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Why we need the apocalypse Progress has given way to bubbling madness

Winners of the Oscar for Best Policy (Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)

Winners of the Oscar for Best Policy (Abhishek Chinnappa/Getty Images)


July 21, 2022   5 mins

The countryside is on fire, The Guardian has published another article about replacing meat with mould grown in vats, and the World Economic Forum wants to block out the sun with a Brazil-sized raft of space bubbles. This isn’t the Great Reset; it’s a mood. A vibe.

Walking the dog at dusk on Tuesday through local woodland, I noticed wilting hazel saplings, poplars shedding foliage, dry yellow leaves crunching underfoot like it’s September. The ground is bone-dry. The wheat in neighbouring fields has ripened a month early.

The seasons are, as Shakespeare wrote, “out of joint”. Though Britain is no longer sweltering in unprecedented 40-degree heat, the weather has intensified an already simmering apocalyptic mood. Some are sublimating this into panic about second-order issues (health and safety is a popular choice), or arguments about whether or not panic is justified. Others are swimming in the bin with a cocktail in hand. But the vibe is everywhere.

In modern terms, “apocalypse” has come to mean “the cataclysmic end of everything”. But this is a long way from the ancient Greek understanding: to uncover, to disclose or lay bare. From this perspective, apocalypse isn’t the end of the world. Or at least, not just the end of the world. Rather, it’s the end of a worldview: discoveries that mean a previous way of looking at things is no longer tenable.

In our case, it’s no longer just cranks and prophets coming to the reluctant realisation that our current way of life can’t continue. This suspicion is percolating into the mainstream — along with a raft of increasingly unhinged responses. The Dutch farmers’ protest, now spreading across Europe, is the latest focus for the concatenating derangement this revelation has triggered.

It’s the most recent flare-up in a running battle between interest groups whose livelihoods depend directly on the continuation of our extractive industrial order, and a knowledge-economy class whose livelihood does so only indirectly. For the people who make or grow things, build things, or move things around are both heavily reliant on cheap energy to do their jobs, and easy targets for well-meaning green regulations. From farming regulations that strangle small producers, to rocketing fuel costs and travel restrictions for logistics firms unable to invest in low-emission vehicles, environmental rules take the heaviest toll on smaller businesses, adding pressure to living standards already squeezed by inflation and the pandemic.

This adds pressure to middle-class living standards already squeezed by inflation and the pandemic. And the resulting sense of being picked on finds its enemy in the knowledge class, embodied in the WEF: a kind of trade union for its richest and most influential members. This cabal of wealthy suits concerns itself less with stuff than ideas. And of course they have big ideas for saving the world: the WEF’s own stated Great Reset vision views post-pandemic chaos as a “unique window of opportunity” to “shape the recovery” in the name of “a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being”.

For our extractive industrial mode of living really can’t go on forever. This, though, leaves ordinary farmers in the crosshairs. For most agriculture is as industrial as an Australian iron ore mine, thanks to fossil fuel powered farm machinery, nitrogen fertiliser and chemical pesticides. And these practices really do risk future food security.

Yet for the knowledge class, the world of atoms is something to be counted, rationalised, financialised, streamlined or otherwise manipulated in the course of the actually important work of abstraction, high-level thinking, and making more money. So when spreadsheet sociopaths of this type decide it’s time to force a “transition” out of such environmentally harmful and carbon-intensive work, people whose livelihoods are inextricable from that work may, understandably, have questions.

Can industrial agriculture survive decarbonisation? What will we grow? And who will own the land? Who will work it? Idealists dream of a small-farm revolution, in which hyper-productive smallholders replace pesticide-powered monocroppers. Pessimists, meanwhile, point out that even if millions of us somehow magically acquire the skills and the willingness to embrace agrarian life, land ownership is heading in the opposite direction: Great Reset boogeyman Bill Gates is now the largest owner of farmland in America, and caused outcry last month when he acquired another 2,200 acres in South Dakota. I struggle to imagine him volunteering to hand out his own property portfolio to allotmenteers.

Absent some kind of redistributive revolution, it seems more plausible that agriculture goes high-tech. Robotisation is already in use in some farms, while gene-edited crops are on their way to being waved through by the current Tory administration. And we’re forever being told that insect protein is the food of the future. But this, in turn, means even greater consolidation: fewer workers, bigger fields, larger parcels of land. In other words, more small farmers being forced out of business. And more tech implies an increasing dependency on Big Finance and biotech. If this is the future we get, those now fretting that we’re going to end up as a microchipped useless class, spending our meaningless, UBI-funded, AI-governed lives staring out of a pod home at hundreds of thousands of acres of robot-tended agroindustry while awaiting our drone delivery of insect protein, may be exaggerating only a little.

So down in the real economy, the insoluble grimness of this predicament finds expression in baroque theories about the “Great Reset”. We hear that it’s a front for tech totalitarianism and unelected one-world government, a dark plot to sterilise us or inject us all with RFID microchips, or to steal farmland and fill it with tower-blocks populated by immigrants. In all cases, the lurking suspicion pervades that what’s presented as a project to save the world is, more accurately, a project to save the laptop class at the expense of everyone else.

And indeed, grand top-down plans often seem indifferent to predictable human consequences — a fact underlined again by the Dutch protests. Here, farmers are furious that the government appears to have imposed strictures on nitrogen emissions to meet climate targets, with little thought for how the transition will be managed and how farmers’ livelihoods will be affected.

Nor is this the first time top-down idealism has fomented human-scale backlash. Last year, the Sri Lankan government was awarded an “Oscar for best policy” by the WEF, for a decision to ban nitrogen fertiliser. This government edict forced the nation’s farms to go organic more or less overnight, despite experts warning that this would be a disaster. The livelihoods and even lives lost have driven a popular uprising; last week, an estimated 300,000 protesters took to the streets, and forced the resignation and flight of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on a military plane.

Against this backdrop, the Dutch farmers emerge as tragic reverse-Luddites, battling not against the onset of industrialisation but its end. At root their cause is the defence of livelihoods that depend on the continuation of an extractive mode of production that feeds and clothes most of us, but is also slowly killing the planet. But those imposing grand schemes aimed at forcing change don’t come out much better. Techno-futurist visions on the scale proposed by Davos Man imply a vantage-point from which all possible variables have been assessed and the rational way forward determined — a perspective that routinely obscures the human costs of knowledge-class hubris.

And beneath such futile resistance, and grandiose plans, lurks a bubbling sense of madness. It surfaces whenever the public conversation touches on just how interconnected the challenges are, and how radically, unimaginably unlike the present the future needs to be if we’re to stand a chance of surviving. The apocalypse is in fact a revelation: endless progress on the industrial model has already ended, and getting out of this bind is going to be grim. And the “high-level” WEF vision that we can “shape” this set of problems according to some illusion of mastery is, in its way, as much a fantasy as paranoid conspiracy theories concerning the Great Reset.

But all such lurid dreams still represent a saner response to where we are than those now claiming “it’s just a nice warm summer” or using our predicament to take pot shots at the Tories. For the truth is that those amplifying the Derangement Syndromes we’ve seen since 2016 are less deranged than rational. Green movements turn from policy to millenarianism; the young don’t want to have children; castration cults are making a comeback; while the great and the good are spiralling away into wishful fantasies of planetary-scale technologies riding to the rescue. None of this is madness; it’s revelation. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

The present “extractive” industrial processes that have provided humans with widespread dignity and long life for the first time in the several hundred thousand years of human existence, should be treated with a great deal more respect.

