Democracy in America, a “Rule Utilitarianism” system (rules made to benefit the majority) is failing.
Fundamentally, systems fail because those in the position of making and maintaining laws, the politicians, put their personal ends before the society that the system was originally built to benefit. If we could somehow remove man’s flaws, or at the least his ability to corrupt basic tenets, the system might have a chance to survive. Unfortunately, things have to massively fail before the cycle starts again, as history has shown. Man yearns to free himself from one ideology only to embroil himself in another and, through his own doings, fail miserably once more — ad infinitum. To paraphrase a great quote, “those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” The trouble is we haven’t learned a thing, we always repeat it!
One of the devices that best enables corruption to exist and eventually undermine all ideologies is propaganda. One might think that free societies favoring free speech would be the least vulnerable to propaganda. However, this is not the case. Propaganda plays on ignorance, not human intellect per say, but ignorance of issues and facts. Here’s an example:
During the 1920s, in the US, the tobacco industry was troubled by the fact that women smoking was seen as undignified and base. They viewed this as a loss of half of their sales. They hired Edward Bernays the nephew of Sigmund Freud, to address the issue. Bernays, during the 1929 Easter Parade in NYC, hired prominent women to flaunt their smoking. He called the cigarette, the monster that still kills one in five people, the “torch of freedom,” and made sure the press was there to witness and photograph it. The rest is, as the saying goes — history. The irony is that Bernays, knowing about the early reports connecting cigarettes to cancer, would destroy his wife’s cigarettes when he found them in their home. It gets worse, though — Joseph Goebbels employed Bernays’ tactics!
The American public, for the most part, didn’t know about the damage cigarettes caused and cigarette companies weren’t going to ever tell them.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. … It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” —Edward Bernays
Scary stuff, but what’s all this have to do with the environment? We cannot discuss the environment without addressing the two main factors that affect it — man, with all his frailties, and government. Is there anyone who thinks the fossil fuel industry wouldn’t employ Bernays’ tactics to diffuse the damage global warming and resulting climate change could do to their industry? The massive negative press and lobbying have worked just like the same tactics worked for the tobacco industry. Using propaganda to create doubt is a powerful destructive tool. Donald Trump thinks electric cars won’t work. They won’t work because he wants to prop up the fossil fuel industry. Taxing PV modules isn’t about equity, it’s a fragile attempt to slow down a freight train that’s changing the world. Trump is a propaganda master. Soon after he made his negative statement about EVs, people started blocking charging stations.
Propaganda has worked so well that people with no background in climatology absolutely assert it’s a “hoax” and show disdain for environmentalists. The scientists and massive amounts of data are wrong, but when deniers get sick, the first person they seek out is a doctor, a scientist skilled in the science of the human body! They have been skillfully “educated” in hate and division. Rush Limbaugh is a perfect example of how this works. He’s a “professional blamer” who directs people’s own dissatisfaction with themselves onto others. It works very well — now we hate the poor, now we hate everyone he teaches us to hate. Now we blindly run into the sea like lemmings and the great divide of the country widens and adds one more nail in democracy’s and the environment’s coffin.
Pollution is strangling, not just this country, but this planet. Seven billion plus people continually breathe its air and every living thing depends completely on its wellbeing to survive. Here’s where utilitarianism I spoke of earlier comes into the picture. If a society is established on a system of making laws and working for the good of the majority, then why isn’t it acting in that capacity? Does anyone think that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, isn’t aware of the massive pollution from his coal state? Coal didn’t come back – surprise! Do we honestly think that all the people of Kentucky can do is dig coal out of holes in the ground?
Coal built this country. We all benefitted from the hardworking people who went into those mines and got black lung. They are not stupid. Coal mining is not all they can do. It’s time to teach them how to do something else. Why isn’t McConnell taking major steps in that direction? The system is in failure, and Mitch McConnell has one end — it’s not the people of Kentucky and it’s certainly not the environment.
“McConnell has repeatedly failed to do right by our coal workers and communities. In 2017, McConnell co-authored a high-profile op-ed claiming to support projects that would ‘provide financial, environmental and economic support to hard-hit coal regions.’ However, in a stark contrast to this claim, last year (and the year before that, and the year before that) he failed to win, or even fight for, federal funding for the RECLAIM Act, the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, and miners’ pension fund. All three of these measures are urgently needed to support a Just Transition for workers and communities in Kentucky.
