Orwell’s 1984: the greatest environmental novel of last century, even if author didn’t intend it as such

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven too

Our imagination allows us to create all versions of Hell; and Heaven

All art is theft.

Thus it comes as no surprise that aspiring writers with an interest in politics and the environment fall under the spell of George Orwell. Not just his novels 1984 and Animal farm, but his majestic essay Politics and the English Language.

Christopher Hitchens, perhaps one of the greatest essayists of the last decade, was an enormous fan of Orwell. One can consider Hitchens writing a long exercise in paying tribute to – and wanting to be – Orwell.

Fortunately for Hitchens (and us) he found his unique voice. Hitchens has the same command of language, clarity and sense of justified outrage found in Orwell’s work. Read Hitchen’s God is not Great to see his righteous anger filtered through a powerful prose style.

A recent piece on The Conversation about the value of art in understanding the environmental crisis got me thinking about which novels and films we regard as having an “environmental” theme.

Novels like Cormac McCarthy’s biblical The Road paint a bleak world – the product of some unknown apocalypse. It depicts the journey of the unnamed father and son. They are simply called The Man and The Boy – through this world to the perceived safety of the coast. It is both nightmarish and grueling.

And yet it ends with hope.

Indeed, the ending of The Road is poetic and uplifting: its prevailing mood of pessimism is sharply punctuated by hope. Maybe it is just a glimmer, but it burns all the more brightly in contrast to the ash and death of the world painted by McCarthy.

McCarthy affirms a truth we all know – the human spirit can endure the worst horrors, provided we retain our humanity.

For “the Man” of McCarthy’s novel, it is not enough to merely survive: retaining one’s humanity in a world that has gone to literal Hell becomes the central question, far more important than finding the next meal.

This is also the core of Orwell’s 1984.

The focus of 1984 is Winston Smith’s struggle to retain his humanity in a world that may not be Hell, but is something very akin to it. He has only the vaguest memories of his childhood and mother. All he recalls is loss and horror, and some snippets of a song.

Winston implicitly understands the world is not as it should be – that it does not have to be this way. He suspects he exists in a counterfactual nightmare; a parallel universe to what might have otherwise been. As the reader, we know the world is better than what Winston experiences. But for us, that increases the horror, not reduce it for we step into the world of Big Brother.

Winston can imagine better worlds. He may not know where they are or what they look like, but he is convinced they exist. The tragedy is Winston’s failed struggle to find this world and retain his humanity. We all know how 1984 ends.

The facility to imagine a better world, despite the evidence before our eyes, is a crucial component of our moral imagination. This is what makes us human: to reflect on all possible worlds, and hope to create one closer to Paradise than Hell.

Perhaps this Utopian impulse is unrealistic. At times this impulse has been dangerous, as the distorted racial and economic utopias of Nazism and Stalinism of last century taught us.

However, at times this impulse has been liberating for humanity: Martin Luther King had a dream.

It is my firm believe this impulse resides within all of us, and this is a good thing. We should cultivate it, but temper it with realism, compassion and dare I say it – a dose of conservatism? At least the kind of Edmund Burke who feared the horrors the French Revolution unleashed.

But fear of change? We should embrace change, for that is the permanent state of the universe.

Thus, reflecting on the great “environmental novels” mentioned in The Conversation article it struck me Orwell’s 1984 contains implicit environmental themes.

Ostensibly Orwell’s novel is about politics, the dystopian future of Big Brother and the creation of a monstrous and intrusive police state. It is Stalin’s Russia writ large across the globe and taken to logical extremes. For good reason Orwell was signalling the dangers of totalitarianism.

But the politics of the world Orwell creates shapes the fictional environment, even if the author did not recognise this.

We now know Soviet industry made a polluted wasteland of large parts of Russia and regions of the Soviet Empire. The industries of the Eastern Bloc countries were technologically backwards and polluting. Their  collapse increased the air quality and well-being of the environment of those countries, but at great economic cost and social dislocation.

Does not the political process and the choices our society make shape the environment of today? If you doubt that claim, merely look at our failure to act on climate change.

Are today’s coal-fired generators soon to be the equivalent of the shuttered and empty factories of Eastern Europe – relics not merely of a failed industry, but a failed world view?

It is unlikely Orwell would view his work as an environmental critique. However, authorial intent is often at odds with the perception of readers.

Environmental themes are there in the details of the world of Big Brother and Oceania.

The streets of Airstrip One (the renamed England) are strewn with refuse – everything is ruin.

The universe is in a state of entropy, of falling apart. And yet everyone is indifferent to this state of affairs. They are too preoccupied with the basic questions of survival: of having enough food to eat and avoiding the worst aspects of the security state.

All is ruin.

All live in indifference.

All avoid the truth before them.

All seek the safety of anonymity.

All live in denial: even those in the elite of The Party.

However, don’t let your imagination stop there: dwell on the image of the world Orwell created in 1984.

It is run down and exhausted.

Look in the corners of his world and you will see the poverty and shambolic social services.

What else do you see?

The exclusive use of resources by the military and political elite at the expense of the populace; the stifling of voices who question this status quo; every organ of the state exists to control the use of resources and keep the people compliant through violence, language and surveillance.