Not solely because they have done this for us, but because the solution to their present excesses lies in merely permitting the technological progress that created them to carry on. It is already happening, all the time: we are producing more with less initial resources and with less waste than ever before, and it’s improving continuously. We will reach a point, solely through technological progress (and not political activism), where humanity exerts no net resource footprint on the planet at all. One thing is required for this before all else though: cheap, clean energy. Without it, the planet will indeed get ruined, because the developing world can still develop on coal if it has to, and at present that’s what our moronic western climate agenda is helping to entrench.

Nuclear power has been the answer to this problem for over 70 years. Whatever the dangers, they are several magnitudes smaller than the cost we have chosen to bear continuously through the oil age, and it is idiotic that we have not taken this step properly, developing the various reactor designs that do not produce weapons material and which are thousands of times more productive than the original designs. Humanity needn’t be an idiot, we just have to develop and use nuclear power.

And by the way Mary, yes, it really is just a warm summer. Last year it was more or less perpetual autumn, if you recall, but nobody ran around screaming that we were heading into an ice age – even though we actually are.

Get a grip.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

40 years ago they were banging on about advancing glaciers and the next ice age and I gather the smart money says it is back on

UG GU
UG GU
2 years ago

Ice ages are determined by the angle of the earth to the sun and right now it is on a journey that tips the northern hemisphere away from the sun.
So yes over the next five hundred years a good ice age will develop.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

Also the mega hole in the Ozone layer, fortuitously sited over Australia.
How did we ever survive?

Dude Spikey
Dude Spikey
2 years ago

Australia? We’re hitting below freezing in the early morning

Bob Henson
Bob Henson
2 years ago

I remember it well, it was called global cooling and peak oil.

Amos Sullivan
Amos Sullivan
1 year ago

Every ten years they scream we have only 10 years to survive, what BS!

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

She is in a great mood and vibe reset.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I wish I had your optimism

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

It’s not optimism, it’s just called looking at the facts. The trends are mostly positive. I am not saying there are not problems, some of which we cannot presently solve. But if there is one thing that the acceleration of innovation has taught us, it’s that knowedge growth is both infinite and presents multiple options along the way at every point.

A good example of this is nuclear fusion – though the recent advances are very exciting, it still remains possible that we won’t get it to the point where cheap, reliable utility-scale energy emerges from it this century or indeed the next. Does it matter though? Not really, because there is enough thorium in the earth’s crust to last 100,000 years at existing global energy consumption rates.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

It’s similar to the Malthusian argument, that everything will crash at linear limits rather than humans will innovate and adjust to changing conditions.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

Spot on. The forecasters can’t cope with that concept and the doom mongers deliberately choose to ignore it.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

At the last count France had 56 Nuclear Reactors to our pathetic 13.
Could there be a better indictment of British Energy Policy by ALL Governments since 1957?
Yet those who are terrified of ‘Quatermass ‘seem to have won the day with appalling consequences.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

And the majority of those nuclear power plants are coming to the end of their lives. Add to that the fact that the absence of any construction has caused the demise of a once eminent industry.
This is a result of tiny protest groups, the messages of which are enormously magnified by a critical news media. This can be seen in action over fracking and metallurgical coal.
This propaganda often manipulates the message, emphasising what other countries might think of us such as at COP26 when it suits, but at other times, treating our policies as though we are sealed off from the rest of the world, so that a high temperature in, say, Coningsby, is caused by the carbon dioxide emitted solely because of lack of action by the United Kingdom government of today.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
2 years ago

Try German energy policy – “Atomkraft – Nein Danke!” – and the immense increases in German energy costs as they decommissioned all their reactors – while importing nuclear-generated power from France and Belgium… The UK might not yet be “good” in energy policy terms, but we’re not the worst…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Instead of sending our… errr… ” migrants” back, perhaps they could do 10 hours a day running on treadmills to generate some ‘ leccy?

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

One thing is required for this before all else though: cheap, clean energy. Without it, the planet will indeed get ruined, because the developing world can still develop on coal if it has to, and at present that’s what our moronic western climate agenda is helping to entrench.”
That is exactly the point. Improving lives of the people in developing countries requires abundant energy, civilization in general needs steady increase in energy consumption. And it will not stop because the fascists from WEF and their useful idiots tell us it is bad. Sri Lanka is a good example. It will not be solved by carbon credits, carbon taxes or all this garbage. We need more energy and we need to develop the cleanest source of it, which is nuclear.

Yendi Dial
Yendi Dial
2 years ago

Indeed, Energy is key to every single human activity, Saudi is building nuclear plants, Without abundant energy, the prospect of wars, slavery (another source of manual energy)….

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

You say civilization in general needs steady increase in energy consumption.”
Not so for the developed world. An insulated house is as warm for half the energy. Same for transport… farming etc. There are lower-input, similar output options available.

Oscar Ugardia
Oscar Ugardia
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Members of the knowledge class resent the successes of the productive sector – those who make and move stuff – because they’re achieved without their input. Their worldview is viewed through a prism of their own self-interest. They declare and obsess over various ‘crises’ that allow them to present themselves as the solution. And their prescribed cure always allows them to extend their powers of punishment and control over the productive class. This is the 21st Century civil war.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Oscar Ugardia

Your comment is spot on. I recently left academia to go into business for myself. I feel so much happier now that I’m earning my own money and not being paid to be useless.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

For our extractive industrial mode of living really can’t go on forever.”
Actually it could… but only with a smaller global population. I’m not proposing any drastic reduction – arguably the Western world is already adjusting its population downwards. We just need to get our heads around the realisation that ‘more people’ is no longer a plan without consequences.

Dude Spikey
Dude Spikey
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

arguably the Western world is already adjusting its population downwards.

I’d be one to argue the opposite, just based on what I’ve seen myself.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Dude Spikey

Nah it’s peaking soon and will decline.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

You are Paul Ehrlich and I claim my ÂŁ5: wrong about everything for 60 years but still sending shivers up the eager spines of the trusting.

jane baker
jane baker
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

But reducing the population is an ongoing project. I expect Bill Gates is involved somewhere,maybe the Knights Templars too..Seeing as the contraceptive pill and surgical procedures didn’t ultimately reduce population growth they’re promoting gay and trans,and encouraging the chemical castration of children. Its a long game but I actually now believe all this started in the 1960s (blame the 60s I know), but it’s a resurgence of all the Nazi ideas. We ended the WW2 in Europe and the East but we DID NOT kill of Nazi ideology,it just scuttled away to hide somewhere dark. Not my idea but I’ve read a theory that this Nazi ideology hid in academia where it got reshaped into more acceptable forms. That makes sense to me. Defeated in 1945,fifteen or so years in hiding,re-emerges in the early 1960s. Also I’ve read that a lot of these “ideas” go way back in history,the Nazis brought them together as a coherent ideology and lifestyle. Sorry to ramble on.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  jane baker

National Socialism is the fastest growing political creed in the US and UK…

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  AC Harper

World population will stabilise and go into reverse this century. Socieities do this by themselves without state coercion when they become wealthy. This is why anti-growth politics is not merely wrong, but stupid and self-defeating.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I recall on a very cold day last winter when people asked “Where’s this global warming then?” the reply from the knowledgeable ones was to roll their eyes and, with a sigh, pontificate “Weather and climate are not the same, you can’t use the former as an indication of the latter.” This week the same knowledgeable folk are screaming “The heat, the heat, this proves that the world is warming!” As another poster wrote, I too am sick of being preached at….

Dude Spikey
Dude Spikey
2 years ago
Reply to  David Lonsdale

DoubleThink, DoublePlusGood!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tg3-93jKvc

Paula 0
Paula 0
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Meanwhile, when one hears of the amount of CO2 dumped in every small helicopter and private jet flight, could all the celebrities and politicians down their jets for a year, so we can see the effect, just as we saw the skies become clearer during the Great Lockdowns?

