leal 1991.
Global Environmental Politics 6:1, February 2006 © 2006 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
cism is also distinct, if sympathetic with, the US counter-environmental Wise Use movement for local industrial access to public lands, though Wise Use leaders such as Ron Arnold and Alan Gottlieb are also environmental skeptics.7 Thus, even though skepticism “from the start” has been and is part of the “broader stream of [a] right-wing political”8 movement, skepticism is a new kind of anti-environmental sub-movement. Since most of the controversy surrounding environmental skepticism has been on the order of “why it is wrong,”9 academic discussions have been focused on the fact that its assertions are scientiªc outliers.10 However, the importance of skepticism lies outside of its epistemic challenges. There are two reasons why its political claims are more important than if and how skepticism is generally incorrect. First, science alone, if at all, does not drive international environmental (or other) policy, and the fact that skepticism has found an audience among important elites is more consequential than its (mis)representation of environmental conditions.11 Second, if the Kyoto Protocol controversy in the US is any indicator, simply creating signiªcant levels of conºict within epistemic communities may be just as effective in stalling protective environmental policy as settling a debate between claims. Therefore, the contrarian knowledge claims made by skeptics are of secondary importance to the political conºict they generate and the meaning this has for global societies.12 Skepticism’s doubt of environmental knowledge is thus superªcial, tangential even, to its more important arguments for limiting who and what citizens are responsible to and for. More importantly, the struggle over the state of the planet is a struggle over society’s dominant core social values that institutionalize obligation and power. This contest has been overshadowed if not wholly unrealized because academics have been overly concerned with the contrarian claims themselves, leaving the meaning of skepticism relatively underdetermined and under-analyzed. This paper begins addressing these more profound political issues. From here, the paper is organized to describe the “what,” “how,” and
7. Arnold and Gottlieb 1994. 8. Buell 2003, 6. 9. See for example, some of the criticisms of Lomborg in Union for Concerned Scientists 2003 with responses from Peter Gleick, Jerry D. Mahlman, and E.O. Wilson; Brockington 2003; Pimm and Harvey 2001; Simberloff 2002; Moomaw 2002; Rennie, et al. 2002; Ege and Christiansen 2002; Simberloff 2002; Neumayer 2001; Grubb 2001; Grist online magazine 2001 has responses from E.O. Wilson, Stephen Schnieder, Norman Myers, Lester Brown, Emily Matthews, Devra Davis, David Nemtzow, and Kathryn Schultz. Schultz does do a political analysis of Lomborg ªnding his “hidden agenda” intent on dividing the left, assigning environmentalists power they never had, and for wrongly accusing them of forcing false choices between environmental issues and hospitals and kindergartens. 10. See Oreskes 2004 for an excellent discussion of the point of scientiªc outliers and the politics of scientiªc consensus. 11. Jasanoff 1993; and Harrison and Bryner 2004. 12. For this reason an analysis of skepticism using Schattschneider’s (1960) model of conºict would provide explanatory fruit, but that is not the thrust of this paper.
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“why” of skepticism in that order by deconstructing the relevant literature. The paper introduces the concept of “deep anthropocentrism” as an ethical assumption that separates non-human nature from society. Doing so effectively dissolves impending civic duty and obligation to ecological changes because they are no longer important. Most importantly, the environmental skeptical movement guards against paradigmatic changes to world dominant social values and institutions that guide the global accumulation and concentration of power.
A Review of Environmental Skepticism
A review of the skeptical literature provides over ªfty books, with the overwhelming majority of them written since the 1990s with overt ties to contemporary conservatism.13 This does not mean that every single skeptic is a contemporary conservative. Gregg Easterbrook14 and Magnus Enzenberger15 offer examples of liberal and Marxist views respectively. However, the vast majority of skeptics are contemporary conservative, and the latter exceptions do not offer any evidence of a concomitant social movement. Consistent concerns range from the skepticism of the precautionary principle, global warming, ozone depletion, ªnite natural resource depletion, and biodiversity loss, to a committed faith in genetically modiªed organisms, the petroleum industry, and agricultural and industrial chemicals. The concentration of skeptical claims from the 1990s onwards indicates an intense burst of interest in the environmental skeptical program and is consistent with a conservative countermovement against global environmental concern (described below).16 Thus environmental skepticism is not, unlike its name might suggest, a disposition to withhold judgment until more compelling evidence is provided. Instead, environmental skepticism is a project that is skeptical of mainstream environmental claims and values but very faithful (i.e., not skeptical) to contemporary conservative values and issues, such as its faith in industrial and agricultural chemical beneªts. Skeptics often describe themselves as underdogs who are “speaking truth to power,”17 while “debunking” “junk science” that has been constructed igno13. Jacques 2005, among the titles, almost all occur after 1992 and the Rio Summit. I use Schumaker, Kiel, and Heilke’s 1997 distinction between conservatism and contemporary conservatism—which they deªne as a combination of traditional conservatism and classical liberalism. They note that the most important outlet for this view is the National Interest, and is seen through free market oriented think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). 14. Easterbrook 1995. 15. Enzenberger 1974. 16. Jacques 2005. A sample of this list includes Bailey’s work 1993, 1995, 2000; Bast, Hill, and Rue 1994; Bate 1997; Beckerman 1996, 2003; Coffman 1992, 1994; Driessen 2003; Easterbrook 1995; Balling 1992; and Wildavsky 1995 among many others. 17. Indeed, in Speaking Truth to Power (1979), Wildavsky argues for policy “succession” where the success of a policy or problem is not based on its absolute condition, but its relative condition compared to past problems. This logic is evident in many skeptics who argue Western modernity is a success based on the past horriªc living conditions of pestilence, famine, disease, heavy direct pollution and other criteria by which they judge modern society as something like the end of history. Note Wildavsky’s conservative contentment with the status quo in Speaking.