People are distracted by a vast political-entertainment complex, the “proles” living on an information diet of sensationalist news and pornography.

How very prescient of Orwell – no doubt unintentional – to paint the picture of an exhausted and run down world, in which the elites squabble over the remaining scraps.

How very much we risk the creation of such a world.

All art is theft.

All art is truth.

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93 thoughts on “Orwell’s 1984: the greatest environmental novel of last century, even if author didn’t intend it as such

  1. […] Orwell’s 1984: the greatest environmental novel of last century, even if author didn’t i… (watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com) […]

  2. astrostevo says:

    Interesting refelctions here on Orwell’s ‘1984’ – at once the bets written and most depressing novel I have ever read. Hadn’t thought of it like that before – cheers.

  3. john byatt says:

    Mark “So now you are dragging up foster and rahmstorf 2011?” time 9.32

    John byatt says:
    June 2, 2013 at 5:33 am

    you claimed mostly negative and never 1.5C/C looking at SKS graph
    what does negative mean

    Table 1: Warming rates in °C/decade for 1979-2010, and lag in months, for each of the five temperature records and each of the three exogenous factors. Numbers in parentheses are standard errors in the final digits of the estimated values.

    foster and rahmstorf have the trend at over 1,5DegC right up to 2010

    then you ignore that the hadcrut projection from 1975 (trend) extended to 2012 was spot on.

    trend is positive. your claim of mostly negative is twaddle

    please stop the lies

  4. Mark says:

    Just while we’re talking group dynamics….Mandas was excoriated for, apparently calling someone “stupid”. That, it seems, is out of bounds here because it was a personal insult.

    Not that I care but I wonder how “pathetic little liar”, ” a deceitful, disgusting person”, as well as “witless troll, woefully stupid, lying troll. sub-literate”, are acceptable.

    Maybe I missed the section that explained that the rules of decorum don’t apply to the swarm.

    I can see that its very important to you all that you protect your turf and try to hound out any interloper with (shock horror) different views and to avert your eyes when one of the swarm makes a complete ass of himself. I’m sure it works most of the time. Its an interesting example of the ‘Lord of the Flies’ style mob mentality.

    • john byatt says:

      I have proved that you are a liar with your Schneider quote,

      Anyone like yourself who knowingly Misrepresents someone who is longer here to defend themselves is pathetic, deceitful and disgusting

      you can disagree all you like, what you refer to as different views are in fact just lies and distortion and a complete lack of understanding that it is about science, not views

      “Now, instead of just saying “oops” , you’re suddenly talking 1975 this and 1979-2010 that. Just so childish”

      the problem is that you are too thick to understand,

      if Foster and Rahmstorf had just removed the noise from 2000 you would all be claiming hoax as they did not include the preceding trend which may have then shown a change after 2000.

      so they did take the study back, guess what? the trend has remained constant through the entire period there is no as you call mostly negative trend.

      when i first heard about the paper i hoped that they had gone back a few decades lest the deniers all come out claiming hoax.

      live with it, the surface warming continues

      • Mark says:

        Now you’re dredging up Foster and Rahmstorf? Struth, you really don’t have any shame do you?
        Its very simple…you said HadCrut3 showed a positive trend since 2002. You then admitted that was wrong but that HadCrut4 showed a positive trend since 2002 which is also wrong.

        Since then you’ve thrown up all sorts of misdirection to try to hide the error. Its all very sad.

        BTW I never ventured any view on the significance of the post 2002 data. I only ever pointed out your errors. I’ve said many times that a trend less than 15yrs means nothing. But pretending I did say something is all part of the misdirection, isn’t it.

      • john byatt says:

      • john byatt says:

        so you are retracting your mostly negative since 2002 comment, I would if I were you.

        What you are objecting to and getting your knickers in a knot about is the amount of evidence that i have put up .

        you really cannot handle too much evidence which does not agree with your views

        so knowing that Lu’s paper was crap, as you now concede you still offered it as, if this paper is true” when you put it up,

        apparently knowing all along that it was crap
        “I’ve said many times that a trend less than 15yrs means nothing”.

        contradicting yourself

      • Nick says:

        Truly schizophrenic stuff from Mark…in such a dander about ‘misdirection’,your posts rarely exclude misdirections!

        It’s just extraordinary that you should not attempt to vet your sources,check context and background,and_not_learn_from_your_past_encounters! It can only be trolling,after so many ludicrous posts.

      • john byatt says:

        His first comment on Lu

        Mark says:
        May 31, 2013 at 7:35 am
        I’m not sure how off topic stuff works here so let me know if this is verboten….

        But,

        How funny would it be if this turns out to be true..

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132443.htm

        All the time spent on CO2 and we’d solved the problem 30 yrs ago.

        from the paper “What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined ”

        yet now he states that ““I’ve said many times that a trend less than 15yrs means nothing”.”

        possibly did not read it?

      • Mark says:

        “so you are retracting your mostly negative since 2002 comment, I would if I were you.”

        No. The trend since 2002 is negative. I didn’t retract that, I just pointed out that I never suggested that fact was important. I only ever mentioned it because you had made the opposite assertion – that it was strongly positive and thought that that, in and of itself, blew Lu out of the water. Error 1.