Maybe fewer trips, if face to face is so important. It would make it count when world leaders meet once a year. Meanwhile, we have Zoom. I know, it is less glamorous, but think of all the savings to the environment, just in all the little Le plastic water bottles, and flowers flown in from everywhere, for endless E.U.functions? They can be filmed from their offices for T.V. and internet to capture all their pronouncements,

Politicians could still count their blessings, at how much more they have compared with others, through tightened times.

Celebrities may have to wean themselves from instagramming themselves at every last location, but do they want a cleaner world or not?

Experiment, just for a year. Celebrities and Politicians can lead the way, as the leaders and influencers they claim to be.

Those with super duper security problems, like Prince Harry and Princess Harry, really can leave the SUVs behind. Their security can bicycle beside them. They could Zoom to the U.N., or just move to New York? Again, the small helicopter and plane jaunts should be cancelled for a year, like those for all others. Fly commercial or don’t fly.

Biden, get your pen ready.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Paula 0

Many of my land owner friends are so concerned about Co2 emission that they are binning their soda siphons and using water. I have similar sympathies with such concerns….

Peter B
Peter B
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Absolutely nailed it.
We are living through a weird golden age of collective catastrophising and delusional thinking. Possibly a result of having things too easy for too long. Time to refocus on real problems.

Russ W
Russ W
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Amen

Ken Roberts
Ken Roberts
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Climate change has become a huge trillion pound industry all funded by successful country’s tax treasuriies through government funded agenncies, fake charities & non profits. Too many depend on this cash flow for their livelihood. Too many of the knowledgeable elite have learned how to make a comfortable living while saving the world. This distortion will not end until this funding is removed.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago

What is absent from this entire debate is any acknowledgement that the UK is unable to do anything whatsoever to solve any of the problems that afflict the world. All the UK can do is take care of its own bailiwick. We should concentrate on ameliorating the adverse effects, if any, of climate change and/ or population decline or increase, on our country. It strikes me as an irony that a ruling elite that ritually condemns the unique evil of the long vanished British Empire, still talks as if it rules a quarter of the globe and can intimidate the rest. Nobody outside of our inbred chattering class takes any notice of its chatterings. I find the gross mismatch between the fantasy of our global influence and the reality of our lack of it, increasingly embarrassing. The rest of the world will do as it pleases and we, as Thucydides teaches us, will put up with it.
PS: Cancel Net Zero now, rather than wait until events compel us to.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I dream of putting my foot hard down in a ” chipped” 4.5 litre Land Cruiser, ( with DPF removed) and visualising the look of horror on the faces of the eco sandaloids as I blow yet another Diesel fumed hole in the ozone layer…. they are easier and more fun to wind up than a clockwork mouse!

Peter McLaughlin
Peter McLaughlin
2 years ago

I’m sick of being preached at by cranks,obsessives and fetishists.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
2 years ago

Well, you’re outta luck. Most mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road, rational types tend not to do much preaching : )

Dominic S
Dominic S
2 years ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

We do, but we tend not to run around media outlets doing it.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic S

And they cancel you.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago

By “preached at by cranks,obsessives and fetishists.“, who are you referring to?:

  • the ‘keep using the energy, business as usual‘ people
  • or the ‘global warming, stop carbon use now‘ people?

ï»żCould be either.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago

Older readers remember 1976 – most with affection, 10 weeks of drought where the temps hit 32 degrees every day somewhere, and heat wasn’t caused by CO2, rather, the natural variability of climate.
In parts of Russia it’s unnaturally cold, with huge rain storms. AMAZING what CO2 now does!
We’re in the early part of a major Grand Solar Minimum.
When these happens, the Jet Streams drop South (in the North) form different patterns, and cause very different weather, with long lasting blocking patterns doing what we are seeing now.

Readers. Author. Do some research

I’m in Budapest, where it’s 35 to38. No media hysteria

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

Regardless, yes, everything else is going to ….

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

We need to institute sanctions on the sun immediately! Until we all freeze. Then we will institute sanctions on the frost. Utter insanity.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

The Pacific Northwest of Canada is having one of its coldest summers on record. I had a hard time planning a backpacking trip last weekend because all of the mountain trails are still covered in deep snow. That is not normal this time of year. How come that isn’t in the international news?

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter Johnson
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

It obviously doesn’t directly assist the idea of ‘global warming’. However, surely it could be used to promote the idea of ‘climate change’?

William Loughran
William Loughran
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Canada does not have a Pacific Northwest, we have a Pacific Southwest. Our Pacific Northwest is occupied by the Alaskan Panhandle.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

The greenhouse effect theory does not predict that everywhere will just get a bit warmer. It predicts an overall average increase, but also more energy and water-vapour in the weather system leading to greater extremes.
So the excess heat last year and cooler summer this year are typical of this more energetic, chaotic system.
Be prepared for stronger winds and no wind; hotter months and colder ones; more snow and fast snow melt. It’s the new normal.

Casey Devine
Casey Devine
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

Too much nuance for the comments section!

rue boileau
rue boileau
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

I lived in Budapest in the 90s, I remember how hot the summers were. So yep, high temps are nothing new!

Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
1 year ago
Reply to  rue boileau

I think most places have uncomfortably warm summers. I’m very glad to be in Alaska right now!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

I loved my free 1976 suntan…

F K
F K
2 years ago

and what is truth asked jesting Pilate? Maybe ask the young lad (or youngster) who wants only to live in the community they were raised in and farm cows, sheep, rhubarb or whatever
 and live a meaningful life with the rituals of family, community and nature. But do tell me to shut up – everyone does!!!

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  F K

No, go on, you have my ear.

jane baker
jane baker
2 years ago
Reply to  F K

They’ve got to go and live in a tower block in a city so their land can be rewilded and made pristine again,the home of bison,beaver and badger. George Monbiot has got the blueprint.
I actually live in a tower block in a city and its actually very pleasant. Only in TV dramas which are all very stupid,do flat dwellers like me have abusive partners and substance abuse issues.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  F K

I’m sure the grandfather of the lad was farming in a quite different way than his father does today.
It’s just different agriculture.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  F K

“The world of today and existence in general weigh heavily and horribly on my shoulders. I am so disgusted with everything . . . It is a world in itself, the world as it exists in the dreams of liberal democrats, and as I shall never live to see it, thank God. The things that will hold center stage during the next two or three hundred years are enough to make a man taste vomit. It is time to disappear.”

Flaubert.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

Small point: One does see this kind of proposition: The system is unsustainable; we need to impose adaptation from the Center… notwithstanding the fact that the system is adapting absent some initiative from the Center.
Example:
“Absent some kind of redistributive revolution, it seems more plausible that agriculture goes high-tech.”
But, lo: “Robotisation is already in use in some farms, …”
Indeed.
Proposition: Decentralized processes are underappreciated and remain underappreciated, because centralized, administrative processes are so much easier for the puny human mind to conceive of, in caricature. Indeed, look what happens when the central authorities impose their non-solutions to problems that don’t exist: the deaths of millions. Examples: “the Holodomor” induced by collectivisation under the First Five Year Plan in the Soviet Union; famine in China induced by China’s own version of its first five year plan (“The Great Leap Forward”); the self-induced genocide in Pol Pot’s Cambodia brought on by … collectivisation! On and on and on.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago

And Covid 19. Who now believes that the interventions did anything but harm?