rantly or maliciously by environmentalists.18 I will note below, however, that while skeptics are positioned contrary to normal ecological understandings of the world, the idea of speaking truth to power is somewhat ironic since skeptics speak squarely from the base of the dominant modes of power, not against them. Much of environmental skepticism’s history is well known by environmental scholars and is part of our standard textbook repertoire, starting with the maligning of Rachel Carson in the early 1960s by the chemical industry to the cornucopian work of Herman Kahn, founder of the Hudson Institute, and Julian Simon, afªliated with the Cato Institute, in the 1980s and 1990s.19 This earlier mode has aptly been referred to as “cornucopian” or “promethean,”20 because of its interest in refuting ideas about environmental scarcity. Cornucopian thought has now expanded into “environmental skepticism,” through an interest in wider environmental problems of sustainability and global ecological change, including scarcity. One important difference between the cornucopian view and environmental skepticism is that some skeptics may not dismiss the reality of all environmental problems. Rather, some skeptics dismiss the importance of environmental problems through a ªlter of cost-beneªt analyses that cast doubt upon the rationality of seeing environmental problems as signiªcant. Lomborg, for example, not only disputes the science behind many global environmental problems, but he disputes the rank ordering of environmental issues as priorities, which is discussed in more detail below. Nonetheless, this is a different challenge compared to the simpler cornucopian claim of quasi-inªnite ecological abundance. The comparative cost-beneªt lens articulates an additional level of reasoning why, in their judgment, environmental problems are generally not worth public concern and therefore action. Nonetheless, a deªning element to both cornucopian thought and environmental skepticism is the forceful rejection that environmental problems threaten the sustainability of modern human societies. This rejection is usually accompanied by the allegation that environmental knowledge has been politicized and therefore has become unreliable. So, the new incorporates the old but casts a wider net, and the new name is not unproblematic but seems relatively apropos. Speciªc Skeptical Propositions Given the wide understanding of the cornucopian literature, I will limit this review to a handful of important skeptics. I give Lomborg speciªc attention later in the paper.
18. See any number of skeptics: Arnold and Gottlieb 1994; Driessen 2003; Huber 1999; Dunn and Kinney 1996; Bailey 1993, 1995, 2000, 2002; Bast, Hill, and Rue 1994; Bolch and Lyons 1993; and Easterbrook 1995 among others. 19. Nash 1990; Smith 2004; Switzer 1997, 2003; Simon 1981, 1995, 1999; and Simon and Kahn 1984. 20. Dryzek 1997.
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One of the more widely known skeptics is Reason21 science correspondent, Ronald Bailey. Bailey has written and edited several volumes on the state of the world, all with the support of contemporary conservative institutions such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute.22 He believes that environmentalism is propped up on false science popularized by Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown, and Rachel Carson in combination with Marxist sympathies. He sees environmentalists politicizing science through “an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary” in order to control others through fear.23
Modern ecological millenarians, impatient with waiting for the ºash of a thermonuclear doom, now claim there is a ‘global environmental crisis’ threatening not just humanity, but all life on earth. A cadre of professional ‘apocalypse abusers’ frightens the public with lurid scenarios of a devastated earth, overrun by starving hordes of humanity, raped of its precious nonrenewable resources, poisoned by pesticides, pollution, and genetically engineered plagues, and baked by greenhouse warming. The new millenarians no longer expect a wrathful God to end the world in a rain of ªre or overwhelming deluge.24
Bailey believes this will have a devastating effect on our lives—”With the advent of apocalyptic environmentalism and the rejection of science and technology, it now seems Western civilization may join the Ghost Dance.”25 Bailey critiques environmentalists for seeing themselves as the “earth’s vanguard class who will lead the struggle to bury capitalism and Western materialism.”26 Another environmental skeptic who has had a great deal of visibility is lawyer and biostatician, Steven Milloy.27 He appears at least partially responsible for popularizing the term “junk science.” This term is widely used in the press to justify contrarian skeptical suspicions that science is being used to further leftist political agendas.28 Milloy is an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute and a FoxNews.com columnist where he regularly denounces environmental and related public health concerns as biased by politically motivated “junk science.” He is routinely on television and radio and has testiªed before Congress several times, and has done work for the Department of Energy casting Superfund cleanups as a waste of money.29 In the early 1990s, he headed the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), a group formed to expose “junk
21. 22. 23. 24. 25. Reason bills itself as a libertarian magazine. Bailey 1993, 1995, 2000. H.L. Mencken quoted in Bailey 1993, 1. Bailey 1993, 4. Ibid, 5. The reference to the Ghost Dance is appears to be made mockingly in reference to Native American societies who had “outbreaks of millennialist enthusiasm,” 4. The term “apocalyptic” seems to indicate environmentalists concerned with sustainability, but is used very broadly without clear distinctions. Bailey 1993, 6. Milloy 2001. Herrick and Jamieson 2001. Regulatory Impact Analysis Project, Inc. 1994.
26. 27. 28. 29.
science” about tobacco and second hand smoke among other interests. The TASSC apparently had the same website as Milloy’s current junk science site.30 Finally, Milloy operates a watchdog website on behalf of corporate proªt, which he believes is being eaten away by an expanding demand for corporate social and civic responsibility.31 Three skeptics who have not received a lot of attention but who help explain its ideological ties are Dunn and Kinney32 and Huber.33 These authors speciªcally identify environmental skepticism as a conservative manifestation. Dunn and Kinney note that environmental skepticism, or what they refer to as the “Asset Culture” due to its optimistic world view about human progress, comes from this conservative ideology. “Free marketers, libertarians, and conservatives, for the most part, are the philosophical component of the Asset Culture. They are the Asset Culture’s conscience and articulate its rationale.”34 They want environmental policies to meet very high cost-beneªt minimums in order to justify interference with the free market. Since they see environmental changes as mostly non-problematic, this benchmark is rarely met for them, and environmental policy is largely illegitimate. Huber argues that humans have no moral obligation to non-human nature because humanity has the ability to dominate and control nature just as, in his view, Judeo-Christian doctrine tells us to do.35 Consequently, Huber’s thinking illustrates how skepticism is consistent with the claims of some green theorists who identify modernity as a framework for domination over nature and human “others.”36 He believes the more effectively we dominate nature, the better off humanity will be. In contrast to the importance of human development, nature is unimportant—something I refer to as “deep anthropocentrism.” Huber makes the case for preserving wilderness, his apparent sole environmental concern,37 on strict instrumental aesthetic grounds (it makes us feel good to go there) because any moral afªliation to nature is seen as antithetical to human purpose and ontology. In sum, skeptics believe that modernity has arisen from the domination of nature, and that modernity has provided humanity with the progress and afºuence our pre-modern predecessors wished they could have had while they led miserable lives. They see modernity as a fantastic success story, including its
30. Meier 1998; and Schiesel 1997. 31. See http://csrwatch.com/about.htm, accessed 5/17/05. Paul Driessen’s 2003 book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power Black Death through by Merril Press (run by Alan Gottleib and Wise-Use founder Ron Arnold) argues a closely related claim that corporate social responsibility activists are costing the poor in the Global South their lives. 32. Dunn and Kinney 1996. 33. Huber 1999. 34. Dunn and Kinney 201. 35. This indicates that Christians who see a stewardship role, like most Franciscans, will not be skeptics. 36. Barry 1999; Merchant 1980; and Ridgeway 1996. 37. Huber seems to be unique among the skeptics in his advocacy for wilderness as far as this author can tell.