        “so knowing that Lu’s paper was crap, as you now concede you still offered it as, if this paper is true” when you put it up,”

        I never said anything one way or the other about the accuracy of the Lu paper. I only ever said it would be funny if it turned out to be true. Error 2.

        I haven’t conceded, nor do I know, that Lu’s paper is “crap”. Refer above. I have no opinion one way or t’other and have never expressed an opinion one way or t’other. Error 3.

        “contradicting yourself”
        I haven’t contradicted myself because I never made any comment about the importance or accuracy of Lu’s statement concerning post 2002 trends. I’ve only ever pointed out that your claims that post 2002 temps trends were positive is inaccurate. Error 4.

        “from the paper “What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined ”

        yet now he states….”

        Merely referring to the paper isn’t the same as endorsing it and most definitely isn’t the same as endorsing the minutia of it. Error 5.

        So many ‘errors’. Under different circumstances I’d be tempted to opine that you are an unmitigated, unprincipled liar, utterly incapable of admitting even the most mundane of mistakes. But, since the heretics in the group aren’t permitted such observations, I’ll just remain silent as to your ‘errors’.

    • I’ve been clipped too. Gosh, maybe the swarm has rejected me and I’ve not noticed. Marks’ faux outrage is chuckle worthy; all one has to do it look at his language in the fourth paragraph of his post to see self-contradiction in all its glory. I suppose his lack of self-awareness sits alongside his conspiracy theory nature as one of his charms. Bzzz.

  5. john byatt says:

    Looks like John Daley was a liar and a grub also,

    was Phil Jones a friend of Stephan ?

    karma, what a bitch

    http://www.john-daly.com/schneidr.htm

  6. john byatt says:

    Mark ” Schneider’s call for scientists to lie for the cause”

    what a deceitful, disgusting person you are to verbal one the the most respected scientists ever to have lived ,

    crawl back under your rock

    • Mark says:

      The brethren don’t like it when one of their high priests is exposed.

      • john byatt says:

        you pathetic little liar, I would give you strike two for that.

        your cause is collapsing around you and you have to lie, cheat and deny. you have nothing left .

        http://lh3.ggpht.com/-OODlgcXWW90/UaovGM0wcfI/AAAAAAAAU_s/NGH3rXsZ3ks/image%25255B5%25255D.png?imgmax=800

        you truly disgust me,whoever you are.

      • Mark says:

        Calm down John. A grown man having a tizzy-fit is so unedifying.

        ” Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest”

        Well Stephen was effective. But honest?

        Interestingly he was also effective when he was pushing the great ice age scare in the 1970s.

      • john byatt says:

        What a pathetic individual you are , cannot even accept you have misrepresented Schneider even when it is pointed out to you.

        then in your clutching at the straws of your own disonance you bring up a students paper as “pushing’

        Perhaps no man has been more misrepresented by the media in the scientific community than Schneider, and all because of one little paper he wrote back when he was still a student. TNR explains that while he was studying plasma physics at Columbia and moonlighting at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (ah, sounds just like my college career), “he co-authored an article for Science arguing that the warming effect caused by rising amounts of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere would be swamped by the cooling effect caused by aerosol pollution like dust and smoke.” That was in 1971.
        So essentially, this paper formed the basis for what became popularly known as global cooling–the idea pointed to by climate change deniers as evidence that global warming today is just a over-hyped, big-government power grab. The thing is, that paper was debunked long ago–it turns out that “they neglected to account for the fact that aerosols were regional while CO2 was global”–which wildly threw off the calculations.
        Schneider accepted the critique, realized he’d made a major error, and continued on to do some of the most important work in climate science in his field:
        in addition to his work as Professor of Biological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford, he has been heavily involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body tasked with assessing the climate risks facing the planet. (Its most recent report, in 2007, concluded that most of the twentieth-century increase in global average temperatures was “very likely” due to human activities, and that world temperatures could rise between 1.1 and 6.4
        Along the way, a funny thing happened. Some of the most prominent climate change deniers in the media dug up Schneider’s old paper–the first, error-ridden one–and started proclaiming that global cooling was coming again. Famous conservative writer George Will led the charge.
        Now, Schneider’s paper has become one of the most cited papers by global warming deniers–even though it has been debunked years ago, and even its author is a vocal climate action proponent. Read the full fascinating story in an interview with the man himself over at Times New Republic.

        pathetic

      • zoot says:

        Interestingly he was also effective when he was pushing the great ice age scare in the 1970s.

        Citation required. (Hint: not from Watts, Codling, etc etc etc)

      • Ah, more tabloid journalese. It almost always means it’s wrong. Mark is. Deliberate?

      • Mark says:

        “I have cited many examples of recent climatic variability and repeated the warnings of several well-known climatologists that a cooling trend has set in-perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age-and that climatic variability, which is the bane of reliable food production, can be expected to increase along with the cooling.” Stephen Schneider, The Genesis Strategy, (New York: Plenum Press, 1976),

        1976…I think he’d left school by then. I think at that time he was still trying to work out if he wanted to be effective or honest. We all know which side he finally came down on. Very effective advocate was SS.

