When I was a child, I fell in love with Nature. I explored and knew intimately the wild lands near my home — places full of enchantment, wonder, and a multitude of living beings. So it was with an inconsolable broken heart that I watched as they were bulldozed and paved over, all in the name of economic growth. For similar reasons, many in my generation were inspired to defend the natural world from the voracious human economy. We used to call this environmentalism.
Unfortunately, environmentalism today is unrecognizable to me. Now focused almost exclusively on carbon emissions, it calls for the continued destruction of Nature in the name of “green” energy.
Something is dreadfully wrong with this new environmentalism. What’s missing is love and affection for the living natural world — and empathy as it suffers from the sadistic assault of industrial capitalism. Without that love, nothing matters but humans and their desires, leading us to sacrifice more living beings on the altar of economics.
This subject is explored in a new book, “Bright Green Lies,” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and Max Wilbert. Well-researched and referenced, the book systematically examines the claims made by the unholy alliance of corporations and big environmental organizations that promise a pain-free path to a Wonder-world powered by renewable energy. Selling us comfort at the expense of the biosphere, they insist we can continue this way of life without any of the consequences. This is a lie.
The revolving door of moneyed interests has thoroughly co-opted the big environmental organizations, allowing market-based solutions to take the place of genuine environmental protection. This form of “environmentalism” enables corporations to define themselves as “environmentalists,” but fails to protect the natural world on which all of life is dependent.
The deception behind green energy is not unique. The authors cite the work of psychologist Robert Lifton, known for his insights into the most horrendous events of the 20th century. Lifton pointed out that before a mass atrocity can be committed, there must be a “claim to virtue”: we must convince ourselves that what we are doing is for the greater good. For example, Euro-Americans were not committing genocide of First Nations, they were “manifesting their destiny.” We aren’t furthering the destruction of the planet, we’re “saving it with renewable energy.”
Although “bright greens” recognize a wide range of environmental problems, they argue that climate change trumps them all — turning steps to reduce carbon into the “virtue” that justifies whatever environmental destruction accompanies those steps.
Bright greens claim that through technological innovation and market forces we can maintain all the material benefits we now enjoy without the horrors of the colonial, socio-economic system that they’re based on. Our exploitive economy is seen as a given, and Nature must conform to it. Disguised as saviors of the planet, the bright greens are actually working to save industrial capitalism.
The authors point out that climate change isn’t the only way humans are destroying the Earth, and using different fuels to power that destruction solves nothing. What’s more, wind, solar and biomass won’t resolve the climate crisis, and won’t even replace coal and oil as promised: they will only add to the mix of energy sources capitalism’s growth machine requires, and feed its insatiable need for new markets.
The book includes disturbing examples of what green-energy “solutions” actually require. For example:
• Mining, the massive expansion of which is required for renewables, polluted an estimated 27 billion gallons of water in the US in 2013 alone. The toxic tailings poison people, animals and the land wherever the mining is done. People have fled, been forcibly relocated, died or are suffering horrific diseases as a result.
• “Green” technologies require centralized authoritarian structures, like police and military to facilitate mining, confiscation of land, even slavery. The demand for lithium used in batteries is directly connected to the disruption of socio-political stability in lithium-rich Bolivia — about which battery mogul and billionaire Elon Musk bragged, “we can coup whoever we want.”
• It is projected that solar and wind will destroy more habitat than sprawl and fossil fuel energy combined by 2050.
Anyone concerned with social and environmental justice should be horrified. Is this really what we want?
There is another way.
The biosphere that all of life depends on is collapsing because of the exploitive, inherently unsustainable way of life to which we feel entitled. “Bright Green Lies” challenges our assumptions and our arrogance, inspires us to have the courage to face what we are doing, to grieve, and to work with Nature to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the entire living biosphere. The authors call for dramatic changes in our lifestyles and worldview, urging readers to consider what Nature is asking of us. Engaging our atrophied hearts, “Bright Green Lies” charts a path to a meaningful, healthy, and enriching way of life for all of us in the future.