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effects on the environment which they believe are getting better all the time. They ªnd modern environmental scholarship leftist, antithetical to the notions of progress and economism, and determined by a manipulative environmental elite who have the ear of the press and popular culture. As such, skeptics want to rein in environmental policy and responsibility through cost-beneªt analysis that limits the casting of risk in modern terms. These positions have elicited many responses. Research in Response to Skepticism A great deal of important work has been done in relation to environmental skepticism, much of it related to global warming which is perhaps one of skepticism’s most important projects. Two of these studies conducted by McCright and Dunlap are essential to understanding skepticism as a part of the conservative political movement. In their ªrst study, they describe how the conservative countermovement (contra the environmental movement) has mobilized think tanks to use environmental skepticism to re-frame global warming as a “nonproblem.”38 In their second study, they explain how this successful reframing, led by conservative think tanks, took advantage of political opportunities, such as the 1994 Republican take-over of the US Congress, to kill the US adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. Importantly, the skeptics did not win the debate over climate science, but they created enough conºict about it to allow them to achieve their goal. Beseley and Shanahan39 test Lomborg’s suggestion that we hear “so much bad news” because the media is “providing ‘lopsided’ media coverage of environmental issues.”40 On the contrary, they ªnd that the media has slowly “annihilated” important environmental content given its lackluster sex appeal. Importantly, the more contact people have with the media (especially television), the less environmentally concerned they typically are within a wide degree of statistical conªdence. Boykoff and Boykoff observe a similar tendency among journalists writing for elite US newspapers that lead them to equally present divergent sides of a disagreement. They argue that this explains why top US newspapers have over-represented skeptical claims about global warming, and have incorrectly indicated a divided scientiªc debate on the matter.41 Herrick and Jamieson42 studied the use of the term “junk science” in a content analysis of online news media for the period 1995–2000. They point out that US President George W. Bush uses the antonym “sound science” to refer to “junk science” which indicates, at least in part, the depth of skeptical inºuence. Herrick and Jamieson deªne “junk science” as a lack of appropriate credentials, lack of peer review, lack of publication of a ªnding, weak biblio38. 39. 40. 41. 42. McCright and Dunlap 2000. Besley and Shanahan 2004. Ibid, 862. Boykoff and Boykoff 2004. Herrick and Jamieson 2001.
graphic lineage (ªndings not based on adequate research), and outright fraud. In their content analysis of news media, they ªnd that “the articles we reviewed provided almost no evidence of substantive or procedural inadequacies in the science used to support environmental or public health policies.”43 Herrick and Jamieson found that many of the news media sources suggested that “junk science” was evident simply because the policy implicated would result in negative socioeconomic conditions. This in itself implies that “junk science” is science that simply contradicts a capitalistic goal of accumulation of wealth, and that skeptics are defending the social paradigm from knowledge claims that present a challenge to the conservative-capitalistic worldview. Consequently, the term “junk science” has very little to do with science or fraud, but more to do with whom that science serves. Further,
The most striking ªnding of our content analysis is that an overwhelming majority (84%) of the articles contained an anti-regulatory message or admonition, asserting that a particular policy or regulatory perspective or program should be reversed or opposed because it is based on junk science. None of the articles reviewed used the term in conjunction with a proregulatory message.44
Almost none of the articles we reviewed documented scientiªc analysis conducted in a way that is inadequate or inappropriate. Despite the use of the phrase, ‘junk science,’ most of the articles reviewed were critiques of environmental or public health policies based on politics or values rather than on science.45
They conclude that the term is “political trope” or a code word strategically used to evoke ideological “contrarian, anti-regulatory discourse.”46 In addition, “The junk science trope tends to shatter rather than inform civic dialogue, and it does little to enhance public understanding of environmental science and its social applications.”47 Herrick and Jamieson’s conclusions about civic dialogue appear to contradict the proposition of reºexive modernity and the democratizing effect counter-claims should have on complex industrial society. Beck’s “risk society” expects that the competing truth claims made by heterogeneous actors will open up civic dialogue with robust choices about high-stakes and uncertain environmental risks.48 This reºexivity is a welcome antidote to technocratic and monolithic decision-making. Myanna Lahsen examines this contradiction. She deftly points out in her
43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. Herrick and Jamieson 2001, 13, emphasis in original. Herrick and Jamieson 2001, 14. Ibid, 15, emphasis in original. Ibid. Ibid, emphasis added. Beck 1992. See Buell 2003 where he advocates for the metaphor of “dwelling in crisis” to avoid disinformation, alienation and disempowerment in the “risk society.”
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analysis of climate skepticism that reºexive discourse requires decision makers and the general public to be better equipped to critically judge science.49 She reveals that conservative ªnancial elites and fossil fuel interests have used “deceptive manipulation” to make non-peer reviewed claims appear so, hidden vested interests in the packaging of anti-greenhouse claims, and have actively resisted transparency in skeptical claim generation. In addition, the above elite have a great deal more inºuence and wealth, and powerful interests behind environmental skepticism have gained the audience and loyalty of elite decision makers in the US Congress who have not even read or seriously considered alternatives, such as the International Panel on Climate Change reports. As Lahsen states:
To be effective, reºexive modernization institutions need to ªnd ways to discriminate between better and worse sources of scientiªc claims related to environmental reality [than PR campaigns designed to deceive] and to be especially critical of “authoritative” black box opinions disseminated by vested ªnancial and political interests and by the politicians who serve these elite interests.50
From the analysis of Lahsen and Herrick and Jamieson, environmental skepticism appears to be organized on several fronts to “shatter” informed and critical dialogue. Social research in response to environmental skepticism indicates that skeptical interpretation is dependent on a relatively narrow set of ideological values from a conservative counter-environmental movement. These values include a “deep anthropocentric” ethic.