      • john byatt says:

        keep the lies coming mark, we expose you every time as a propagator of distortion

        http://themigrantmind.blogspot.com.au/2009/12/old-failed-prediction-of-global-warming.html

      • Nick says:

        That’s probably a quote mine from Mark. Let’s see the text around that paragraph for context. In the meantime…

        Oh yes, Schneider was doing a review of scientific views of the state of the climate at the time.

        Schneider was not personally endorsing any particular outcome. He was relaying ideas from others as well as his own.

        On ya, Mark! Another shitty quote mine from Mr Integrity/Humpty Dumpty.

      • Mark says:

        Oh well, Nick, if Bill Connolly thinks SS was misrepresented then that’s good enough for me. After all we all know that Connolly is a man of the highest ethics….just ask Wikipedia. And I wouldn’t let a little thing like his admission that he hadn’t actually read the book cloud my judgement.

        Struth you guys are gullible.

      • Nick says:

        Have you read the book,Humpty? Or got your vision of it from a ratbag blog quote mining from from Julian Simon’s quote mining? Connolly’s skim was the most I could find so far,and as he was a working scientist at BAS I tend to find him more credible than TV weathermen,fake lawyers,journalists and certifiable wingnuts.

        You have not read the book,Mark…

        Struth, you’re transparent,gullible and with pants aflame.

  7. unclepete says:

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OYbzTY6ClriN5LbKgdZ02HuDrg3YgL_sbSet0O2Qnx4/edit

    Yes we can generate electricity without belching CO2 into the air

    • john byatt says:

      It is a bit ignorant of peter to blame the greens voters, as they only make up about ten percent of the population,
      Australians are about 50/50 on the question of nuclear,so you have far more coalition/labor voters to convince than green voters

      I know a few green activists who are not against nuclear.

      The whole of the Gympie region could be powered by one small underground reactor for a cost of about $2000 per household.

      Barry Brooks brave new climate is a blog worth following.

      to me, blaming the greens is a cop out. We even had letter to the editor going on about how green vegetarians are to blame for the live export problems in Indonesia

      I know three vegetarians, all coalition voters.

  8. john byatt says:

    for mark, just back from an enjoyable birthday party

    Mark says:
    June 1, 2013 at 4:43 am
    Atta boy John…never admit an error. Just brazen it out. And the swarm will avert their eyes so they can pretend not to notice you screwed up. But I’ll drop it now….even I’m embarrassed for you.

    both Lu and you claim that it has been cooling since 2002, what is your evidence ?

    • BBD says:

      john byatt

      You may well have see the recent update to the NODC 0 – 2000m OHC data. JHS posted the link a few days ago IIRC.

      A big rise for JFM 2013 and a strong upward trend since 2005.
      Mark should take a look at the coloured lines in the pretty picture (especially the red one) and consider what he understands by the term “cooling”.

      • john byatt says:

        Talking only of surface temperature BBD, no one in there right mind would use one year temp data alone to claim warming or cooling, it is just as ignorant to claim ten years .
        ten years of data is not enough to claim warming or cooling as Lu has done, he has displayed his lack of understanding.
        We have an AGW signal trend of about 0.17DegC per decade with yearly noise of about .0.2/0.3DegC.

        Statistical significance comes about when the warming or cooling cannot be explained through natural variation alone.(noise)
        Foster & Rahmstorf 2011 removed the noise and found the clear signal that the warming of the surface continues as per the modelling.
        Lu’s paper is nonsense unless he has removed the noise, which he hasn’t.

      • Has the NOAA data been Wattsified yet? If the data has been adjusted Willard needs it raw. If the data is raw he needs it error corrected. And if he gets them both then he denies its collection is possible. Just checking.

    • Mark says:

      “both Lu and you claim that it has been cooling since 2002, what is your evidence?”

      What Lu says is up to him. I never made such a claim. But you know that don’t you?

      Recap:
      You said Lu was wrong because “surface temperature trend last decade HadCrut3 was 1.5DegC. ie from 2002″.

      I pointed out that that just wasn’t true.

      You then said that indeed it wasn’t HadCrut3 but HadCrut4 that had this big positive trend (“since 2002 not negative”).

      I then pointed out that wasn’t true either.

      You then, in effect, said “shut up” and completely changed the nature of your original assertion without the slightest indication of embarrassment and proceeded to tell me what a fool I was for not understanding that when you were talking about post-2002 trends you really meant to talk about the fact that “The ten years to August 2012 were warmer than the previous 10 years by 0.15ºC,”.

      Of coarse I (nor Lu for that matter) said anything about that. I was simply pointing out that your claims about trends were a mega-fail and the fact tht you’ve now sought to change the subject shows that you know that’s true. But as usual you don’t admit the error and the swarm pretend not to notice it either. Pathetic isn’t a strong enough word.

      • john byatt says:

        you claimed mostly negative and never 1.5C/C looking at SKS graph
        what does negative mean

        Table 1: Warming rates in °C/decade for 1979-2010, and lag in months, for each of the five temperature records and each of the three exogenous factors. Numbers in parentheses are standard errors in the final digits of the estimated values.

        foster and rahmstorf have the trend at over 1,5DegC right up to 2010

        then you ignore that the hadcrut projection from 1975 (trend) extended to 2012 was spot .

        trend is positive. your claim of mostly negative is twaddle

      • Mark says:

        John,

        I just don’t know…are you just too thick to understand this or are just too gutless to admit you were wrong. Or both :?