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
2 years ago

Highly intelligent and well argued, but rides on one false precondition. Our extractive technology is NOT coming to an end, and the climate is NOT in a crisis. Those are illusions. Humankind has always increased our ability to extract power from the earth when the earth has seemed to deplete. We have thousands of years more fossil fuels to use as we use them more efficiently. At least. Renewable energy is a false horizon. The ‘climate crisis’ is itself a myth to enable ‘The Great Reset’ to occur. The Great Reset is not the solution – the utopian dream of UBI and AI invented the climate crisis to fulfil itself.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
2 years ago

I’m troubled by this post, particularly coming from someone who writes deeply about things. What’s its point? Is it being ironic, sardonic, nihilistic, perceptive or flippant? I cannot tell. Take the first and concluding paragraphs. Is the author suggesting castration cults are ‘a vibe’ and rational, given the context? I ask in the spirit of GK Chesterton’s: ‘we’re all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and owe one another a terrible loyalty’

Last edited 2 years ago by Hendrik Mentz
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

“…Is it being ironic, sardonic, nihilistic, perceptive or flippant?…”

And why can you not be all of those, simultaneously? Sensibility overlaying sensibility.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Excellent question. I wondered myself. My fear is the vessel then no longer holds water.

Colin Meade
Colin Meade
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

There is no depth. It is just an impression given by a stirring around of linguistic mud.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

I beg to differ, seeing nothing wrong, especially on a platform such as Unherd, with an author writing an article which is to an extent, working out things for themselves in public. I’m fine with that. And love GKC as well:-)

B Davis
B Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

The point, I suspect, is simply to worry. A wringing of hands at the fact that life is not yet perfect. Equally she might have trotted out a list of our culture’s dystopian fantasies: Soylent Green, On the Beach, A Canticle for Liebowitz, The Purple Cloud, The Road, Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, Minority Report, 1984, 12 Monkeys, etc.
Or perhaps simply quoted Howl: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the ***** streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.” Yada yada.
There always is something perversely comforting about the End of Time (not least of which is I no longer have to worry about my mortgage payment or my weight given the End of Days). Something even slightly glamorous about playing this generation’s Cassandra (though there’s a lot of competition for that particular role).
Worrying & Public Angst can be a strange kind of comfort food.

Last edited 2 years ago by B Davis
jane baker
jane baker
2 years ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

This lady journalist is highly intelligent,that’s what she is telling us.
Not like us deplorable.

Dave Hopkins
Dave Hopkins
2 years ago

I generally look forward to Mary’s essays, but this piece has an underlying assumption that she never questions. Namely, the idea that the Earth is warming inexorably, not due to long solar cycles and oceanic oscillations, but due rather to human extractive industries. There are issues, to be sure, with the latter that need to be addressed (and we need to gradually get away from the 19th-century chemical paradigm in agriculture, e.g.), but we would not have knowledge workers or an Internet or a modern civilization without the wealth and surpluses that energy-intensive fossil fuels have created. Nature has been giving us object lessons on the matter for a few years now, from the truckers’ Freedom Convoy in Canada, to the current debacle created by our sanctions of Russian gas and oil. A modern civilization cannot exist without fossil fuels, rare earth minerals, metals, uranium, and other commodities mined or harvested from the earth. They, and earth-grown food, are the true source of material wealth.

james elliott
james elliott
2 years ago

“In its way, as much a fantasy as paranoid conspiracy theories concerning the Great Reset”

Not at all.

‘Conspiracy theorists’ base their ‘theories’ entirely on the basis of the WEF’s *published* goals.

We aren’t outraged by what we ‘think’ they want to do – we are infuriated by what they say openly they want to do and what they do actually do.

Sri Lanka followed the WEF directives to a T, and Sri Lanka is teetering on the brink of being a failed state because of it.

It is not ‘conspiracy theorists’ who need a wake up call – it is the Reality Deniers.

Charliec 0
Charliec 0
2 years ago

From my personal, non scientific, non intellectual viewpoint I see it like this. I’m a working class child of the 1950’s. I benefited from the ability to go on foreign holidays in the ‘70’s because of our “extractive” economic policies. I’ve lived, worked and prospered in my small way because I’ve lived in a society that operated in that way. It operated in that way because it’s a free market economy. As I see it all the “solutions” to the present climate “crisis” – assuming it exists which is a big assumption – are authoritarian, communistic measures which are proposed by elites that will never need to suffer the consequences of their proposals. In essence they will just put plebs like me right back where we in their view, belong.

Last edited 2 years ago by Charliec 0
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago
Reply to  Charliec 0

It doesn’t exist and you are correct. We are in the midst of a social coup.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

Another good essay from Mary Harrington. Indeed today’s crop of articles seems to be of a higher standard than usual.

The predictions of Thomas Malthus that populations would be held in check by war famine and pestilence, the Biblical horsemen of the apocalypse, seemed to have been overtaken by agricultural and technological advances. Yet here again we are warned that our present technological solutions that have raised up mankind in unprecedented numbers to levels of material prosperity and ease unknown to the monarchs and aristocrats of the past are unsustainable.

Indeed we see the return of war in Ukraine initiated not simply for expansionary cultural reasons but to seek to seize agricultural, energy rich and industrial land, which in turn threatens famine in Ukraine grain dependent second and third world countries. Pestilence in the form of Covid has been visited on us and we face the threat of the decline in the effectiveness of antibiotics through overuse. Will mankind continue successfully to organise technological solutions to these threats and that of global warming or will the iron law of Malthus return to limit population to bare subsistence through the traditional scourges of mankind? We shall see.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes, I think back again to the late Bill Hicks’s comment: “Let’s think again about this food-air deal“. Pretty nuts and bolts stuff really, then as now.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Agreed, a good set of articles today, well done UnHerd!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Sadly that doyen of UnHerd commentators, and recently returned, Fraser Bailey Esq, has not entered the fray so far today.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Sorry, you’re really just describing First-world problems as if they are global and inescapable. It is still the case that market capitalism is raising millions more people out of poverty each year that passes as it has been doing for the last 30 years or so outside the West. It is still the case that global famine is reducing every year. It is still also true that technological progress is making better use of resources all the time, and it has been obvious that eventually we will get so good at recycling waste that landfill sites may at some point become worth mining for usable materials.

The people telling us that what we’re doing is unsustainable and will lead to disaster are wrong. It is possible, admittedly, that because so many of them are in positions of power that they will bring about the very future they fear through their own stupidity and incompetence, but that is up to the rest of us to stop before they do too much damage.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The statement “global famine is reducing every year” implies that an immutable process is taking place whereby it will continue to reduce. This is possible, but not certain, in which case I could sum up your post with one word; complacency.
Technological progress can and does make better use of resources, another illustration of the mistake of extrapolation. However, take agriculture; if yields are greatly improved by adding manufactured nitrogen, and irrigating, rather than extrapolating, can we not immediately point to harmful effects caused by this?
For example, nitrates may be manufactured using fossil fuels, while run-off will affect nitrate levels in water (e.g. Netherlands). Likewise, water may be extracted from around us, but reduce the levels of rivers, or become scarce in an unexpected drought, such as in Australia.
I don’t know whether or not the incidence of famines is greater or smaller than in the past, but they are still with us.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Colin Meade
Colin Meade
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Were there really no wars or epidemics before the epoch of Mary Harrington dawned?

Jason Smith
Jason Smith
2 years ago

What is the point of this article, other than to moan about everything? The root cause of all the issues she lists is overpopulation, and we now have the technology and knowledge to allow the population to gradually reduce without condemning us to misery or Armageddon. I’m far more optimistic about the future that the author of this article or most of the commenters. There will be some pain, obviously, but in general the world will continue to improve and we will have happier, healthier and longer lives.
Oh, and Malthus was a pessimistic idiot who has always been, and will continue to be, wrong

Mary Thomas
Mary Thomas
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

Oh how I’d love to believe you Jason. I see the world hanging by a tightrope to its current position because the world’s population is due to peak @2050 and then decline rapidly
 is this going to bring us back from the brink?