In 2003, Peter Balint tested the theory that “unexplored ethical differences” and values determine or have a heavy hand in determining how someone interprets data and derives policy goals. He ªnds that this is the case for both environmentally concerned scientists and Lomborg, where an anthropocentric ethic explains Lomborg’s judgments while the arguments of Lomborg’s detractors can be explained by their ecocentric positioning.51 From this he says, “Lomborg, and many economists, might argue that because only humans have moral standing, managing the environment for the purpose of maximizing human well-being is the moral course.”52 Balint explains that this moral position led Lomborg and his detractors to their policy positions, where Lomborg saw the need to keep government intervention in the market limited only to the cases where such intrusion was “reasonable to do so.”53 Of course, few would argue for “unreason49. 50. 51. 52. 53. Lahsen 2005. Ibid, 161. Balint 2003. Balint 2003, 21. Lomborg 2001, 32.
able” government actions, so the task here is to determine what constitutes a rational basis for policy. Most importantly, Balint believes cosmology and ethics leads Lomborg to reject the land ethic of Leopold. Leopold observed, “The land-relation is still strictly economic entailing privileges but not obligations.”54 Balint feels the ethical differences between Lomborg and his critics is ultimately one about the necessity and moral standing of such obligations. He concludes by saying that Lomborg represents a rejection of the land ethic, and his critics represent a move to replace open privileges with an expanded set of responsibilities “founded on the principles of membership and citizenship in—rather than dominion and exploitation of—the community of nature.”55 This is of critical importance because it explains how ethical considerations shape both environmental and anti-environmental thinking and policy goals. However, I believe that a more precise description of skeptical ethics is required because skeptical anthropocentrism runs “deeper” than other varieties. In particular, skeptics reject “enlightened anthropocentrism,” (or “anthropocentric environmentalism”) seen in writers like Murray Bookchin56 who argue for environmental protections based on pragmatic human direct and indirect beneªts. That is, enlightened anthropocentrism would favor saving coral reefs for future medical beneªts or even because coral reefs support biodiversity and resources that humans use now and for future generations. These are not direct beneªts, but are still part of the standard enlightened anthropocentric view. Skeptics reject this thinking, and argue that not only does nature protection need to be justiªed by direct beneªts, but those beneªts need to compare well with other costs/beneªts to engender public obligation. Deep anthropocentrism believes humanity is utterly independent of nonhuman nature, and moral obligation is dependent upon strict relative and immediate human beneªt, otherwise the ethic sees no obligation for human concern. This position holds an extreme “exemptionalist” perspective that sees humans fully exempt from ecological principles, inºuences and constraints.57 Also, not only can people thrive without nature but a growing distance between non-human nature and civilization is inherent to a good society. The stark modern Hobbesian dichotomies that allow for the simultaneous exploitation of both non-human nature and non-dominant human groups58 institutionalized by the dominant social paradigm between nature and civilization, “savage” and civilized, wild and rational, developed and undeveloped, are fully embodied and strongly held in deep anthropocentrism and the environmental skepticism which hosts it. Not only is humanity the center of concern and analysis, other consider54. 55. 56. 57. 58. Leopold , 203. Balint 2003, 22, emphasis added. Bookchin 1991. See Bailey 1993 for a speciªc rejection of Bookchin. See Dunlap and Catton 1979, 250. Barry 1999; Merchant 1980; and Ridgeway 1996.
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ations are irrelevant unless they directly involve human welfare. Nature can matter in deep anthropocentrism, but only in very strict instrumental terms. For example, Lomborg argues that poor air quality, since it is directly linked to lives lost, may warrant more attention and even policy. However, even many instrumental values of non-human nature are dismissed because they are too far off, indirect, or inconsequential compared to other matters. Indirect relationships between human welfare and non-human nature as well as notions of interdependence are dismissed as “soft” and therefore invalid.59 Often this is described as something like “waiting for Godot” where the beneªts of many—sometimes all60—environmental policies are viewed as invalid and utopian. Deep anthropocentricism does not see non-human nature as important in absolute terms, and only in thin instrumental terms is non-human nature considered relatively important. For the deep anthropocentric, nature, unlike in anthropocentric environmentalism, is excised utterly from society. This ethic provides the basis for a great deal of anti-environmental hostility because from a deep anthropocentric view, environmentalism creates obstacles for human development in the name of nature but which deep anthropocentrism sees as mere token mechanical objects in space. For example, Ron Arnold has famously said that because environmentalists argue for nature, environmentalism is generally anti-humanist and that this leads to a “holy war” where environmentalists “worship trees and sacriªce people.”61 Since trees have no moral or even pragmatic standing, placing them within the moral sphere creates economic trade-offs that harm people, and in this way, environmentalism is tantamount to a religious conºict. Likewise, Easterbrook says, “Those who do not believe in God should understand that, so far as we know, human life is the most important thing going on,” but the importance of human life is not about knowledge, it is about values and even cosmology.62 This segues to religious evangelism, which is a substantive part of skeptical ethics that is used to justify deep anthropocentrism as a matter of divine ordination. Importantly, the religious evangelical skeptics appear to be exclusively in the US, which probably relates to the right-wing mobilization of evangelical Christians in the US, and may be a yet unnoticed ªssure in the skeptic front, where European skeptics like Lomborg are not making nationalistic or overtly evangelical arguments. Peter Huber explains that “hard greens” (skeptical conservative environmentalists) follow a Judeo-Christian creed, and have no reticence in seeing nature as a tool humans are supposed to master, and when the tool is less useful they believe we should discard it. Humans have neither moral nor pragmatic reasons to conserve, and this is another difference with anthropo-
59. Huber 1999. 60. See for example O’Leary 2003. 61. Helvarg 1994, 12. Arnold, a stalwart of the Wise Use Movement in the American West, has incorporated skepticism into his political movement. 62. Easterbrook quoted in Ambrose 2003, Lexus online.
