Last week, Time magazine featured on its cover the iconic photograph of the U.S. Marine Corps raising the flag on Iwo Jima. But with one difference: The flag has been replaced by a tree. The managing editor of Time, Rick Stengel, was very pleased with the lads in graphics for cooking up this cute image and was all over the TV sofas talking up this ingenious visual shorthand for what he regards as the greatest challenge facing mankind: “How To Win The War On Global Warming.”
#ad#Where to begin? For the last ten years, we have, in fact, been not warming but slightly cooling, which is why the eco-warriors have adopted the all-purpose bogeyman of “climate change.” But let’s take it that the editors of Time are referring not to the century we live in but the previous one, when there was a measurable rise of temperature of approximately one degree. That’s the “war”: one degree.
If the tree-raising is Iwo Jima, a one-degree increase isn’t exactly Pearl Harbor. But General Stengel wants us to engage in preemptive war. The editors of Time would be the first to deplore such saber-rattling applied to, say, Iran’s nuclear program, but it has become the habit of progressive opinion to appropriate the language of war for everything but actual war.
So let’s cut to the tree. In my corner of New Hampshire, we have more trees than we did a hundred or two hundred years ago. My town is over 90 percent forested. Any more trees and I’d have to hack my way through the undergrowth to get to my copy of Time magazine on the coffee table. Likewise Vermont, where not so long ago in St Albans I found myself stuck behind a Hillary supporter driving a Granolamobile bearing the bumper sticker “TO SAVE A TREE REMOVE A BUSH.” Very funny. And even funnier when you consider that on that stretch of Route Seven there’s nothing to see north, south, east, or west but maple, hemlock, birch, pine, you name it. It’s on every measure other than tree cover that Vermont’s kaput.
So where exactly do Time magazine’s generals want to plant their tree? Presumably, as in Iwo Jima, on foreign soil. It’s all these third-world types monkeying around with their rain forests who decline to share the sophisticated Euro-American reverence for the tree. In the Time iconography, the tree is Old Glory and it’s a flag of eco-colonialism.
And which obscure island has it been planted on? In Haiti, the Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was removed from office on April 12. Insofar as history will recall him at all, he may have the distinction of being the first head of government to fall victim to “global warming” — or, at any rate, the “war on global warming” that Time magazine is gung-ho for. At least five people have been killed in food riots in Port-au-Prince. Prices have risen 40 percent since last summer and, as Deroy Murdock reported, some citizens are now subsisting on biscuits made from salt, vegetable oil and (mmmm) dirt. Dirt cookies: Nutritious, tasty, and affordable? Well, one out of three ain’t bad.
Unlike “global warming,” food rioting is a planet-wide phenomenon, from Indonesia to Pakistan to Ivory Coast to the tortilla rampages in Mexico and even pasta protests in Italy.
So what happened?
Well, Western governments listened to the eco-warriors, and introduced some of the “wartime measures” they’ve been urging. The EU decreed that 5.75 percent of petrol and diesel must come from “biofuels” by 2010, rising to 10 percent by 2020. The U.S. added to its 51 cents-per-gallon ethanol subsidy by mandating a five-fold increase in “biofuels” production by 2022.
The result is that big government accomplished at a stroke what the free market could never have done: They turned the food supply into a subsidiary of the energy industry. When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you’ve suddenly got less to eat? Or, to be more precise, it’s not “you” who’s got less to eat but those starving peasants in distant lands you claim to care so much about.
Heigh-ho. In the greater scheme of things, a few dead natives keeled over with distended bellies is a small price to pay for saving the planet, right? Except that turning food into fuel does nothing for the planet in the first place. That tree the U.S. Marines are raising on Iwo Jima was most likely cut down to make way for an ethanol-producing corn field: Researchers at Princeton calculate that to date the “carbon debt” created by the biofuels arboricide will take 167 years to reverse.
The biofuels debacle is global warm-mongering in a nutshell: The first victims of poseur environmentalism will always be developing countries. In order for you to put biofuel in your Prius and feel good about yourself for no reason, real actual people in faraway places have to starve to death. On April 15, the Independent, the impeccably progressive British newspaper, editorialized: “The production of biofuel is devastating huge swathes of the world’s environment. So why on earth is the Government forcing us to use more of it?”
You want the short answer? Because the government made the mistake of listening to fellows like you. Here’s the self-same Independent in November 2005:
At last, some refreshing signs of intelligent thinking on climate change are coming out of Whitehall. The Environment minister, Elliot Morley, reveals today in an interview with this newspaper that the Government is drawing up plans to impose a ‘biofuel obligation’ on oil companies… This has the potential to be the biggest green innovation in the British petrol market since the introduction of unleaded petrol…
Etc. It’s not the environmental movement’s chickenfeedhawks who’ll have to reap what they demand must be sown, but we should be in no doubt about where to place the blame — on the bullying activists and their media cheerleaders and weathervane politicians who insist that the “science” is “settled” and that those who query whether there’s any crisis are (in the designation of the strikingly non-emaciated Al Gore) “denialists.” All three presidential candidates have drunk the environmental kool-ethanol and are committed to Big Government solutions. But, as the Independent’s whiplash-inducing U-turn confirms, the eco-scolds are under no such obligation to consistency. Finger-in-the-wind politicians shouldn’t be surprised to find that gentle breeze is from the media wind turbine and it’s just sliced your finger off.
Whether or not there’s very slight global cooling or very slight global warming, there’s no need for a “war” on either, no rationale for loosing a plague of eco-locusts on the food supply. So why be surprised that totalitarian solutions to mythical problems wind up causing real devastation? As for Time’s tree, by all means put it up: It helps block out the view of starving peasants on the far horizon.
© 2008 Mark Steyn