        Lu’s original comment was ““What’s striking is that since 2002, global temperatures have actually declined.”

        It was this that you thought you could disprove as follows:
        “surface temperature trend last decade HadCrut3 was 1.5DegC. ie from 2002” (emp. added).

        When I pointed out HadCrut3 wasn’t negative from 2002 you then tried to wiggle out by saying it was HsadCrut 4. You then confirmed you were talking post 2002 :

        “Also the difference between Hadcrut3 and 4 are in hundreths of a degree, so 3 will also have a similar trend….ie since 2002 not negative” (emp. added)

        Now, instead of just saying “oops” , you’re suddenly talking 1975 this and 1979-2010 that. Just so childish.

        I don’t really care that you are this shallow.

        But what I do find really interesting in terms of the group dynamic is the way the swarm have averted their eyes from your balls-up. If Eric or I or any other heretic said the sun rose at 6:51 today instead of 6:50 the swarm would be shouting to a man about the unforgivable error. But when one of their own displays utter stupidity like your posts, they pretend its not happening. Not a single murmur that you are of beam here. Nothing. Protect the group at all costs.

        Its a really interesting dynamic. Clearly Schneider isn’t the only one who thought that honesty was a ‘flexible’ commodity.

      • john byatt says:

        You said Lu was wrong because “surface temperature trend last decade HadCrut3 was 1.5DegC. ie from 2002″
        Yes , that is correct it was

        The ten years to August 2012 were warmer than the previous 10 years by 0.15ºC,”.
        Yes that is correct it was

        what a coincidence,

        not having much luck getting your global cooling nonsense going, greenhouse effect seems to be ignoring you,

        your mostly negative claim clearly comes from your idiotic looking year to year,

      • john byatt says:

        The swarm as you call everyone here who does not agree with your bullShi* concentrate on the the accelerating warming of the ocean over the last decade,

        the research shows that you do not even to have to include that to find the Surface increase
        the OHC data just makes you look more absurd than you are if that is possible

      • john byatt says:

        correction “:global temperature increase

      • BBD says:

        Classic denier cant.

        Mark – look at the 0 – 2000m OHC data as I have already suggested above. Stop the noise about atmospheric temperature. Only those with a weak grasp of physical climatology bang on about short term trends in atmospheric temperature as if they were in some way informative.

        For the nth time: the majority of the energy accumulating in the climate system as a result of radiative imbalance is in the oceans, where we measure it as increasing OHC.

        Look at the three-month mean (red). Note the big jump over JFM 2013.

        The measurements unequivocally demonstrate that the climate system continues to warm much as expected. Short term variability in the rate of atmospheric warming are irrelevant on the centennial scale.

        Denialist misrepresentations of this topic are tiresome and wrong. Give it a rest, Mark.

  9. zoot says:

    Can they be made without some pollution?

    Yes.

    I believe you’re confusing waste products with pollution.
    Better spend some more time with your ESL teacher.

  10. unclepete says:

    This is all very interesting , and I would love to discuss further over a pint or 2 with all of you. But nobody has the right to damage my and my children’s biosphere.

    • Mark says:

      “But nobody has the right to damage my and my children’s biosphere.”

      Does that include the beer manufacturers?

    • Free pollution is the right of every red blooded free thinking corporation. Their shareholders must be rewarded. You and your children are merely collateral damage to the god of free (and subsidised) enterprise. Consider yourself fortunate.

      • Mark says:

        Ever tried making an omelette without breaking the egg?

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        @ Mark.

        That phrase was used by Stalin himself to wave away the mass deaths his policies caused. Just saying…

      • Mark says:

        “That phrase was used by Stalin…”

        Yes, I thought it appropriate given my earlier post.

        I think more attributed to Stalin. There’s no good evidence he said it. Also attributed to Chamberlain and Disraeli(?).

        But the point is that some pollution is the legitimate price of economic activity. I’m not so sure that 7million deaths is the legitimate price of collectivisation.

        I just find it spectacularly unreflective to complain about some pollution while enjoying the benefits of of western civilisation. Sitting in front of a PC, power, lighting, heat, the odd pint. Where do all those things come from? Can they be made without some pollution?

        It would be a very different world if these moralists got their way and eliminated pollution. And they’d be the first to whine about it.

      • But you seem to make an omelette by defecating in everyone’s farm.

        Where do you get your inane comparisons from? Is there a mandatory text of wingnuttery in your curriculum.

  11. Mark says:

    When you are as prolific as Orwell, people will inevitably be able to find or interpret something that suborns you into their way of thinking.. For example, I’ve seen “Shooting an Elephant” held out as a paean to the whites man’s burden, praise for imperialism, an attack on the notion of white man’s burden, anti-imperialistic and a cry for better conservation. The guy is so well thought of that everyone wants him on their side.