There have always been “the end of the world is nigh”- sayers and they’ve been wrong up to now. But looked at holistically I’ve also believed since I was young, along with James Lovelock, that the Earth maintains its astounding and exact chemical balance which sustains human and animal life as an organism in itself, that is, Gaia. It is not going to allow our desecration and multiplication for much longer and there will be mass reduction of the population one way or another whatever we do.
Sorry about that.

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

“Oh, and Malthus was a pessimistic idiot who has always been, and will continue to be, wrong”
His timing was out. That doesn’t mean that his line of reasoning was illogical. The history of the world is littered with examples of catastrophic civilisational collapse linked, if not necessarily caused by, environmental degradation and population pressures
. Don’t come to this forum and claim that anyone who knows a little more than you about the world is an idiot. Thanks.

Last edited 2 years ago by polidori redux
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Jason Smith

I agree Jason.
It seems miraculous to me that human nature seems to have an innate, anti-Malthus, rebalancing mechanism – people get richer, they consume more resources but they have fewer children. Over-farming, global warming and commodity scarcity all become less of an issue once the population declines. Indeed the problem will be how to organise ourselves when we have relatively fewer young people to produce, consume and invest. But I’m pretty confident that technology will solve those problems too given time.

James Kirk
James Kirk
2 years ago

And still no answers, no solutions. They say UK has 5.4 million idlers. How many more i.e. journos snipe from the sidelines as if they are not participating? Maybe it’s time for the multitude of scribblers to turn to and get the crops in. What will they do should the apocalypse occur? Write about it? Maslov’s Hierarchy seems top heavy just now.

James Kirk
James Kirk
2 years ago
Reply to  James Kirk

I forgot. The MSM acorns which fall daily on the chickens’ heads. Inspirational chickens and their followers seek a non existent King. For dual analogy there is no real wizard at the end of the Yellow Brick Road.

Granville Stout
Granville Stout
2 years ago

The problem is population growth, how do we feed another billion? However it is barely ever mentioned. Why? The world’s financial system is basically a Ponzi scheme, you need more coming in at the bottom to keep the top 10% as the top 10%. If the population of the world stops growing, the whole house of cards collapses. Bernie Madoff said it when charged and received three life sentences for running one, “they should jail all the world’s bankers, they are doing what I did.”

james elliott
james elliott
2 years ago

“The problem is population growth, how do we feed another billion?”

We?

Most of that population growth will be in Africa.

I suggest that Africa solve its own problems – for once – or perhaps appeal to their new sponsors, the CCP.

It is not ‘our’ problem; it is their problem.

Our population is declining.

Dave Hansell
Dave Hansell
2 years ago
Reply to  james elliott

Ignorance can certainly be bliss.
No attempt is made to comprehend the practical dynamics of why it is the case that Africa has such problems. It is treated as some kind of black box whose resulting outcome is entirely the fault/responsibility of those living there.
The dynamics of why Africa and the Global South (including much of Latin America) has problems feeding itself is as a result of loans – which all enterprises utilise in order to make progress – from Western controlled Monopoly Mafia organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF being conditional on them not growing their own food to feed their own people but cash crops for Western export and at the same time allowing Western Corporations (nothing has changed since the time of Smedley-Butler) to privatise and financilise their entire economies.
Thus Capital is exported to enable super profits, arising from non-productive pre-capitalist finacialised rent seeking, transferred back to Western based oligarchical interests.
There seems to be a basic misunderstanding on what Capitalism actually is according to its own criteria. Which is to produce tangible, rather than finacialised, outputs for the benefits of society in general.
On those terms the most effective Capitalist based results – on Capitalism’s own criteria and stated dynamic – can be found not in the financialised parasitical rent seeking Western model but in China. Which has pulled over 700 million people out of poverty in short order whilst the neo-liberal Western model is taking the same hubristic, flawed and disastrous route of the similarly based Roman Empire
It seems reasonable to surmise that more research would aid comprehension:
A good start would be here:
https://thesaker.is/finance-capitalisms-self-destructive-nature/
and here:
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/07/michael-hudson-from-junk-economics-to-a-false-view-of-history-where-western-civilization-took-a-wrong-turn.html

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
2 years ago

Thanks I didn’t know he said that that’s hilarious!

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

When Bill Gates is buying up farmland, that is all we need to know. The powerful today are so powerful that they can create an entire world that benefits them.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
2 years ago

Could someone tell me why I ought to care about how the world is once I die (I’m in my late 60s)? I raise this question, which I previously raised on a US site because it provokes an interesting philosophical question.
Why should anyone care whether ‘humanity’ or the ‘world’ dies out soon? In a literal sense the Universe disappears on each of our deaths.
My own conviction is that such questions usually produce answers which are, whether knowingly or not, religious in nature, even on the so-called ‘atheist’ left.
In any case the earth is fated to plunge into the sun 5 billion years hence. Why is mass extinction now any worse than then?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

To begin with a technicality… the sun will envelope the Earth rather than the Earth plunging into the sun.
But why should we care? For the same reasons we care about the lives of our children and grandchildren. By the reasoning you invoke, we needn’t care about them since the chances are they’ll outlive us! And the reasons we care are very much non-religious. All creatures care about their young, yet i doubt they feel the need to invoke a god. Those reasons are largely a product of our biology, and since our consciousness is also a product of our biology it seeks to extend itself beyond our biological demise, through culture and art.
But assuming you’re raising a philosophical question rather than one which troubles you personally, i’ll pose another, and one which goes to the heart of Mary’s essay. If preceding generations had some means of knowing what the world would look like 100/200/500 years hence, would they be so horrified that they’d become totally demoralised? Of course, the advent of their demoralisation would itself affect that future! So… rather than becoming demoralised about how our future might look in however many years hence, the best thing we can all do is to work, plan and advocate towards a future we’d wish for our children. In reality, that’s all we can do, but it crucially hinges on remaining positive and never giving in to negativity or nihilism.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

The lack of caring leads to nihilism and a swollen helium-burning sun will ‘swallow’ the earth so-to-speak.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

If we follow your logic, the young people of today should create laws to “eliminate” those who are over 60 years of age due to the fact that they will likely perish sooner than later. Why is death at 60 worse now than then?

0 0
0 0
2 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

I understand this to be a philosophical question, am I right? I suppose the answer for myself can be found in its inverse. Who would I be if I cared only about the world during my life? Reduced further to why should I be concerned about the quality of lives of others, since my life does not interact with them? Which leads to the question, who am I when I care only for myself? I think that depends on one’s values. Many people dont care for any but themselves, they are fine being total asshats, failing to recognize this means spending their entire lives, 24/7 with a vile creature, their own self! Seriously though, we are deeply ‘wired’ to love others, which shows in empathy and ultimately for the wise, compassion. The question of why does any of it ultimately matter gets us to the position you mention, the exchange within the terrain that religion has handled in the past. In the end we care for others for our own sake, its an expression of who we are, and coming to wisdom means realizing there is really only one of us here. Life is singular. There is no other. My answer then: Wisdom and love, the foundation of a life well lived, if youre lucky…

Last edited 2 years ago by 0 0
Colin Meade
Colin Meade
2 years ago

Bog standard Marxism-Leninism. Socialism is inevitable, resistance is futile.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Meade
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Meade

That’s just a generalised insult. Specifics please – substantiate your insult, or withdraw it. I’m more interested in good debate than in bare insults.

