For the environmentally concerned, two important marches were held this month. On April 22 (Earth Day) the March for Science defended the integrity of science while protesting the anti-science policies of the Trump administration. On April 29 the People’s Climate March chanted for environmental justice and jeered Trump’s anti-climate policies. Although these events were superficially encouraging, they featured major errors that must be identified and critiqued.
The March for Science, I’m sorry to say, did not defend the integrity of science. Instead it defended the integrity of mainstream science. This is the perspective that accepts the emissions fallacy and mainstream mitigation, and that generally rejects the geoengineering that is now necessary to avoid climate disaster. The organizers and participants completely ignored the sharp decline in “real” science since the 1980s, when the neoconservatives caught up with George Orwell. In Nineteen Eighty-Four the Party destroyed science because the latter encouraged the “empirical method of thought” (p. 269), thereby threatening its rule. Because the neocons took a similar tack under Reagan, the scientific enterprise has been massively distorted to defend powerful interests. Trump is an object of derision among scientists not because he rejects science per se, but because he supports a crude and extreme version of the mainstream science that now dominates.
The marching scientists also ignored a deeper issue that discredits their efforts for much of the populace. This is the pretense that science addresses reality as a whole rather than its physical component exclusively. For many people, including me, reality comprises two connected but distinct realms: the physical, objective world that is open to scientific inquiry, and the non-physical, subjective world of awareness and consciousness that lies beyond its purview. Today’s science is arrogant – almost imperialistic – in claiming that its methods apply to both realms. What is required here is not scientific integrity, but intellectual humility. For more on this from a biological perspective, see this document.
The People’s Climate March was marred by two grave errors. The first is that its participants uncritically supported mainstream climate science. This means they accepted the emissions fallacy and thus relied irrationally on emissions reductions to solve the climate crisis. Geoengineering was a dirty word for everyone, although several progressive sources (see here and here) are now – finally – citing the need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Solar radiation management, which is required ASAP to prevent Arctic collapse, was clearly beyond the pale for these activists.
The problem here is a lack of independent analysis. The climate issue is much like 9/11: if you don’t ask questions, the official story is quite believable; if you probe just a little, it completely dissolves. When I probed mainstream climate science recently I found huge holes in the standard tale of mitigation and adaptation. Most significantly, I found that humankind had already inflicted a mortal wound on nature, which means that geoengineering – which simply means repairing the environmental damage we’ve already caused – is now a matter of existential necessity. The time is long overdue for progressives and environmentalists to do their own investigations and come to their own conclusions. Today they’re blindly following the same forces that caused the devastation they so passionately decry.
The second major error for the climate marchers was the strategic decision to oppose Trump across the board. As activist Jeremy Brecher explains, the idea is to turn resistance to “Trumpism” into a progressive unifier. This is emotionally satisfying but politically catastrophic. Trump and his team are loathsome in many respects, but they still may have something useful to offer under current, extinction-threatening conditions. As noted above, geoengineering is now indispensable, and the Trump team is the only political force pushing for accelerated research and eventual implementation. An alliance with the Trump administration on this specific issue should therefore be seriously considered.
The progressive world, in evading this possibility, has forgotten a crucial lesson from past struggles: politics makes strange bedfellows. The latter expression is from a line in Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” An online dictionary explains that, “It is spoken by a man who has been shipwrecked and finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster.” Trump is a monster, but it might be politically necessary to sidle up to him on the geoengineering issue to seek shelter from the misery of climate devastation. This would be analogous to the West’s alliance with the USSR during World War II to defeat Nazi Germany. If the US, Britain, etc. could overlook their revulsion to socialism when their national existence was at stake, shouldn’t progressives and environmentalists be able to overlook their revulsion to Trump when human existence is at stake?