    But 1984 as an environmental tract? Now that’s a stretch. There is no need to over-read the squalor, poverty and degradation of the people and economy in Oceania. By the mid 1940’s it was well understood that central control of the economy inevitably leads to a failed economy, poverty and environmental neglect.Orwell was just painting the picture of what life under Ingsoc would inevitably look like. There is every reason to think that Orwell was mightily influenced in these views by Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’ which also argued that economic failure is inevitable under totalitarianism.

    Ingsoc doesn’t set out to impoverish the people. Stalin’s programmes didn’t either. But they do because the welfare of the people is secondary to the ’cause’. It was very clear early in the process that Stalin’s Collectivisation was a failure. But the process continued and the people further oppressed because ‘the cause’ supersedes the results. The ideologue believes so much in ‘the cause’ that, when it becomes clear it is a failure, they simply double-down. When collectivisation failed, the party didn’t reverse course. Thy blamed others (the Kulaks) and increased the oppression. Russia, a food exporter for 200 yrs, has never been so since. Orwell (and Hayek) understood and this was part of the warning that encompasses 1984.

    The lesson here for the environmental movement and those forced to live with it, is the power of ‘the cause’ and the danger of ‘the cause’s zealot. People have an innate desire to be part of something bigger than themselves and with the decline of religion and communism, environmentalism offers that greater cause.

    But the problem is that the cause becomes paramount. Its not hard to go from the “greatest moral challenge of our times”, to Schneider’s call for scientists to lie for the cause, to Hamiliton’s suggestion that democracy may need to be suspended for the cause. Its easy to understand why the Hockey Team thought that their virtuous cause justified playing fast and loose with the peer review system and seeking to destroy careers. Jones’ joy at the death of John Daly isn’t so hard to fathom when you see it as the death of an opponent of ‘the cause’, an opponent of the greater good.

    Of coarse, the opponents of the cause aren’t just philosophically opposed. They become the enemy. They are venal. They are liars. Potentially they need to be tried, shut down…all in the service of the cause.

    Unfortunately, and uncharacteristically for those who adhere to the cause, they need to learn to accept the decision of the democratic process. But for too many of them, saving the world from itself is too important to let a mere thing like prosperity, democracy and freedom stand in the way.

    1984 is a warning against absolutism and totalitarianism. But socialists don’t start out as totalitarians. Lenin didn’t always believe in the Dictatorship of the People. They come to it slowly as they come to realise that their fondest desires for the future can’t be achieved except by imposition. There are too many in the green movement who put ‘the cause’ above all else.

    • Instead his dystopia lies in multinational corporate power. He’d laugh at the irony – and you.

      • Mark says:

        It probably wouldn’t hurt to read the book before making unsupported assertions

      • It probably wouldn’t hurt if you’d asked if I’d read the book before making unsupported assertions. I’ll help you. I have. I have also studied Eric Blair. You show yourself up as doubleplusungood.

      • Mark says:

        and yet you think the book is about ” multinational corporate power.” Go figure.

      • Are your misinterpretations down to nature or nurture?

        Orwell’s warning was of an England ruled by a totalitarian communist regime. Instead what we have is rule by an alignment of corporate interests. Were he alive he’d chuckle at how his dystopian view turned out.

        Back to Mark for more brain belches.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      “But they do because the welfare of the people is secondary to the ’cause’. It was very clear early in the process that Stalin’s Collectivisation was a failure. But the process continued and the people further oppressed because ‘the cause’ supersedes the results. The ideologue believes so much in ‘the cause’ that, when it becomes clear it is a failure, they simply double-down.”

      The danger of all ideologies, including fascism and yes – extreme free market fundamentalism.

      If you want to see the product of such extremism, look at the world economy. Also look at the failure of austerity measures.

    • Nick says:

      Schneider did not call for “lying for the cause”…that is a lie in itself. WTF is your ’cause’,Mark? Is it promoting International Saying Anything The F**K I Want No Matter Its Untruthfulness Day?

      • Mark says:

        “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

        International Saying Anything The F**K I Want No Matter Its Untruthfulness Day? I haven’t come across that one. But I can see you are rather agitated about it. Perhaps you should concentrate on “Hug Day” instead.

      • john byatt says:

        are you incapable of comprehending ” the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

        your claim that Schneider was calling for scientist’s to lie for a cause is a disgusting
        piece of propaganda

        “the real liar here is mark not Schneider, who spent his life calling for honesty.

      • Nick says:

        You’ve backed my point with the transcript.

        You are a liar,Mark.

        And oblivous to the fact it seems!

        Also oblivious to the fact that the passage of time has cleared a lot of the uncertainties,making Schneiders’ rumination on communication problems mainly of historical interest. Though it is ever current as an idiot test for rejectionists,it seems…

        No hugs for you.

  12. john byatt says:

    eric “As for the “harm” that CO2 is doing? Regardless of who is right about the long term consequences, the consequences to date have been beneficial, as this new paper from GRL demonstrates (h/t WUWT).

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50563/abstract

    we do not deny this eric but you deny the increasing extreme events over recent decades,

    so the long term consequences as predicted are already occurring, you cannot see the extremes for the trees?

    • Eric Worrall says:

      US tornado landfalls are at a record low. There have been a number of extreme snowfall events, but trying to link late winters and extreme snowfall to “global warming” is a joke that is wearing a bit thin.