centric environmentalism which certainly sees pragmatic usefulness of nonhuman nature. Huber writes,
After the ºood, God directs Noah to ‘subdue’ creation, to take ‘domination over the ªsh of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.’ Today we can think of nature as benign only because we have obeyed that one command so very faithfully. We have no more practical reason to conserve nature than we have to conserve cows. We can subdue at will and replenish at will too, with transgenic mice and cloned sheep.63
At this point in history, the second vision is a lot more likely than the ªrst. We can go it alone. We need energy, nothing more, and we know how to get it from many more places than plants do. We don’t need the forest for medicine; as often as not, we need medicine to protect us from what emerges by blind chance from the forest. We don’t need other forms of life to maintain a breathable balance of gas in the atmosphere or a temperate climate. We don’t need redwoods and whales at all, not for the ordinary life at least, no more than we need Plato, Beethoven or the stars in the ªrmament of heaven. Cut down the last redwood for chopsticks, harpoon the last blue whale for sushi, and the additional mouths fed will nourish additional human brains, which will soon invent ways to replace blubber with olestra and pine with plastic. Humanity can survive just ªne in a planet-covering crypt of concrete and computers.64
The whale or the redwood not only are unimportant in themselves, they have no value through their interdependent functions in the world. They do not even have enough value to be treated as renewable resources worthy of cultivation and conservation for future use as anthropocentric environmentalists have agreed to for some time.65 Since nature has no important value, its loss is without meaning to humanity or to societies because humans can simply move on to the next resource or technologically clone or create entirely new ones. Therefore, if nature is not important, changes in nature are not an indication of decline nor do they imply any threats to sustainability whatsoever, and this assumption helps explain how the skeptical project creates such an optimistic state of the world. This also explains what has frustrated many environmental scientists about environmental skepticism’s epistemological orientation. Deep anthropocentrism functions as a foundation for judging legitimate knowledge. Within the skeptical frame, knowledge that asserts human interdependence with non63. Huber 1999, 80. 64. Ibid, 81, emphasis added. The visions he refers to in the beginning of the quote seem to refer to the visions of environmental hell proposed by environmentalists through either Malthusian demise or “Faustian” hubris. 65. See Gifford Pinchot’s selection in Nash 1990 as one well known example of anthropocentric environmental concern.
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human nature and sees the human species as an ecological being is not valid. The central organizing principle of ecology itself is quietly assumed to be false from the outset. Further, if humanity is not interdependent with nature, and humanity has no obligation to nature itself, then human society is released from any expectation or obligation to consequences that may result from changing nature. Consequently, there is no rational ecological citizenship under deep anthropocentrism or environmental skepticism. More importantly, these discarded global environmental problems can not threaten modernity or its institutions if they are conceptually alienated from human society.
Cost-Beneªt Policy Analysis and Deep Anthropocentrism
Several skeptics argue for the use of a more “rational” assessment of environmental policies via cost-beneªt analysis. Cost-beneªt analysis is not inherently skeptical to environmental concerns. Even though cost-beneªt analysis clearly is an artifact of modernity which assumes all environmental values can be made commensurable,66 it is not intrinsically skeptical. This allows for cost-beneªt analysis to be used by skeptics as something they see as a “value-neutral” option, though, as Douglas Kysar points out, this approach has a religious fervor all its own.67 Lomborg urges policymakers to prioritize public funds and commitments according to his skeptical ethics.68 While Lomborg is not explicitly making the same stark moral claim Huber is, deep anthropocentrism is embodied in his call for using the measure of “lives lost” or saved from a particular policy intervention. Without intervention the free enterprise is implied:69
Counting lives lost from different problems also emphasizes a central assumption in my argument: that the needs and desires of humankind represent the crux of our assessment of the state of the world. This does not mean that the plants and animals do not also have rights but that the focus will always be on the human evaluation.70
Lomborg states that this is a guiding principle in determining “how important” a speciªc environmental problem might be. He describes some important components of his position:
This describes both my ethical conception of the world—and on that account the reader can naturally disagree with me—but also a realistic conception of the world: people debate and participate in decision-making pro66. 67. 68. 69. Espeland 1998. Kysar 2003. Lomborg 2001, 2004. Interestingly, the sentiment here is not the market that is intervening in ecology, but rather government that must identify a rational reason to intervene in an otherwise benign market. 70. Lomborg, 2001, 11.
Peter Jacques cesses, whereas penguins and pine trees do not. So the extent to which penguins and pine trees are considered depends in the ªnal instance on some (in democracies more than half of all) individuals being prepared to act on their behalf. When we are to evaluate a project, therefore, it depends on the assessment by people. And while some of these people will deªnitely choose to value animals and plants very highly, these plants and animals cannot to any great extent be given particular rights.71
Lomborg does not seem to give serious consideration to the notion of nonhuman rights or the complexity inherent to the decades old discussion of rights. The statement also overlooks an internal contradiction. Despite his comments in the ªrst quote on rights, Lomborg notes that penguins and pine trees are considered dependent on the individuals prepared to act on their behalf, and from here “animals cannot to any great extent be given particular rights.” Thus, people are given the ability to consider animal rights so long as they do not consider them to be real. Admittedly, this is a superªcial critique of Lomborg though, because the substance of his rejection of non-human rights to limits on the extension of rights is really based on agency in society. That said, Lomborg’s framework would have a profound affect on rights in general if Lomborg’s position is accepted, because it suggests human children and some developmentally disabled individuals would fall under the same coup de grace as non-human nature due to their limited agency. People who are imprisoned are also vulnerable to a profound loss of claims upon the state. Cases of abuses in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or Abu Ghraib in Iraq indicate just how delicately positioned the observation of these rights are. Yet, the lack of advocacy in Abu Ghraib on behalf of abused prisoners does not make them any less abused. An abused child is still abused, whether or not someone takes up their protection. Indeed, if rights are dependent upon the criteria of a majority of citizens—who have mysteriously had rights bestowed upon them—willing to act on one’s behalf, this means that all rights are in the same precarious position as Lomborg suggests for animals. Everyone is dependent on other people considering and acting on our rights, but this dependency does not thankfully keep us from actually extending rights to children or disabled individuals or realizing these rights for ourselves, nor should it for animals. Further, and more importantly, our civic membership and duty to nature cannot be dismissed by waving away “rights” for the community of life. Dobson, for example, notes that a quasi-contractual arrangement between rational adults is not necessary to imbue duty.72 Lomborg continues, “The conclusion is that we have no option but to use humans as a point of reference. How can we otherwise avoid an ethical dilemma?”73 Of course, this does not avoid an ethical dilemma at all. Lomborg is choosing what parts of life on earth count and