Rob Mcneill-wilson
Rob Mcneill-wilson
2 years ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I took it that Colin’s second sentence was a fair summary of the above article. As a contention, such a statement is bog standard Marxism, which is a disastrous concept.

Charles Custard
Charles Custard
2 years ago

Such discussions always refer to “saving the world” or “saving the planet” but really they mean saving mankind because the planet is quite capable of looking after itself and will continue to flourish when we are all dust. Yes a correction is needed and it will happen but it will not be the result of mankind’s efforts. And one day, not soon, all the plastic will be gone.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

“and a knowledge-economy class whose livelihood does so only indirectly”
The term “knowledge” gives them far more credibility than they deserve. They are just another special interest group parroting what they are told and buying in to it because it seems to coincide with there own interests at least in the short term an they think they will be spared the consequences of the policies that they do not understand but still advocate

Candace Bowen
Candace Bowen
2 years ago

I too am sick of being preached at by those who apply to the world their immediate environment and the fear-filled opinions of their circle of sophisticated friends. It’s an extension of an overweening urbanite narcissism that’s been plaguing Western culture at least since the 1970s. Get over it.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago

Regenerative farming, rotation, cowshit, acknowledging that you can raise livestock where you can’t grow arable is catching on. My wife and I became Carnivores (eat and cook with animal produce) a couple of years back, buy much of our meat from this place
https://www.kimbersfarmshop.co.uk/
family has been farming the same patch in Somerset for three centuries, understand and care for the land far more than any politician, any evil bustard like Schwab or Gates – their farming has been assessed as carbon neutral. Their beef and lamb grass fed, not on the crap of grain and antibiotics. We’ll defend their farm with our lives if we have to, if only that this ancient diet stopped my wife’s bone cancer in its tracks. NHS – 6 to 9 months one scan. 6 months later scan showed it had stopped. No chemo, pretty sure the bone cancer was a direct result of 6 chemos from hell for her breast cancer*. We’re done with the NHS
Industrial farming is the problem.
Worth reading “English Pastoral” by one James Rebank, who saw what his father had done to his grandpa’s old school rotational farm, and reverted. Tax the dangly things of the AgroIndustry and sub the regenerative farmers who DO care.
And Kimber’s raw milk will tell you have never drunk milk before. And the Black Pudding, made with fresh blood,s not dry and yech like most. Black Pud and scrambled my fave breakfast.

Oh, and not a bad BMI for a 6’6″ big boned feller, I shed 20 pounds in 2 months. All visceral fat (think “fatty” liver). I’m 70, and have leg muscles like across-country runner. Been in Budapest to get my teeth fixed, 10 days so far. Have walked 50 miles around the city, 12 in 35 degrees the other day.
And of course, if you have Diabetes, it will be gone in no time. Junk the Sugar. Junk the carbs. Feel as healthy as ever you can remember.

This was a sermon from the Book of Steak. Meat is life

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/all-meat-diet

  • only for them to tell that chemo only works for 1 in 10 breast cancer sufferers.Worse, there’s a blood test they can use after 1 session. Not available on the NHS then, but had we known we’d have gone private. She got sepsis and the chemo was delayed for too long. Think the bone cancer was on the way then, not to mention that chemo destroys your immune system to fix it. If you are very very lucky.
Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

You must have been a salesman, Jeremy. Very convincing.

Adrian Doble
Adrian Doble
2 years ago

I’m not clever enough to understand her but I do understand that, as long as fish remain ‘off balance sheet’ , as long as oil is a near ‘free’ resource, as long as rain forest has no monetary value until it is cut down, exploitation will continue. Surely a good society is one that refuses to treat the environment, or its people, as a commodity.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Why do you say “the young don’t want to have children”? It’s true that none of my three are now likely to have children, but in countries such as India, Nigeria, Sudan and any number of others, the young are clearly having plenty of children. And when they experience hunger, thirst, power cuts (despite much burning of fossil fuel), lack of education, and violence, but can see such things available to all in a small number of countries, along with comparative safety (and UBI too), it’s obvious that they’ll risk much to move.
Meanwhile, we struggle with congestion, polluted air and water, and water shortage, and even have politicians declaring that it’s essential to remove existing controls so that we can build over even more agricultural land.
The problem which lies at the root of almost every other problem is; too many people on this earth, to the extent that almost every other living thing is endangered. This is apocalypse in the normal accepted meaning.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

There is a definite political strand to stop people from having children. The forefront of this effect is http://www.populationmatters.org, represented by a despicable band of sociopaths deeply embedded in the World Economic Forum.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst
Dave Smith
Dave Smith
2 years ago

Things have certainly speeded up. In my view this is just the start of the dislocation caused by the events of 2020. The lockdowns carried out with such ardour and state violence by the West wrecked our fragile ecosystem. Not the green version but the way we live and interact in our world. The economy for starters. Our rulers looked at China and both panicked and marvelled at the control the Chinese state exerted. That could have been very unwise as China is nothing at all like a Western country . They do things differently there.
A couple of years pass then as always after a really seismic event the effects ,always unpredictable, start. The people who were in charge are one by one replaced as we are seeing.
Here in the West we are quite unprepared for the coming multi polar world this dislocation has caused where Western Europe is no more important than any other grouping of nations. I call it the time of the Caspian Sea. That sea and the area around it is at the crossroads of all the coming trade routes and pipelines of a new grouping of nations that will exclude the West from the area and force it back to the periphery of the producer and raw material rich world .
Look at the countries involved. Russia, Iran, Turkey, all the various Stans and close by India, Pakistan and China. The West will not be wanted or needed. When the USA cut and ran from Kabul this world took notice. All this is accelerated and made likely because the pandemic completely destabalised our societies that in any case have become obsessed with identities and invented lunacies. Our obsessions are never going to be their obsessions although the earnest Western progressives think they will be. .
The only Western country that can play any role at all is the USA and how that is going to work out is impossible to predict.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
2 years ago

“low emissions vehicles” (meaning EVs): why is pushing the currently slightly higher carbon footprint of motion off to some distant power plant buying anything at all in the way of climate change?

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago

Climate change does not exist. Once that is understood and you look at the policies through that lens, you will see there is no intention to save the planet or rescue our environmental habitat. Net Zero is actually a process to transform our base of consumption from one set of products that lead to independence and self-determination, to another set of products that lock us into a specific set of resources and determine the limits set for us.

Emre 0
Emre 0
2 years ago

Ms Harrington is the most lucid and well-informed commentator I know of at the moment who can explain what’s happening today at a high-level and why. I feel she really needs to be heard more to bring back a level of sanity to the discussion.

Roland Drewinski
Roland Drewinski
2 years ago

There are flaws in this text. The dutch nitrogen issue is not about meeting climate targets but to improve biodiversity. The award to Sri Lanka is not from the WEF and it was awarded on other grounds than the text suggests (restrict access to hazardous chemicals to reduce suicides). Please support your open minded readers.

Dominic A
Dominic A
2 years ago

I struggle to imagine him volunteering to hand out his own property portfolio to allotmenteers.”
Why? I have seen this many times in the UK and in America – independently wealthy landowners (ie their wealth was not made from the land) renting out their their land and buildings at low-to-no-cost to farmers and tenants who preserve and enhance, and are grateful. Not mysterious or even necessarily philanthropic – most people would love to be benevolent Lords of all they survey – in this way, money can buy you love. Moreover, Gates is giving away nearly all his fortune.

james elliott
james elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Dominic A

Perhaps the Marxists who people like Gates are sponsoring will simply turn on him, murder him, and repossess all his wealth for themselves.

