The Green Weenie Award is troublesome this week, because some kinds of environmental wackiness descend into a realm so sordid that it deserves something a lot worse than a Green Weenie. Like a jail sentence, for example.
The news media has always covered eco-terrorism as weakly as possible. The usual asymmetry can be observed. While every time an abortion clinic is bombed or vandalized, or an abortion doctor murdered, the media always convict mainline pro-life groups of guilt-by-association, but when the Earth Liberation Front or other eco-terrorist group burns a building or trashes a scientific research lab, mainstream environmental groups are seldom or never confronted for a high profile denunciation.
Yesterday the Los Angeles Times reported the arrest of a long-time eco-terrorist fugitive, Rebecca Rubin, who was associated with several arsons conducted in the 1990s by the Earth Liberation Front. But I’m still waiting for the news feature that delves into the question of what inspired these folks to become eco-terrorists. What books did they read? Which individual thinkers influenced them? I suspect the possible answers are too uncomfortable, just as it turned out in the 1960s that people who joined the Weather Underground were inspired to do so by what they were learning in elite college classrooms. There has always been a lot of awkwardness about the fact that the thought of the Unabomber’s famous manifesto had an uncanny resemblance to Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance. (For more on this subject, see my long paper about Gore’s essential Heideggerianism.)
Then there’s the story out of Belgium a few days before the election a month ago about the murder of an ExxonMobil executive that bears the marks of a professional hit. There hasn’t been much follow up to this story, and I guess the police are being mum about it. Could it have been eco-terrorism? The Telegraph story does muse: “Like most oil majors, its operations attract the wrath of environmental activists.” Stay tuned to this one.
The reason to demand some heightened scrutiny of the connection between eco-terrorism and the environmental mainstream is that the so-called “mainstream” is amazingly casual about encouraging civil disobedience. My latest example of reckless and irresponsible advocacy in this manner comes not from the Sierra Club or other corrupt group, but from investor Jeremy Grantham, whose economic concerns I was just highlighting here a few days ago. While Grantham is a shrewd investor, it turns out he’s a climate nutter. Last week in Nature magazine, Grantham advocates that climate campaigners prepare to “be arrested if necessary” in service of the cause. After opening with the caveat that “I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science,” Grantham goes off the rails:
Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.
He’s got this exactly backwards, of course. Younger, untenured scientists are terrified of defying the climate campaign, so climate skepticism is limited mostly to senior scientists near or at retirement, like Princeton’s Freeman Dyson, or MIT’s Richard Lindzen. But no matter; next time “eco-disobediance” elides into vandalism or violence, people should ask this week’s Green Weenie winner, Jeremy Grantham, if he’s proud people are following his advice.