71. Lomborg, 2001, 12, emphasis in original. 72. Dobson 2003. 73. Ibid.
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which ones do not, and apparently his consideration for the rest of life (nonhumans) on the planet is so thin, such a choice is not even considered an “ethical dilemma.”74 These problems indicate to me a rush to judgment and I suspect this rush represents a more important objection that underlies Lomborg’s ethics. In other words, I suspect his objection to rights for non-human nature is not about the difªculty of assigning them, but the profound civic and ethical implications for acknowledging human membership to the larger community of life on earth. On pragmatic grounds, this kind of policy basis ignores environmental problems that do not directly cause loss of human life but still endangers sustainability such as “crescive events” that can be more damaging than the immediately obvious “tanker on the rocks.”75 Since these and other problems do not count in Lomborg’s view, there is no reasonable obligation to attend to them. Lomborg might reply that obligation is not the point of his work. After all, he does warn that “I am saying . . . that by far the majority of indicators show that mankind’s lot has vastly improved. This does not, however, mean that everything is good enough”76 and that this means that we still need to work on our problems. However, he systematically goes through many of our global environmental problems (oceans are almost totally neglected), noting that none of them are worthy of concern because they are improving, and they will continue to improve so long as economies grow, not because policies have accompanied them. This leads to the conclusion that public action is not justiªed under these very strict criteria. I take this to mean that things really are good enough when measured against his criteria, otherwise “enough” has lost its meaning as I understand it. In addition, these issues are subject to the second kind of relative comparison that deªnes a legitimate problem within deep anthropocentrism. As long as ecological policies cannot show direct impact of lives saved relative to other mortal threats (such as eating poorly), ecological criteria fall outside of Lomborg’s consideration and therefore of what is reasonable action for public endeavor and expense. Thus, even though things may admittedly not be good, the political sphere is not responsible for all but a small number of ecological changes under deep anthropocentric assumptions. These values explain how skeptics can denounce critics of the modern cap74. See Ridgeway 1996 for an excellent dissertation on the role of value in environmental policy and problems with cost-beneªt analysis; also see Espeland 1998; and Kysar 2003. 75. Beamish 2002. 76. Lomborg 2001, 4, emphasis in original. The controversy of his interpretation and use of data that led Lomborg to say things have improved also led to Lomborg being found in violation of Danish standards for academic honesty by the Danish Committee on Scientiªc Dishonesty. Since then, and while Lomborg was a director of an independent agency on environmental issues, appointed by neoliberal Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the committee itself has come under investigation for this allegation, and the charge was dropped. See Jamieson 2004; and www.lomborg.com.
italist arrangement which they feel has a “fantastic story” of success, and for environmentalists (e.g., Al Gore) “ . . . to call such a civilization ‘dysfunctional’ is quite simply immoral.”77 This thorough alienation of society from nature in deep anthropocentricism is critical in constructing skeptical cost-beneªt analysis. However, it is secondary to why the argument is made in the ªrst place— which is to defend the status quo system of accumulation and power for consumptive elite in the Global North.
Reasons for the Rearguard
In the case of the global environmental problems, we see a new thrust of environmental opposition—the full scale involvement of the conservative movement.78
Knowing that skepticism is part of a political movement, and in order to better understand what this movement means, we are forced to ask the question “for what purpose”? Why dismiss biodiversity loss or global warming? At ªrst it may appear to be a case of simple short term proªteering, or the desire for piecemeal legislation. However, much more is at stake because threats to sustainability threaten the plausibility, as Pirages puts it, of the dominant “constellation of common values, beliefs, and shared wisdom about the physical and social environments,” or the dominant social paradigm (DSP).79 What is at stake is the legitimacy of the status quo of world politics nestled in our dominant core civic paradigm of Enlightenment liberalism that keeps the structure of obligations national and market based. Consequently, this struggle automatically includes the modern institutions of the state system and world capitalism that accompany the DSP. An alternative paradigm that sees humanity as a civic member with rights and obligations to the community of life on earth writ large (nature in an international/global sense) is pressuring the modern frame of the world that is embodied in the DSP, and skepticism has been marshaled from contemporary conservatism to defend it. Environmental scholars have long warned that, “At the root of the ecological crisis . . . are the basic values which have built our society,” and that our current dominant social value system is ecologically maladaptive and in need of paradigmatic change.80 These core values are important because, even though they do not ensure total adherence, they do guide and institutionalize individual and social action. At the world politics level, they guide our most embedded institutions in the state system and world capitalism through “economism.”81 More importantly, since, as Dunlap and Van Liere assert, “core cultural values and beliefs are important determinants of individuals’ beliefs, values, and
77. 78. 79. 80. 81. Lomborg 2001, 328. McCright and Dunlap 2000, 504, emphasis added. Pirages quoted in Dunlap and Van Liere 1984, 1013. Swan quoted in Dunlap and Van Liere 1984 Paehlke 2004.
