“Human Kind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality”

I took the weekend off from blogging here and elsewhere to enjoy my annual outing at the beach in California with my best pals from high school and college–something we’ve been doing on or around Memorial Day for 22 years in a row now. We’ve even gotten to the t-shirt phase (see below). It’s really become just an excuse for our own reality cooking show.
So back to business. I see little changed for the better over the weekend. A few months ago I wrote a blog post over at American.com on “Why Climate Change Reminds Me of a T.S. Eliot Poem,” in that case, from “Burnt Norton,” one of the Four Quartets. Another line from “Burnt Norton” comes to mind this week: “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” Swap out “environmentalists” for “human kind,” and you’re on your way. The remove from reality is reaching the farce stage.
Last week the dreary Bill McKibben, one of those environmentalists who embodies Churchill’s definition of a fanatic as “someone who can’t change their mind, and won’t change the subject,” took to the pages of the Washington Post with the worn-out refrain that the recent spate of tornadoes and other extreme weather events was the result of . . . wait for it . . . climate change! It was too dreary to bother with a response, but fortunately my frequent writing partner Ken Green was up to the task, and this morning in the Wall Street Journal Don Boudreaux goes through the numbers and offers a $10,000 bet that weather-related deaths and injuries will continue their long-term decline in the United States. He shouldn’t expect any takers. Having lost the famous Simon-Ehrlich bet on resource scarcity, environmentalists won’t put their money where their mouth is any more. I know; I’ve tried it, too. When environmentalists started complaining in 2001 and 2002 that the Bush Administration was “gutting” the Clean Air Act, I offered a $1,000 bet (also in the Wall Street Journal) that ozone and particulate levels would be lower in 2009 than in 2001. I got no takers. Once I got Carl Pope of the Sierra Club cornered on an NPR show in 2004 (the Sierra Club put out a press release in 2002 saying air pollution was “out of control” in America’s cities), and the host proposed my bet to Pope. Pope changed the subject as fast as he could. (And yes, ozone and particulate levels fell consistently throughout the Bush years.)
But the award for the largest remove from reality goes to the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which recently held a formal trialfor all of humanity. This sentence gives away the game: “‘The prosecution will therefore maintain that humanity must work towards global stewardship around the planet’s intrinsic boundaries, a scientifically defined space within which we can continue to develop,’ says Professor Will Steffen, prosecutor and Director at Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.” It gets better. When the verdict is in (gee–I wonder whether humanity will be acquitted?), it will be forwarded to . . . wait for it . . . the United Nations Panel on Global Sustainability. Funny how the cause of “sustainability” always seems to require more “global stewardship,” which is code for unaccountable centralized power for global bureaucrats–surely the most unsustainable idea of the last half-century.
By the way, as a special bonus, if you scroll down the list of “jury” members for this trial, you stumble across . . . Hans Blix. Glad to know he got another job.
Meanwhile, as a second special bonus, don’t miss this story out of North Carolina about how biodegradable products may be bad for the environment. (Hat tip: Rick Henderson.)
T Shirt Photo.JPEG


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