That is their usual pattern.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
2 years ago

To visualize the end result of implementing the insane visions of the anointed, read the short story The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster, first published in the Oxford and Cambridge Review, November 1909. Once all humans have been annihilated by the hubris of intellectual idiots, the earth will slowly heal and reclaim itself.

Rob Mcneill-wilson
Rob Mcneill-wilson
2 years ago

Meanwhile, China, India and Russia, which account for 50% of the world’s CO2 emissions, are clear they are not going to ruin their economies by following our lead in this insanity. Germany has just opened huge brown coal mining operations to power coal-fired power stations.
There is nothing inevitable about all the evil, destructive nonsense the above author revels in. It would only take a Government comprising sufficient numbers of competent politicians to put an end to it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rob Mcneill-wilson
chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

The point of the article is that, in fact, there is not a lot that can be done – and that is the ‘revelation’. The horses have bolted from the stable and are now returning with nasty riders on their backs…you seem to live on a very happy planet if you think any govt can make radical changes to this global system !!

B Davis
B Davis
2 years ago

“Our extractive industrial mode of living really can’t go on forever.”
What?
We ourselves, this world, our sun, all of this.. ‘can’t go on forever’. The fact that ‘all things must pass’ is not new; nor should this mundane understanding trigger even the slightest ounce of panic. But can we continue to leverage and use the raw material of our earthly existence, this mortal sphere, to build better lives for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children? Certainly we can….far into the foreseeable future. Just as we have for the last 10,000 years.
The author contrasts the interest groups connected to ‘extractive industry’ to the “knowledge class”. She might as well have said Morlocks & Eloi. But even as she admits that the Eloi themselves depend INDIRECTLY upon the Morlocks and their ability to “make, grow, build, or move” stuff, she misses entire the unalterable fact that this dependence is and always will be absolute. It was clearly apparent to Wells; it should be equally apparent to all of us Eloi floating (unbearably lightly) upon the world the Other provides.
Ms. Harrington asserts that, the “extractive mode of production that feeds and clothes most of us (MOST? of us) … is also slowly killing the planet.”
No, we are not ‘slowly killing the planet’. This salient fact is where all hand-wringing should begin and quickly end. No, “endless progress on the industrial model has (NOT) already ended” — this is simply not true, as much as the Professional Worrying Class might wish it so. But, yes, certainly such gloomy prediction has been regularly voiced for most of these last 10,000 years: We can’t hunt buffalo forever (there are only so many buffalo and we’re killing them at quite a pace!)! We can’t use whale oil to light our homes forever (there are only so many whales out there and we have a lot of Pequod’s). There’s only so much buried hydrocarbon (well, a lot more than we thought but still, only so much). So many acres we can fill with windmills and solar panels. So many over-populated people this globe can handle! For goodness sake, there’s only so much sun!
The fact that here, in the summer of 2022, we cannot solve for the fact that yes, indeed, the oil supply will be effectively exhausted at some dim point in the unknown future is a problem… but it is a problem which will be solved in that unknown future…just as the buffalo, and beaver, and whale oil problems have been solved…just as the lack of cave space was solved….just as the problem of inclement weather is solved. We are, when push comes to shove, an ingenious people, even if we despair far too easily.
Lastly Ms. Harrington tells us, “that those amplifying the Derangement Syndromes … are less deranged than rational. … None of this is madness”, she says, “it’s revelation.”
Not really. It’s actually a whole lot closer to madness. And it needs to end before we — filled with green, good intentions — leap over that lemming cliff (it’s for the good of the planet, don’t you know!). As Wells himself said, “We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. Without them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence.”
This is just one more challenge to be welcomed.

Last edited 2 years ago by B Davis
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago
Reply to  B Davis

I can’t believe this is not the top comment. The only place to go after this is speculation about what is the appeal of millenarian despair.
MH is often probing at our underlying spiritual malaise, and yet here she accepts and assumes without question so many of the premises of the spiritually bereft .
I’m not saying the first step is to psychologise their ailments and so dismiss their substance. The first step is to examine the factual basis for their premises like you have done. Granted this examination is made harder by the universal media and political consensus, but this should only put us more on our guard.
Is the problem that the writing and chattering classes are really that insecure in tracing out and challenging any sort of mechanical logic (like that of climate modelling) that they form their opinions from authority alone. Are they really so cowed as not to wonder why so many “predictions” from their models do not come to pass empirically. Do they not notice the confirmation bias all around them in finding 2 days of heat persuasive evidence of “climate change” while 2 months of cold is just “weather”.

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
2 years ago

The Great Reset is no conspiracy theory, but a very specific and careful plan that’s already been set in motion, in plain sight of those (very few, apparently) who are looking. And definitely not by “the great and the good of the planet”.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
2 years ago

The problem is not ‘capitalism’ per se, it’s human greed. We really can live happily with a lot less ‘stuff’, but we need food and energy to survive. Vote accordingly.

Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson
2 years ago

Another good article. And Fukuyama thought we were at the end of history! The world-spirit is on the move again, to the chagrin of myself and many others.

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam Wilson

Fukuyama posited Liberal Democracy as the be all and end all. With one qualification, that many others have noted – that it also holds within it the seeds of its own destruction.
As we are witnessing

Sam Wilson
Sam Wilson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Poynton

True!

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
2 years ago

Is the gentleman swimming in the bin an intellectual descendant of Diogenes? He doesn’t look like it, but looks can of course be deceiving.

UG GU
UG GU
2 years ago

Without carbon intensive practices the world would be another Mars within five years.
This is all political and no science is behind it at all unless that is it can be made to support the cause.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
2 years ago
Reply to  UG GU

Yup. As Edward Abbey said: “There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”
We’re all Californians now!

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

I think that the one thing to remember is that whatever comes next, it won’t be the work of the knowledge class.
The future will “emerge” from thousands of ordinary commoners trying stuff and finding out what works. And more important, what doesn’t work.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 years ago

I wish I thought the pessimism in this excellent piece was unwarranted. Still, the unavoidable need to face up to said interconnected challenges can also be seen as a near unprecedented opportunity. Like the chance to address all sorts of otherwise intractable issues, including various modern maladies Mary’s looked at in earlier pieces. For example Mary’s ‘Fragile students just need a hug’ touched on the effects of parental neglect on children due to adults being too busy with modern lifestyles to give much affection & attention to their children (A theme probably best covered in Sue Gerhardt’s 2010 book ‘The selfish society’ ). A potential benefit of a transition to a post growth economy is people having more time for what matters; obs this assumes our primary needs are still being met via e.g. a functioning food system. But while Mary is right to be sceptical of solutionists and grand planners, we are almost certainly going to improve our ability to manage the great transition. I mean, how hard can it be to subsidise alt fertilisers and give a few years notice before banning key biotech? In UK we’ve started phasing out petrol & diesel cars decades in advance and so far great progress with that. Granted, developing countries like Sri Lanka need better support from multilateral development banks for this sort of thing, but good AntĂłnio Guterres is already on the case with that.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
2 years ago

“Concatenating derangement” – a beautifully encapsulating phrase. Thank you for another sane assessment of our collective mania, Mary: please keep them coming.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago

The Times newspaper always had at its masthead a picture of a closed book called “The Future” – the present “The Times” lay open. Economists call it radical uncertainty. We don’t know the future – and wailing about it is silly.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

A brilliant brilliant article. A real discussion of real world issues that are approaching us fast*. Not sure I agree with it all, or even understand it all, but it’s the standard of discussion UnHerd should be all about.

More please.

*P.S. there probably is no long term answer given there are 7 billion of us and we haven’t the resources or space for more than perhaps one billion.

