C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

An Aside on the Environment

Environmental issues are not a particular interest of mine. There are plenty of bloggers who do a much better job than I could of discussing issues such as climate change, for instance.

As Al Gore has just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this issue, we might predict that the blogosphere will be working overtime, particularly with rightards eager to denounce climate change as a vast left-wing conspiracy.

To be clear, I am no fan of Gore, and I haven't seen his movie. To me, all post-WWII Democrats are merely Republicans with velvet gloves. Besides, the Nobel literature prize is usually more interesting than the one for peace.

It should also be remembered that environmental issues are by no means traditional leftist causes. To be sure, Marx noted that capital's insatiable need to reproduce itself was likely to have disastrous environmental consequences, but this observation was an aside from his more general theses on capital. As recently as a few decades ago, leftist interest in environmental issues might well have been seen as a petite-bourgeois indulgence.

This has changed more recently, with climate change being recognised almost universally as an 'issue'. Greens parties, across a number of Western parliamentary democracies, increasingly represent a form of organised leftism.

What are we to make of this phenomenon? Clearly, there is strong opposition to the notion of climate change, and to any consequent environmental remedies. It is appropriate to examine the source of this opposition.

It is hardly surprising that oil companies and the like should voice strong opposition. It is also sadly predictable that these companies' pimps in think tanks and the intelligentsia should likewise attack any notion of climate change.

What is more surprising is the other opposition that has emerged. The opponents of climate change engage in such poor reasoning and, frankly bizarre belief systems as to almost represent, a fortiori, evidence of that which they oppose. There can be no greater argument in favour of man-made climate change than the oil companies, their unctuous salesmen, and the right-wing ideologues and conspiracy theorists who oppose it.

Can there be any serious doubt that industry and capital impinge on the environment? The climate change sceptics need only inhale some of the polluted air of Athens, or Budapest, or Beijing, or any number of other places to see that yes, pollution has a discernible impact at a local level. If this impact exists locally, what reason exists to think it would not exist globally, or have ramifications beyond the the immediate surrounds of a given industry. After all, as Heraclitus noted some time ago, air and water move.

Let us take a more local example, that of Francis Street, Yarraville, an inner suburb of Melbourne. This street is a short suburban street in a residential area. Unfortunately for the residents, this street also serves as a link between several of Melbourne's major freeways. In particular, trucks use the road to go between the Westlink Tullamarine Freeway, and the Westgate Freeway, which itself splits into the Princes Freeway and Western Ring Road a short distance away. In addition to linking four of Melbourne's major freeways, the street is also near a number of major industrial sites and Melbourne's docks, giving trucks another reason to be in the area.

Having travelled on the road myself, the pollution caused by fumes was clearly evident. Should there be any doubt as to the veracity of my senses, the EPA also set up a booth in Francis Street, monitoring air quality and noise pollution. The EPA concluded that the air quality had deteriorated, largely as a result of truck activity, and that this deterioration had potentially serious health risks attached. The air pollution in this street was even reported to be significantly worse than that in one of Melbourne's major arterials, the appalling Hoddle Street.

Obviously, it doesn't take a Nobel Prize winner to work out that spewing massive amounts of fumes into the environment will have some unpleasant consequences. To our climate change sceptics, however, these sorts of results are the product of a labyrinthine leftist conspiracy, intended to recruit followers into the Green 'religion'. Not prone to hyperbolae, our good sceptics (such as Senator Brandis, or Andrew Bolt) have even compared the Green movement to the Nazi party.

I suspect that 'scepticism' is far too dignified a term for this delusionalists. Scepticism implies a reasoned philosophical position, which in turn, presupposes a degree of reasoning. When you smell the air in the cities I mentioned, when you view the smog-filled skylines, I do not see anything remotely like 'scepticism', but rather, merely psychotic denial.