When I wrote Seeing through Smoke I rather surprised myself, and annoyed some otherwise supportive readers, by bracketing the climate change issue together with the propaganda campaign for issues of gender and sexuality, with which it has no obvious links.
The reasons were that I saw that many of the same distortions of science, and the same PR tricks, were being used in both areas, and also that there was a clear paper-trail linking the Green Movement, as it is now constituted, to cultural Marxists such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit. That kind of link is now reinforced when one looks at the context of “progressive” agendas like Klaus Schwarb’s Great Reset. Somehow, carbon neutrality, economic “sustainability,” LGBTQ++ rights and the demise of capitalism all seem to be covered by the same rubric.
Conceptually, though, there seems little connection between an exaggerated desire to save the planet from black-caped and moustachioed bad actors like Big Oil, and the Critical Theory which appears to generate the bulk of the current ideological divide, especially concerning race and gender.
But on reflection, the acceptance of critical theory actually provides an ideal milieu for climate activism. Critical theory, after all, is neatly understood as the direct descendant of classical Marxism, only with a newly-substituted underclass. In Communism, the world was crudely divided into opposed economic classes: the oppressors were the capitalists, including the hated bourgeoisie who were, in reality, just the bulk of ordinary people getting on with their lives. The oppressed were the proletariat. Once the latter inevitably rose up to destroy the former, the very laws of nature would augur in a golden age of peace and plenty for all. Or so the tyranny was sold to people, and still is if you’re fortunate enough to be starving in North Korea.
The way in which folks who, in the natural way of things, saw the world in a more nuanced way were enlisted to the cause was by a process of indoctrination in “class consciousness.” By this a worker (or just as often the student child of a rich business owner) came to see that there was no such thing as a good landowner, or priest, or doctor: they were all class-enemies simply by being those things. The world became a simple battleground between the communists and the evil counter-revolutionaries.
I understand that in Maoist China (or scrawled on walls in suburban Guildford), you came to sloganise “Long Live the Great Victory of the Glorious People’s Proletarian Cultural Revolution!!” through this process, directly translatable from Mandarin as “awakening.” This is exactly the same mental process as, in our day, becoming “woke,” and it used exactly the same means, of intensive re-education by experts in the theory, and by self-criticism sessions.
But the proletariat, together with the peasants, who originally didn’t figure in Marx’s scheme, failed the revolution all round the world. So the “oppressed” label has now been transferred to an intersectionally stratified hierarchy of scientifically spurious “races,” with “the black race” at the top (or is it the bottom?); or else to a plethora of real or, increasingly, manufactured minorities from “women” to genders and sexualities most of us can’t even pronounce, let alone understand. Only the key thing to remember is that none of these deal, truly, with individuals, but always with classes, whether approved or demonised.
What is carried over from old-school Marxism is the nature of the villain, who is still rigidly understood as the white, male, heterosexual, old, Christian class. This rule of thumb worked fine under Soviet Communism, and even under Maoism once yellow-skinned university professors could be re-defined as lackeys of white foreigners: was not Christianity the imported religion of the white devils? In the same way, an “African American” now who doesn’t accept the critical ideology becomes, by that very fact, an honorary white supremacist. Likewise someone like journalist Andy Ngo, though both ethnically Asian, young and gay, can be beaten up with impunity in Portland, Oregon as if he were an old straight white Christian male racist, there being only two categories of people. Likewise, J. K. Rowling cannot be accepted as a feminist if she is also a fascist transphobe. You’ll be familiar with many other examples.
All this, of course, is why communism invariably leads to mass-murder, not least during the Glorious People’s Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which served only to set China back many decades in its development and set the precedent for Tiananmen Square and the Uighur ethnic cleansing camps.
Once someone has come to see the world exclusively in terms of the inexorable power struggle between the old white male Christian oppressor class (including all the virtual members of that class who are black, gay, etc but not “woke”) and the oppressed, it is is actually a very short step to categorising “the planet” as yet another victim of white oppression. The CEOs of the wicked fossil fuel companies are all, or can easily be imagined to be, old white males, and at least nominally Christian, since they aren’t Muslim (well, the Arab oil magnates are Muslim, but why spoil a good narrative?). The planet, by an act of great anthropomorphic imagination, becomes personified as an oppressed class (“class” itself being a personification that gives an abstract concept greater value than the real people).
By the same extension that makes black Voddie Baucham a white supremacist in the eyes of certain woke Evangelicals, the whole human race, presumably apart from the spooky dancers in red and others convincingly espousing the green agenda, become the class enemies of the whole world that gave them birth, and whose infinite variety most of them love and care about.
Hence it makes perfect sense to see humans not as the earth’s God-given custodians, nor even as Yet Another Great Product from Evolution™, but in David Attenborough’s words, as “interlopers,” colonialists in exactly the same way that British imperialists in South Africa were, but Zulu imperialists in South Africa were not, or as slave owners like all white Americans were, but not the Africans who sold them the slaves from their own “race” (but usually from different tribes).
I think it useful to make this connection with critical theory (maybe we should call it “critical ecology theory”). It helps to explain why so much climate alarmism sits loose to reality, ignoring such blatant truths as the fact that all the climate projection models, bar one, have overestimated the global average temperature by double for decades, and that beach hotels in the Maldives, built before the first apocalyptic sea-level rise predictions were made by Paul Ehrlich forty years ago, are still trading. In just the same way, the fact that a race or transgender attack has been faked or misreported makes no difference to the critical theorist: the oppressor/oppressed relationship remains the same in any case, because the theory, like classical Marxism, defines reality.
Once one is convinced that mankind’s relationship to the world is fundamentally one of incorrigible exploitation, then the La-la-land economics of green energy transition no more impede your programme than the fact that burning down black-owned businesses in US cities is of no actual benefit to your oppressed class. It’s the principle of the thing, just as was the case recently when the outdoor clothing company North Face publicly refused to supply fossil fuel companies with their products, even though every one of their products is made from oil.
One of the more noticeable features of critical theory, like its progenitor Communism, is its lack of a concept of forgiveness, for that is a transaction between individuals, not classes. We see this in the recent sacking of sportsmen for private communications they made as teenagers, regardless of the show-trial-like displays of contrition from the guilty. This follows inevitably from the reduction of everything to the power structures of classes: once identified as a member of the class, only your elimination from society will fully satisfy the laws of nature waiting in the wings to usher in the new utopia magically. At best, the disgraced and penitent individual will be allowed to eke out a living as a lavatory cleaner or something, until death brings the perfect society one small step nearer.
In the context of critical ecology theory, the oppressor class consists of most of the human race, of whom according to those in the circle of virtue there are already several billion too many.
You see where the logic of that leads?