The Corner

Re: New Science Standards Put Global Warming at Core of Curriculum

Heather, that’s not good news about the new standards. From the sound of it, one book that will never be added to those teaching materials is — here comes a shameless plug — The Age of Global Warming, fine new book by Rupert Darwall (full disclosure: an old friend of mine), which has just been published in the U.K. There’s a lot to say about this book (and I hope to do so in due course) but, for me, one of the most interesting aspects of it was Darwall’s analysis of the intellectual and political history of the climate-change “movement.”

This Spiked review gives some of the book’s flavor, and its sometimes counter-intuitive insights. Here’s an extract:

While environmentalism is certainly an obsession of many rich people, and a natural fit for many conservatives, one of the major factors that Darwall cites in the rise of environmentalism is the collapse of the left. But interestingly, this is not the usual argument about disillusioned ex-Communists turning from red to green, although such people have indeed often been the brains behind the development of these ideas. Rather, it was the collapse of a left-wing opposition to eco-notions about lowering growth that was crucial. Darwall notes the strong tradition on the left, from Marx onwards, in support of the need to increase the material wealth of society.

That tradition was still important in the 1960s and 1970s to the UK Labour Party’s ‘foremost intellectual’, Tony Crosland. Darwall quotes Crosland’s damning assessment from 1971 of environmentalism and the class bias behind it: ‘Its champions are often kindly and dedicated people. But they are affluent and fundamentally, though of course not consciously, they want to kick the ladder down behind them… We must make our own value judgement based on socialist objectives: and that objective must… be that growth is vital, and its benefits far outweigh its costs.’ . . .

The elitist idea of environmentalism could only become dominant because of the exit of working-class politics from the Western political stage and the shrivelling of the political voice of the mass of Western populations. The failure of socialist and social-democratic parties meant there were no longer critics of environmentalism from the left. The declining membership of all political parties deprived the bulk of the population of an important means to hold politicians to account. To criticise the science and politics of global warming now meant you were a lackey of big business or some kind of ‘flat Earther’ who denied the importance of science. What remains is weariness of the modern world among those – from the middle classes upwards, and most particularly among the elites – who can afford such self-indulgence.

It is, of course, no great surprise that the campaign against climate change has become such a leitmotif of the largely post-democratic EU.

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