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attitudes,”82 these core values may serve to “discipline” citizens to accept and reproduce what Bill Hipwell aptly has named “industria”—the modern comprehensive and predatory world system of knowledge and power that includes the world state system, world military apparati, and world capitalism (among other nodes).83 In other words, the DSP serves as a universal cultural policing mechanism to ensure compliance with the most powerful world political forces that remain relatively invisible in our daily lives, so long as we acquiesce. In Gramscian terms, the DSP provides a hegemonic discourse that mediates human-nature relations in mechanical and managerial terms for economistic exploitation.84 Increasing attention to the contradictions between industria and sustainability may be operating as a (resilient), if fragmented, counterhegemonic discourse, and environmental skepticism appears to be organized to disintegrate and “outcast” ecological resistance and resistors.85 If this is the case, skepticism is more than a defense of proªteering; indeed, it is a defense against an impending cognitive and cultural revolution that would change the way material power is concentrated and accumulated. Collectively, Enlightenment liberalism frames the core values that guide and deªne what is expected and owed to society and what society owes us, and who that society includes—in short, our core values frame citizenship.86 These values are:
(1) commitment to limited government, (2) support for free enterprise, (3) devotion to private property rights, (4) emphasis upon individualism, (5) fear of planning and support for the status quo, (6) faith in the efªcacy of science and technology, (7) support for economic growth, and (8) faith in future abundance.87
Conservative authors sometimes say the world is in the midst of a “culture war.” This may have many meanings, but Wildavsky believes it refers to a fundamental conºict in what we fear the most. “Hierarchists fear social deviance, individualists fear regulation, and egalitarians fear technology.”88 Currently, the DSP favors the individualists, who fear regulation and favor free enterprise and economism. In fact, the DSP has been so successful in spreading globally that Robert Paehlke warns us that “Economic considerations overwhelm all else. What might be called ‘economism’ is triumphant.”89 He goes on to say, however, that the legitimacy of economism is eroding due to, among other things,
82. Dunlap and Van Liere 1984, 1014. 83. Hipwell 2004. 84. See for example, Rupert 1993; and Luke 1999 for a discussion of governmentality and managerialism. 85. Buell 2003. 86. Paterson 2000 and Conca 1993 discuss this pressure on the state system and world capitalism; see Kilbourne, Beckmann, and Lewis 2001 for a discussion of how the DSP is founded on ideological modernity through “Enlightenment liberalism” that guides “virtually all intellectual endeavors within the paradigm,” 211. 87. Dunlap and Van Liere 1984, 1015. 88. Ibid. 89. Paehlke 2004, viii.
its failure to address democratic, social and ecological vulnerabilities. John Cobb sees economism as a religious world view that includes skepticism, which he also believes is being fundamentally challenged by ecologism:
Economistic thinkers typically believe that there is no problem about the indeªnite expansion of the economy. Indeed, this indeªnite expansion is their goal. They met the warnings of physical scientists with skepticism. History has shown to their satisfaction that the technology that is such an important part of capital can solve the many problems that natural limits are supposed to put in the way of continuing economic growth. They point to many past instances that illustrate this.90
The contemporary conservative movement is interested in protecting the DSP because, as McCright and Dunlap put it, “the Dominant Social Paradigm includes core elements of conservative ideology . . . ”91 This is also why conservatism is negatively related to environmental concern, because the “ . . . pursuit of environmental protection often involves government action that is seen as threatening core elements of conservatism, such as the primacy of individual freedom, private property rights, laissez-faire government, and the promotion of free enterprise.”92 Conservative economism is not just defending business, but the structural world order in which industria can survive. Civic Elements of Sustainability The DSP keeps civic expectations bounded by Enlightenment liberalism. But the inability of economism and the current global order to address or establish global accountability for environmental issues has inspired Andrew Dobson,93 John Barry94 and others95 to call for an “ecological citizenship.”96 This stems from the realization that changes in ecological understandings are forcing a change in our notions of citizenship. Scholars disagree in how this should be treated, but most acknowledge that ecological changes challenge the way in which obligation is encumbered and accountable. In discussing this growing literature, Dobson writes that:
. . . ecological concerns have given rise to talk of responsibilities as well as rights. The social objective to which these responsibilities relate is the ‘sustainable society’, and the questions posed by environmental politics are:
90. Cobb 1999, 39. 91. McCright and Dunlap 2000, 504–505. 92. McCright and Dunlap 2000, 504; see also Dunlap, Xiao, and McCright 2001 for elite ideological cleavages in the US. 93. Dobson 2003. 94. Barry 1999. 95. E.g., Smith 1998; Christoff 1996; see also the special issue of the journal Environmental Politics on environmental citizenship edited by Dobson and Valencia Sáiz 2005 and includes Bell 2005; Carter and Huby 2005; Drevenšek 2005; Hailwood 2005; Luque 2005; Smith 2005; Valencia Sáiz 2005; Seyfeng 2005; and Valdivielso 2005. See also Eckersley 2004 for a related argument grounded in the state. 96. Dobson 2003.
The Rearguard of Modernity what kind of responsibilities relate to this objective, and to whom or what are they owed? These are citizenship-type questions, and the answers to them in the ecological context take us beyond the liberal and civic republican citizenship and past cosmopolitan citizenship.97
In other words, we cannot contain global ecological accountability within the state system because ecological changes themselves are beyond the state system and they are aggravated or caused through world capitalism and economic globalization. Material ecological conditions in one nation can be altered by remote non-citizens of other nations, but as of now the ecological impacts caused by remote non-citizens are hidden/distanced through elements of a global economy that buffers consumers and dis-empowers those directly dependent on ecological goods and services.98 Dobson believes these changes then create a relative and differentiated responsibility determined by our own respective ecological impacts through consumption. However, my point is not to endorse one variety of ecological citizenship over another. Rather, what is important is that ecological changes—and threats to sustainability in particular—have called the DSP and classical notions of civic responsibility into question. This speciªc possibility probably explains why some skeptics have turned to extreme nationalism in groups like Sovereignty International run by evangelical skeptic, Michael Coffman, that are speciªcally focused on potential US-international obligations.99 In short, environmental skepticism’s function is to take up the rearguard of an increasingly maladaptive system that is being called into question as a threat to human sustainability. Indeed, twenty years ago, Dunlap and Van Liere conclude, “if we are in fact entering an era of ecological limits in which the societal impacts of environmental pollution, resource scarcity, etc., become more pronounced, the resultant experiences will provide increasing pressure for revision of our DSP toward a more ecologically sustainable world-view.”100 This is what I believe is happening and why we have a conservative movement pushing environmental skepticism in defense of the DSP.