Simon S
Simon S
2 years ago

No other writer captures the zeitgeist of our age like Mary. Yes, this piece does jump around, it is an exploration, and I don’t think we yet understand Sri Lanka, and I am coming to have my own doubts about whether it is indeed humans who are responsible for our climate change, and I do tend to side with the conspiracy theorists – but Mary is incredibly courageous in putting this out there, and in correctly, I think, identifying the fundamental dynamic of our time: revelation.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Bang on – an excellent and timely essay thanks Mary. Should there be more envisioning of what will ACTUALLY happen ? vs the various fantasies promulgated by the groups you have mentioned – because it seems clear that practically NOTHING much CAN be done due to the constraints you have mentioned. The writer of the 4th gospel revealed what he thought -or was inspired to think- would happen when human hubris caused the breakdown of human ‘being’ – can some very well informed contemporary writer write a new vision of ‘end times’….. (I know this has been attempted many times in non and fiction but updates would be good….).

Jeremy Poynton
Jeremy Poynton
2 years ago
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

Seemingly sober article and then this At root their cause is the defence of livelihoods that depend on the continuation of an extractive mode of production that feeds and clothes most of us, but is also slowly killing the planet. Yep. Killing the planet. Such a mood, such a vibe. And the parochialism. The rest of the planet does not figure – its populations, its energy and food sources, its energy consumption etc etc.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
2 years ago

‘We’ have two years to prepare for Labour. Let’s get on with it.

William Hickey
William Hickey
2 years ago

Mary Harrington writes that unfortunately, with Climate Change “what’s presented as a project to save the world is, more accurately, a project to save the laptop class at the expense of everyone else.”

Exactly. Which is why I don’t believe a word of what they (the laptop class) assert about the climate. Not. One. Word.

Let me know when the laptop class’s solution to the crisis involves them making tremendous — and unrecoverable — material and personal sacrifices while protecting the livelihoods and fortunes of the middle and working classes. Western European civilization has a great tradition of such selflessness among wealthy true believers: giving away all of one’s possessions to the poor and taking a vow of poverty. You can look it up.

Convince me of your sincerity, Bill Gates and all of the government and NGO-subsidized climate scientists. Then I’ll listen to your argument. Not before.

William C
William C
2 years ago

The Planet has reset, regenerated and reordered itself innumerable times, the geologic record is clear and irrefutable on this! Even so much so that the very records of some these actions are gone, folded back into the planet as if they never existed. Climate change is not an unusual outlier it is a constant do to the processes that grips the entire Universe. Because our lives are such a fleeting instant in the enormously long life of the planet even the best and brightest cannot seem to comprehend this simple fact! Mankind is here because of a roll of the cosmic dice, just like the Dinosaurs were. Humans will be supplanted and replaced and the Earth will continue on just as it has since it began. We cannot save it or kill it or even modify it to any significant degree, we simply will not be here long enough.  We need to continue with what makes us happy and enjoy what we have, because regardless of what we do or think, on a cosmic time scale we are already extinct!

Last edited 2 years ago by William C
Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
2 years ago

The grim tone of this article is much welcomed, for so long as we continue to tell ourselves lies then things will just get worse and worse.
And we do lie, constantly, to others about things big and small, but most of all to ourselves about the inevitability of economic, social and technological progress.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

Not so much a lie as an elephantine parochial context collapse.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Mary, this seems uncannily accurate. But I don’t whether to feel well-informed, or warily-warned. I’ll have to ponder these conditions–both the present ones and those that you project.
Thanks for your perceptive analysis.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Curiously enough, there may be a connection between these two words, apocalypse and revelation . . . and an ancient document that is known by the same two names.
The author of that historical vision, John of Patmos, companion and disciple of Jesus, may have been onto something. I suggest that anyone finding truth in these prognostications may find inspiration in a reading of that historical document, which is found in the last pages of our infamous Bible.
There is, according to that Book, a purpose in it all. Some would even say, a divine purpose, if there is such a thing. It’s up to each reader to decide: find despair in the contemporary outworking of the coming apocalypse, or find hope and faith in the original version.

Alison Hine
Alison Hine
2 years ago

for those interested of thinking about this mega crisis from outside the prevailing win loose, loose loose perspective , this long talk is definitely worth listening to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEP0zAK-xQ&t=268s
.

Michael Keating
Michael Keating
2 years ago

The extractive era is far from over but its focus will shift from oil drilling to mining. Minerals such as copper, tantalum, cobalt, rare earths etc. will be in exponential demand. A Tesla requires 5x the mineral inputs of a fuel powered auto. If we want wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles not to mention all of our precious devices then digging or recycling are our only options. Already there are environmentalists who are embracing ‘green’ mining concepts because they accept that holes in the ground are less destructive than carbon emissions and that it is easier to replant trees than to suck CO2 out of the air. I think we have to embrace the fact that we cannot put the brakes on ‘progress’ (however you define it), because much of the world wants what we have, meaning we in the developed world. Once China and India have a middle class consuming at the same levels as those of Europe and the U.S. the strain on the system will be enormous and we may or may not make it through the eye of the needle. But there is no going back. That’s for sure. Everyone ought to put their shoulder to the wheel instead of just whinging.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

Thank you. That has put clearly and succinctly what many of us have suspected for some time now. Puts cake in the shade. Not exactly a revelation, it wasn’t hidden. More of a growing awareness. Maybe Boris really was aware of this and reacted in his usual OTT way. Biggest and first. The crisis is largely put down to population and more buying power. The idea that population equals high economy is widespread so you end up with an ever increasing spiral. Technology can solve the problem of manufacturing “cleanly”, but equally erases employment. A contributing factor to climate change has been visibly demonstrated to us and that is the upsetting of the earth’s climactic balance by building and deforestation. Planet dangerous pollution is also evident even to the most cynical. These can be remedied. But if we don’t address population we will end up the only species on earth. Maybe some won’t mind.

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
2 years ago

I was grateful for this thought-provoking article. However, given Mrs. Harrington’s patent facility with the hyphen to facilitate high-level thinking, I wondered whether we owe “fossil fuel powered farm machinery” to a sub-editor? If so, he should know that hyphens make smooth the path for the reader, clearing away these trip-hazards.

nigel roberts
nigel roberts
1 year ago

“This government edict forced the nation’s farms to go organic more or less overnight, despite experts warning that this would be a disaster.”
Err, I think anyone with two brain cells to rub together probably figured that it would be disaster. No “experts” required.

Matt Payok
Matt Payok
1 year ago

I am surprised at the negative tone of many responses. Ms. Harrington is merely recognizing the dilemma we are all in; she is not choosing sides.
“. . . the defence of livelihoods that depend on the continuation of an extractive mode of production that feeds and clothes most of us, but is also slowly killing the planet.”
She notes that the so-called “solutions” offered by the intelligentsia are unworkable and ignorant of the lives of people in the real economy. At the same time, the problems those misguided “solutions” are intended to solve are very, very real.
Ms.Harrington has the courage to acknowledge that we currently face a series of increasingly difficult problems with no readily apparent political solutions. That, in this age of 150-character remedies, is bravery.

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
2 years ago

Another thoughtful piece from this writer. The Great Reset does seem less sinister when separated from compulsive vaccination schemes and the inevitable rise in surveillance that the march of state sponsored technology will entail. People are open to paternalism. I can see the clamour for UBI growing as more jobs become moribund. A willingness on the part of the masses to be taken care of, regardless of whether this involves eating insects, might ensure that the elites get what they want.
The Heritage Site | Adam McDermont | Substack

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
2 years ago

Wow, what an amazingly wrong article.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

What an amazingly silly response – please tell us where Mary gets it wrong !!