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« Thin Ice | Main | Data in the Raw - Josh 217 »

Bruckner's opus

Yesterday I was at the House of Lords for the launch of Pascal Bruckner's book on environmental catastrophism, which was sponsored by GWPF.

Bruckner, a prominent philosopher and author, gave a very impressive talk introducing some of the themes from his book, which is entitled The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse. French philosophers can overpower with their intellectualism, and while Bruckner is no slouch on this front I was pleasantly surprised by his easy wit, and how approachable he made his argument; it's hard to take against anyone who opens with a discussion of Tintin.

There was a great deal to enjoy. I kept having to pick up my pen to jot down things Bruckner said that had never occurred to me before or older ideas that were explored from new angles:

  • The idea of catastrophe has replaced the idea of progress
  • Racial minorities, women and slaves have been replaced as principal victims by Mother Earth
  • Fear has become something to be desired.
  • We are being transformed into children, ready to obey the orders of an enlightened elite.
  • Friends of the earth have become the enemies of mankind
  • Environmentalism is universal but "end of the worldism" is purely western.
  • Environmentalism is about keeping the world for the bobos (bohemian bourgeois)

I've started working my way through the book and it's not an easy read (although much more straightforward than most works by philosophers). But I think Bruckner's view on greenery is rather penetrating and it's a valuable counterblast against apocalyptism. If you like struggling with ideas, it could well be worth a look.

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Reader Comments (65)

AGW as a class issue: I'm sorry, I don't believe this for a second – that all of the effort being made by the IPCC, the Met Office, WWF, the EU, Al Gore, FoE, Greenpeace etc etc, plus all of the scientists trying to probvide evidence – such a wide range of organisations and institutions – to convince us that manmade CO2 is causing the temperature to rise with catastrophic implications is actually a smokescreen for a plot to keep the plebs in their place.

There may be social consequences of the steps being taken to reduce carbon dioxide emmissions, but, really, does anyone (who doesn't have an axe to grind about these things) seriously think that this is a class issue?

I'm open to be convinced, but I'd like to see the evidence that shows that the AGW movement is intentionally trying to dump on the poor.

Apr 26, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Furniss

The going rate for a builders labourer is about 8 pounds an hour. That's casual, so you probably won't be working a full year. I've no idea what you get for working in a supermarket. Doubling (for example) the cost of energy is going to have a disproportionate effect on people earning that kind of money. It's a struggle just to get bye. They don't have a lot of slack to cut back in the conspicuous consumption area.

I doubt anyone is "intentionally" trying to dump on the poor. It's more that they live in the public sector cocoon with job security, adequate salary and a pension. It may be ignorance and a failure of imagination, but the effect is the same.

Apr 26, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

"I doubt anyone is "intentionally" trying to dump on the poor."

Agreed - it's just an unintended consequence. In the same way that the Greens haven't (or perhaps hadn't) worked out that running down power stations in the hope that renewables would fill the gap will result in lights (and almost everything else) going out. That this will equally affect them certainly wasn't intentional!

Mike Fowle

Same here. I was brought up on SH monologues and it still makes me smile.

Apr 26, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Amongst my acquaintances, the more airy-fairy someone's job description is, the more likely they are to have imbibed the full doom-laden bottle.

Apr 26, 2013 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Cruickshank

Please. We were never more than children.

Apr 26, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Thanks Hector and JamesP.

If it's an unintentional consequence, do you think it would be fair to ask people to stop including barbed comments about certain sectors of society in the discussion of AGW?

As I see it, discussing the social and economic implications of trying to switch to renewable energy is important. But criticising the way certain people live seems less so.

Apr 26, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Furniss


....barbed comments about certain sectors of society in the discussion of AGW?

"Certain sectors of society" are perfectly capable of absorbing extra costs of living, and "certain sectors of society" are doing very nicely, taking taxpayers money in the form of subsidies as extra income.

When "certain sectors of society" demonstrate they understand what it is to be poor and demonstrate by not accepting or giving away the profits they make from taxes forced on the poor and subsidies given to the property owning classes, then you will have a point. Until then, keep whistling.

Apr 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal


All I'm getting at is trying to keep debate focussed. In many cases some of these debates can slip away from AGW and into axe grinding that borders prejudice.

So please tell me more about the relevance to AGW. I'm genuinely interested. Which sectors of society are you referring to and how are they taking taxpayers' money? Are you sure it is whole sectors of society we're talking about here, rather than individuals? Please be specific.

Apr 26, 2013 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Furniss

Can some look at the Data for declining Bee Population and Pesticides.Apparently the numbers dont quite add up

Watching the Daily Politics with Andrew Neal

About banning pesticides that supposed to be killing the Bee population.

