For the last few months, political ecology has been hitting the headlines more and more. Parties and NGOs are competing to bring out ever more imaginative programmes calling for increasingly radical solutions. Most of the time, however, the proposed solutions seem totally unrealistic, completely at odds with reality, and heedless of the fact that real societal revolutions are always based on scientific innovations. Without succumbing to scientism, it is undoubtedly science and technology that define the conditions of possibility in our societies, and the evolution of these societies is not determined by a political ideology, whether or not it claims to be “environmentalist”.
Competing for the most “anti-consumer-society” plan
Recently, environmental parties have been ramping up their efforts, using the climate change bogeyman to gradually reveal their plans, and we have started to notice increasingly frequent statements from them. For example, at the beginning of February, American candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that she wanted to set up a Green New Deal. This ambitious plan aims to eliminate pollution and 19 greenhouse gases in the transport sector. And to achieve this goal, she has gone so far as to announce that she will replace air travel with train travel, when going by plane is not required. A proposal that seems totally disconnected from reality and which would cost US taxpayers a fortune.
And in France, also at the beginning of February, the Novethic media, which presents itself as a “responsible transformation accelerator”, published an infographic online that summarizes proposals from the analysis firm B & L evolution. They recognise that these measures are “unrealistic for many but demonstrate the urgency of the climate issue”. They are nothing if not ambitious, as they aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 63% between 2017 and 2030. And to achieve this goal they are prepared to do anything, such as a ban with immediate effect on “the sale of new vehicles to individuals”, the establishment as early as 2025 of “a thermal curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to maintain an average temperature of 17° C in homes”… “ban online advertising on websites”, “limit new clothing put on the market to 1 kg per year per person by 2022″, “introduce a national lottery distributing 500,000 flights per year” or “decrease the consumption of meat per person from 90 kg to 25 kg per year”… To mention just a few of the preposterous proposals in this report. You can also find various proposals to limit or even prohibit human reproduction. Similarly essayist Antoine Bueno suggests a license to procreate to save humanity.
Icons serving a green ideology
Alongside these plans and proposals which have truly murderous intent towards our current model of societal freedom, we see the rise of icons, both old and new, that are trundled out to work on popular emotions. They convey ostensibly feel-good messages that hide ideological intentions and stir up fears. Pope Francis called upon his followers to declare more sins against the environment: “When I administer the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) — and also when I used to do it in the past— it is rare for someone to accuse himself of violence to nature, to the Earth, to Creation.”
We have recently seen another type of icon when “faces” step up alongside NGOs, as with the “L’ affaire du siècle” [The Scandal of the Century] petition. Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, singers L.E.J, filmmaker Cyril Dion and singer Abd Al Malik have joined forces with Greenpeace, Oxfam, FNH and “Notre Affaire à tous” to sue the state for climate inaction.
Finally, the new muse for militant ecology, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, has been featured in the media as a result of her speech at COP 24 and recently called on high school students to strike for the climate.
Real revolutions must be based on science and technology
We can see that political ecology has a following wind and is gaining ground. The “die Grünen” party seems very well placed for the European elections. All these movements come with radical proposals to change society, most of which put the end before the means: the important thing being to achieve the set climate target.
Unfortunately, there is no denying that most lasting revolutions that have succeeded in bringing real benefit to humanity were only possible because they were based on scientific and technological innovation. This is true, for example, of Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution, which enabled agriculture to make a technological leap between 1960 and 1990. Thanks to technological advances in chemistry, seeds and mechanical engineering, industrial and agricultural development policies were able to be undertaken with great success, which have made it possible to feed humanity. On the other hand, we know, for example, that the experiments conducted by Russian biologist Lysenko, which relied heavily on political ideology to declare, for example, that genetics played no role in the varietal selection of wheat species, led to terrible famines resulting in several million deaths. Admittedly, intensive agriculture needs to find its second wind, but smart agriculture and NBTs are well on the way to take up the baton and achieve the goals that ecologists want while building on technological innovation.
In the energy sector, the advent of nuclear power represents another example of technology that has made a real societal revolution possible. As energy and environment expert Michael Shellenberger says in Forbes, the only green New Deals that have ever worked were done with nuclear, not renewables. And to back up his contention, which is an answer to candidate Ocasio Cortez, he quotes the case of France and Sweden: “In the 1970s and 1980s, they built nuclear plants at the rate required to achieve the alleged climate goals of the Green New Deal.
Sweden in 2017 generated a whopping 95% of its total electricity from zero-carbon sources, with 42 and 41 coming from nuclear and hydroelectric power.
France generated 88% of its total electricity from zero-carbon sources, with 72% and 10%, respectively, coming from nuclear and hydroelectric power.”
Green Revolution, Green New Nuclear Deal, here are two good examples that illustrate how real revolutions that are beneficial to society are taking place, based on science and technology and making possible new, sustainable developments which can change and mature; this is the opposite of a political ecology that would arbitrarily dictate to us how we should live on a daily basis, with a complete disregard for our freedoms and totally disconnected from reality. It is not, however, incompatible with the values of scientific ecology, quite the opposite. One more reason to be wary of political ecology’s utopian visions, and a call to return to a common sense scientific ecology.
 “building out highspeed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/5729035/Green-New-Deal-FAQ.pdf