      • That’s not true, Eric. Go check NOAA again. I posted it last week.

      • Nick says:

        ‘tornado landfalls’? you’re mixing up hurricane landfalls,and tornado numbers.

        As JHS says,we sorted that out last week with official data that cannot be disputed. Tornado numbers [all classes] are on the rise probably because of better observational tools. Severe tornadoes are a subclass of what is already an ephemeral and highly variable weather extreme,and seem to have been more frequent pre mid 1970s.but that may also bee because of observational refinement.

        As for US landfalling hurricanes,you can get lucky. There is not enough data,not enough duration of observation to find anything meaningful from landfallingness. Landfalling is a subset of total hurricanes

        Extreme snowfall links to GW have been explained to you many times. That you see that as a joke tells us more about your inability to follow technical details. Simply, potential for ‘wetter’ atmosphere is enhanced by GW,warmer oceans have greater evaporative potential, wandering jetstreams bring cold and warm air together. So more moisture is available at times in a warmer atmosphere that is still at an ideal for snow development [cold,but not too cold]=more snow. And when it is too warm for snow,more intense,often unseasonal, rain events..as observed recently in Melbourne, in the Pilbara and Kimberley, in Germany,in Buenos Aires,in the US mid west and north…

      • john byatt says:

        had a giggle at tornado landfalls, eric should develop a postage stamp app, everything he knows about agw,

  13. Eric Worrall says:

    Mike, I wish you could see how ironic this piece seems to me.

    You’re worrying about a “1984” style scenario – the triumph of collective totalitarianism over individual freedom and expression – yet at the same time, from my perspective, you are doing everything in your power to make it happen.

    You cannot encourage the imposition of a deluge of rules and regulations, setting up imaginary markets, new intrusive taxes and regulation, however well intentioned, to try to force the market to adopt your solution to energy use, without a major extension of government authority.

    Would strictly regulated energy use bring us to the totalitarian hopelessness of “1984”? Of course not. But any significant extensions of government authority is a step in the wrong direction – it brings us a little closer to that ugly, eventually inevitable point in time when democracy fails, when some ambitious bureaucrat will find a way to snuff out any remaining mechanisms for restraint of their authority.

    The worst thing about this risky rise in regulation is there is a solution which would bring you closer to your goal – radical reduction of CO2 emissions – without the need for significant extensions of state power. And that is for the state to get out of our way – to remove regulatory obstacles to building cheap, passive safe nuclear power stations. Cheap nuclear power would displace fossil fuel usage overnight – providing people could be persuaded to accept that it was safe, providing you guys made a genuine effort to undo decades of green, anti-nuclear propaganda.

    (Google “Fukishima Monbiot” – for an interesting perspective on this issue)

    As for the “harm” that CO2 is doing? Regardless of who is right about the long term consequences, the consequences to date have been beneficial, as this new paper from GRL demonstrates (h/t WUWT).

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50563/abstract

    • john byatt says:

      here is another interesting perspective

      http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130529_AmericanParty.pdf

      Unfortunately, proponents of nuclear power or renewables, in promoting their preference,
      usually attack the other. This helps the fossil fuel industry, but is detrimental to our children’s
      future. Given the urgency of phasing out CO2 emissions, we need both nuclear and renewables.
      In the long run, one may win out over the other, but this is no time for mutual destruction.
      Solar power and wind power have moved smartly through RD&D in recent years and are
      beginning to provide significant amounts of electricity, the biggest success story being Germany.
      In the decade 2001-2011 Germany increased the non-hydroelectric renewable energy portion of
      its electricity from 4% to 19%, with fossil fuels decreasing from 63% to 61% (hydroelectric
      decreased from 4% to 3% and nuclear power decreased from 29% to 18%). Germany’s
      renewable energy is continuing to increase (but the fact that Germany is building new lignite
      power plants is disconcerting as regards their expectations for fossil fuel phase-out).
      Nuclear power has demonstrated a capacity for rapid expansion, e.g., in the decade 1977-1987,
      France increased nuclear power production 15-fold, the nuclear portion of electricity increasing
      from 8% to 70%. That was 2nd-generation technology, light-water reactors that use only about
      1% of the energy in the nuclear fuel, leaving nuclear waste with a lifetime of millennia. Reactors
      planned today (mostly 3rd generation, light-water technology) include improvements (such as
      convective cooling that can operate without external power, thus avoiding the basic problem
      faced by the Fukushima reactorsb
      ), but they still leave most of the fuel as long-lived “waste”.
      Expansion of nuclear power thus depends on introduction of 4th generation technology

      Hansen

      and eric was claiming that Hansen was anti renewable?

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Thanks John – worth the read.

        Also recall, Bill McKibben is an advocate for nuclear.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I didn’t say Hansen was anti nuclear, at least not after I read the WUWT article below – I recall a discussion a few months ago, in which I provided evidence that Hansen was a supporter of nuclear power:-

        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/02/james-hansen-pushes-nuclear-power-as-saving-more-lives-than-it-has-harmed-with-new-study/

        Since we both accept nuclear power, why do you waste your political capital antagonising us with advocacy of renewables? Renewables are utterly unacceptable to us – it doesn’t matter whether you think we are wrong, or even whether you understand our objection. We can and will block renewables programmes for the foreseeable future.