The greens are coming out with their new buzz phrase "Precautionary Legislation"

No one has actually proved that the pesticides are actually killing the Bees.But if they ban these Pesticides thats lower crop yeilds and higher food prices.

Bee population versus pesticides seem very similar to the Climate Change debate.

Apr 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid


In many cases some of these debates can slip away from AGW and into axe grinding that borders prejudice.

You can't seem to see that government "remedies" intended to prevent AGW increase cost burdens on those least able to pay (the lowest paid private sector workers) and transfer the money (via increased taxes) to the middle class public sector. These AGW remedies also serve to export productive jobs (via increased costs) overseas.

Its all predicated on an unproven theory: AGW. Demonstrate that AGW is real, and an existential threat, then its time to take action. Until then, its an exercise in collusion: greens who want to stop whatever it is you are doing, politicians who want to tax and control, and property owners wanting to get richer.

Apr 26, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterHector Pascal

Charlie Furniss

As I see it, discussing the social and economic implications of trying to switch to renewable energy is important. But criticising the way certain people live seems less so.


There's complete humbug from the likes of Yeo and Gore and a striking amount of self-interest and conflict of interest.

There's also an element of other-worldliness and complete detachment from the costs and consequences in a host of others (Cameron, Davey, Worthington etc) who appear to be insulated from the consequences. It's close to "The people have no bread", "Then let them eat cake".

I'd say this is relevant to the discussion and worth pointing out.

Apr 26, 2013 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Hector and Cosmic, thanks for the replies. Hector, I'm genuinely ignorant of this stuff, so I'm looking for illumination here, not an argument!

What you both say makes absolute sense. But you are discussing the effects of government policy. This is the reponsibility of the government, surely, and not particular parts of society.

As Hector and JamesP said earlier, there are unintended consequences of the current energy policy.

I can't see that one particular social group is resonponsible if the poor struggle to pay their energy bills. It's a terrible state of affairs, I agree, but making it a class issue is a red herring. Isn't it more productive to discuss policy?

Apr 26, 2013 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Furniss

It's useful to also read "Mankind in Amnesia", a posthumously written book by Immanuel Velikovsky. It's a collection of various essays, not all from the same author, which discuss the origins of the beliefs in future catastrophes etc. One interesting point made in the book was the attitude of the Japanese who survived the WWII atomic bombs - they regarded themselves as the chosen people, much as an earlier event prompted some Middle East peoples to also identify themselves as a chosen people. It was Velikovsky's contention that those older global catastrophes affected humanity as a species, that then resulted in a sort of species amnesia that we continue to play out to this very day, much that liken an individual who was traumatised during childhood, suppresses that trauma subconsciously but is then found to play out those suppressed feelings in the here and now, much in the manner that a pedophile's behaviour is a repetition of his being affected by such activity as a child, by repeating the behaviour as an adult, in order to try to understand the nature of those suppressed feelings.

Fascinating hypothesis if you can find a copy of the book.

Apr 28, 2013 at 2:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterLouis Hissink

I suspect that Mankind in Amnesia was not written posthumously by Velikovsky as stated above, but published posthumously. The former, of course, would be a much more impressive achievement.

Apr 28, 2013 at 7:52 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW


Stacey' comment that "If the left are supposed to represent the working class" isn't exactly true, as I understand it. The left/right descriptions were originally with regards to the amount of control (the state/government/collective) vs independence (individuality/freedom) - small government vs big government if you will. The difficulty arose as a consequence of 'the left' describing Hitler et al as 'right wing' purely to provide some supposed difference between their own (totalitarian) ideologies and his (the differences between communism and fascism are insignificant, arbitrary and interpretive - the state is all in both, control, sublimation of the individual, rule by an elite, etc.). So 'left wingers' are those who yearn for ever more state control of every aspect of everyones life. As such AGW is as perfect a vehicle to that end as ever envisioned. The true opposite of the 'left wing' should be seen as libertarianism (I would have said anarchy, however the modern interpretation of such appears to be simply more state control and 'benefits' for those who like piercings, tattoos, have forgotten how to wash and dress in scruffy black).

The criticisms voiced regarding "Certain sectors of society" become valid since those alluded to are in fact both the recipients of the states 'ill gotten gains' (taken at the point of a gun) and its 'storm-troopers' enforcing its demands. Class (in its original meaning), in my opinion, is irrelevant since, as is patently obvious, those who 'vote themselves a life of ease on the publics largesse' (multi-generational benefit recipients) are as much supporters as any other. Both 'will' support any claims which will enhance their power, increase their gains and justify their existence and chosen roles.

It is 'interesting' the amount that, even from 'the left', there is a growing understanding and acknowledgement that AGW is a load of ...., I just wonder why (I'm a congenital cynic).

Apr 28, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAble

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