“The RECLAIM Act alone would have brought $1 billion back to coal mining regions in Central Appalachia. But, despite strong outcry from his constituents — including 16 local governments that passed local resolutions urging his support — McConnell did not push for a vote for these programs that would directly benefit his constituents. Despite his enormous influence in Congress, he did nothing. Much like the miners suffering from black lung, he allowed these measures to die without a voice.”
This is one more example of the failure of a system designed to benefit the many but which benefits at most a few. In the end, technology will win out just like it is doing with coal. It always does. Renewables are just better, electric cars are just better. The world is going to those new technologies and any nation that hopes to compete industrially in the 21st century must embrace renewable energy aggressively or it will be left behind. Renewable energy statistics of five years ago are old news. Stats of two years ago are old news. Technology keeps improving and getting cheaper. Renewables, unlike fossil fuels, are technologically rich — they have nowhere to go but up. This is, incidentally, why empires wither and fail. Individual greed and corruption dominate the actions of the state. A government established for the benefit of the people cannot survive on divisiveness and propaganda benefiting the few. Politicians, and there are many, with the sole purpose of fostering their own selfish ends, undermine societies orchestrated to benefit the many. The powerful fossil fuel lobby is doing everything it can to stall renewables, something that should never happen in a healthy viable democracy.
The Environment — What Can We Do?
The Inflexibility of Failure
There is no individual, philosophy, political or religious system greater than the truth. If a system doesn’t stand to reason, it shouldn’t stand.
Gun control is a poignant example of this. We cling to an Amendment written hundreds of years ago by individuals who had no more idea of what the world would be like much less what technology would be hundreds of years later than we know what it will be hundreds of years from now. It’s impossible to make infinite laws about any technology, much less weaponry. The flaw here is that the Constitution is an infallible absolute. Man is not capable of infallible absolutes — for that matter, neither is science. Infallible absolutes simply don’t exist in this earthly realm.
No system can survive in a stagnant bubble of inflexibility, void of reason. The truth is in flux, the best man can do is adapt to it. The tree that does not bend in the storm breaks. The planet will continue to roll downhill and continue to pick up speed as it does. There are simply too many people and too much greed driven by great reserves of money pushing that downhill roll.
Science is telling us that we are past the point of return, the planet is no longer savable. I know this is not a popular perspective, but we must face the truth that things like the underestimated gravitational losses of icebergs are telling us. I’m not saying we should give up the environmental fight. I still drive an EV and I still run a net-zero-energy house. We can slow down environmental devastation. But the truth is the planet will fall very short of a dying sun — man’s greed and overpopulation will see to that.
Man will always find a way to justify his transgressions and claim his actions in the end benefit everyone on the planet, the environment as well, but like trickle-down wealth that never actually trickles down, that illusionary benefit for all never manifests. Propaganda, doubt’s favorite tool, has done massive damage.
What Can Concerned People Do?
Because world systems fail to protect the roots of their very survival, and because the environment is beyond the point of saving, does not mean that each person isn’t morally responsible on a deep individual level to do everything he or she can to make this planet as safe and habitable as is humanly possible. We are each responsible for the suffering climate change creates, and we are each a part of it.
Climate change equals suffering, and the worse it gets, the more people will suffer.
So, yes, keep driving EVs and keep working to attain a negative carbon footprint. Each of these things is a drop in an ocean that makes it just a little bit less polluted and breathes a little more fresh air into our planet.
Propaganda has corrupted the climate change debate. What propaganda can not do is refute the pollution and destruction the fossil fuel industry has created. Ocean acidification is a real fact, we know what causes it and we know its effects. People can see those effects and experience them first hand. It has directly affected their lives and their food supplies.
Propaganda can not claim pollution is a normal historical cycle. People can’t legitimately deny that high-traffic areas have higher incidence of cancer. These are facts and this is evidence everyday people can understand. This is the debate we must have and must report on. One attempt to diffuse this argument is to claim that EVs, wind, and PV pollute too. Yes, everything we do burdens the planet, but they do it less, much less.
This is our debate and this is our challenge to the fossil fuel industry. It’s a fight they can’t win. Our actions are to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible and to educate people about why renewables are our best chance to defuse the massive pollution of fossil fuel that damages every living thing.
Proof for this argument comes from the fossil fuel industry itself. Coal is the worst polluting fossil fuel in the world, so what did the natural gas industry do? The natural gas industry acknowledged how bad coal is and then called natural gas “the clean fossil fuel.” There is no clean fossil fuel! Pollution is the industry’s anathema. Fossil industries want to keep everyone talking about climate change because they never want to talk about pollution. I want to talk about pollution — a lot!
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