        So instead of wasting your time, wasting the planet’s time, in a futile effort to convince us we are wrong about renewables, work with us – throw your full support behind nuclear, try to build bridges instead of antagonising us, work with us, to push solutions we both find acceptable, to break the deadlock which is preventing meaningful decarbonisation of the economy.

        Together we might be able to achieve what you have not, what you cannot, achieve by yourselves.

      • Phew. If Watts backs it we know it is nonsense. Glad Eric clarified that.

    • Eric Blair, as a lifelong democratic socialist, was very aware that those on the extreme left were a risk. He’d be quaffing a pint, and laughing to himself, at his own misdiagnosis and that the risk, and the reality, was corporates run the world, lobbying for their own legislation, ignoring democratic structures.

      But Eric’s happy. So that’s ok then.

      And every single time he cites Watts he demonstrates his lack of rigour. Watts time was up after his Glenn Beck airtime. He outed himself as a fool. It was a few years ago. Do keep up.

    • BBD says:

      Eric says:

      But any significant extensions of government authority is a step in the wrong direction – it brings us a little closer to that ugly, eventually inevitable point in time when democracy fails, when some ambitious bureaucrat will find a way to snuff out any remaining mechanisms for restraint of their authority.

      And JHS says:

      the risk, and the reality, was corporates run the world, lobbying for their own legislation, ignoring democratic structures.

      Many here will agree that we have the best democracy money can buy, but the interesting bit is watching Eric attempt to present himself as the Guardian of Democracy.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Your solution to excessive, corrupt government power is to extend the range of powers available for politicians to abuse?

        We on the right have no illusions about the venality of most politicians – our solution to curbing their excesses is to limit the scope of what they can actually do. We can’t stop the harm, but we can try to limit it.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          What is needed is transparency – from reporting government expenditure, to disclosing campaign funds. Personally, I think more openness is needed. Regulation where needed, transparency in nearly every instance (excepting genuine national security concerns).

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I agree transparency is important, but small government is also simple government, comprehensible government, manageable government.

        You’re a software expert aren’t you Mike? First principle of software is keep it simple – the more complex a system is, the more likely it is to malfunction. The principle applies to other activities than software development.

        • Watching the Deniers says:

          Certainly, keeping things simple is a basic design principle. And from a systems thinking perspective I agree. But this is where I think the debate on climate – and within politics generally – is breaking down.

          I call it the fallacy of “Every problem needs a hammer”. Advocates for more regulation and big government suggest all you need is one hammer: more regulation. Advocates for the free market suggest all you need is one hammer: no/limited government.

          I think the policy response is situational, and needs to be evidence based. The financial crisis is a clear case of self regulation failing. No body was on the beat: we’re all suffering the consequences. But there are times when I agree government is intrusive and it’s role should be limited. As good policy, as sound management and to allow individual liberty.

          I’ve read some good conservative suggestions on a carbon tax being revenue neutral: reducing personal income taxes but pricing the cost of externalaties of CO2 and other pollution.

          At present those costs are socialized. You and I pay for them via tax, the producer is the free rider. I’m wary of trading schemes as they can get distorted. A revenue neutral tax is simpler to administer and involves less regulation and less administration: critically it allows the individual to make informed choices about their purchasing decisions. The cap-and-trade bill voted down ended up being an ugly mess.

          My own view: the “left/right” divide in politics is meaningless. My view is: what is the best evidence based policy?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Yes, but we have different views of the relative risk and reward of different potential solutions – so what may appear rational to you may appear dangerously interventionist to me and my fellow travellers.

        The solution is surely to find a way to navigate this thicket of objections and prejudices, to find a solution which delivers results without exciting enough opposition to block progress.

      • Your solution to excessive, corrupt corporate power is to extend the range of powers available for corporations to abuse?

      • BBD says:

        Eric writes:

        The solution is surely to find a way to navigate this thicket of objections and prejudices, to find a solution which delivers results without exciting enough opposition to block progress.

        I of course agree with Mike. Lack of transparency inhibits the proper functioning of a democracy.

        In the specific instance of climate policy, it allows vested interest to warp public policy using large sums of money while hiding behind a curtain of anonymity and indeed, secrecy.

        The reason these vested interests hide and act in secret is exactly the reason they must be forced to behave transparently. Or democracy fails.

      • And more sordid tobacco funding for the right. Eric’s claims go up in smoke, http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/05/tobacco-dark-money-norquist-koch-brothers.

  14. unclepete says:

    Great writing, I shall reward you by me downing a glass of good Scotch tonite ,on behalf of Hitch, whilst I praise your skill.

  15. zoot says:

    Mike, Hitchens wrote “God is not Great”, Dawkins wrote “The God Delusion”.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      He did, fixed ;)

    • zoot says:

      Now that my inner pedant is satisfied, let me say nice post. You make some very telling points. And it ties in with my current image of Rupert as Big Brother and News Limited as the Ministry of Truth.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Thanks – and I very much appreciate the inner pedant. Everyone needs an editor, me especially ;)

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