Environmental skepticism presents itself as “speaking truth to power” through contrarian claims they say objectively “debunk” the myths of the environmental movement and environmental science. Yet, the analysis of this literature indicates that environmental skepticism is speciªcally issued from a conservative ideology supported by a coherent conservative countermovement opposed to environmentalism. This positions the bias of skeptic knowledge claims, and while environmentalists’ claims clearly have their own bias, the claim that the
97. Dobson 2003, 84–85. 98. Conca, Princen, and Maniates 2001; Conca 2001; and Kütting 2004. 99. See www.soveriegntyinternational.com; Coffman 1992, 1994. See Luke 2000 for a solid explanation. 100. Dunlap and Van Liere 1984, 1026.
skeptical project is generated from a sense of objectivity and value neutrality is ºatly rejected as part of an attempt to subvert reºexive interrogation and the implied counter-hegemonic resistance this entails. In particular, environmental skepticism is opposed to the establishment of global environmental concerns and those related to human sustainability. The substantive arguments of environmental skeptics are guided by a “deep anthropocentrism” which dissolves society from non-human nature. Importantly, a severed nature-human relationship effectively challenges the institutionalization of obligation to environmental changes and the people who are affected by these changes. Skepticism therefore preserves a conservative hope for limited government in the global market while it protects a consumptive elite against responsibilities for these systemic changes. In the process, environmental skepticism defends the structure of dominant social values in world politics such as the state system, expansive resource exploitation under world capitalism, and a hegemonic and consumptive North (and US in particular from where most skeptics hail) to ºourish unmolested by the gadºies of the environmental movement. Therefore, being overly concerned with the contrarian knowledge claims of environmental skeptics misses skepticism’s more important political message about duty and the legitimacy of public environmental concern. Environmental skeptics, even if they are conclusively proven wrong on all counts, will succeed in—at least temporarily—guarding a falling hegemonic order if academia, the press, and government become overly interested in Darth Vader and Obi Wan dueling at the bay doors.101 I suspect that skeptics will be happy to continue to create this kind of conºict because it ultimately provides an indeªnite defense of the dominant social norms and institutions. They do not need to win the debate about the state of the world to maintain this power and dominance. They only need to establish enough doubt about the environmental epistemic community having the debate to throw public action into doubt as well. Kysar, in Ecology Law Quarterly, notes that both environmentalists, such as Worldwatch Institute, and skeptics like Lomborg are guilty of hyperbole which they use to focus attention on their own policy agenda through competing Litanies.102 These Litanies are, among other things, struggles over the ability to frame risk, and therefore regulation:
As a result, science becomes a contested space in which competitors vie for the legal authority to impose costs on other parties, whether in the form of regulatory compliance, or externalized physical and environmental harms.103
However, Wildavsky, correctly I think, argues that risk is politically assessed by morality, and this makes the framing of public risk a civic exercise.104 From here,
101. 102. 103. 104. I suppose this metaphor makes environmentalists the Empire, but I like it anyway. Kysar 2003. Kysar 2003, 254. Wildavsky 1995, 440. Kysar also makes this point about morality guiding risk perception.
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he argues that environmental policies need to be made with a preponderance of evidence, not evidence from probabilities. But skeptical ethics severely limit what counts and is available to create such a preponderance of evidence. Thus, contrary to what Lomborg argues, understanding what is to be done and prioritizing action is not just a simple matter of adding up the costs and beneªts. The real struggle is over what can count as a cost or beneªt or even whether such a conceptual tool is fair, appropriate, or relevant.105 Environmental skepticism is therefore a struggle over the core values and beliefs that frame who and what risks should count as important. But these are no ordinary historical risks. The state of the world debate centers on what core civic values should organize risk in society regarding human development and progress. Wildavsky’s “culture” model is based on core fears and different cultural sets have different core fears of risks, and that environmentalists have a speciªc culture guided by “radical egalitarianism.” I do not disagree that some environmentalism is deeply concerned about the fair distribution of ecological space and change.106 Turning this around though, it is just as plausible to frame skeptics as struggling for a “radical in-egalitarianism” within the core values that already organize world politics. In conclusion, skepticism’s inºuence in politics and culture presents a dramatic threat to human ability and political will to protect the critical life support systems found in ecological goods and services because they dismiss these systems as important. Many civilizations have actively decided, for one reason or another, to ignore the erosion of this essential relationship between society and non-human nature, only to collapse or ªnd themselves at the mercy of a Dark Age that is deªned by misery and suffering.107 Jared Diamond writes,
Our world is interconnected and interdependent, like Easter Island’s 11 clans. Today, we face the same problems—loss of forests, ªsheries, biodiversity, fresh water, and topsoil—that dragged down past societies. But for the ªrst time in world history, we are producing or transporting toxic materials, greenhouse gases, and alien species. All these environmental problems are time bombs. The world is now on an unsustainable course, and these problems will be resolved one way or another, pleasantly or unpleasantly, within the next 50 years.108
Yet, Lomborg shrugs off the matter of accountability to exactly these kinds of changes as “blame” and says our true priorities should be more along the lines of a low-fat diet instead of “focusing on pesticides, oxygen depletion, global warming, forests, wind power, biodiversity, etc.—issues which are more clearly someone else’s fault.”109
105. 106. 107. 108. 109. Lomborg 2001, 2004. Again, Kysar provides important criticism. Dobson 2003 is a good example. Diamond 2004 and 2005; and Chew 2001 Diamond 2004, 8. Lomborg 2001, 330.
To some, the song of skepticism sounds like a sweet song, laden with the security and power of modernity. Diamond points out with optimism I share, when Easter Island collapsed, it did not have the beneªt of knowing that other societies had collapsed by undermining ecological life support systems. However, taking responsibility for global environmental integrity would be a positive step towards paradigmatic and r/evolutionary changes, one of which would be an incorporation of obligations to human societies commensurate with membership and impact within a larger international and ecological community.110 This directly challenges the way power and wealth are concentrated in the current world system, and environmental skeptics have organized as the rearguard for this system and its globalizing—but beleaguered—paradigm. To be sure, the fact that conservatives have felt the need to rally around the DSP indicates that the ecological position is gaining strength. Skeptics however wish to postpone this change. Their placations sound good to the elite who are part of the dominant world order. From Diamond’s lessons, this skeptical song is like lulling the boiling frog to sleep, ignoring that someone put the frog in the pot to begin with, and then telling the frog that things are, “in fact,” getting better all the time.
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