Today, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter had an article on carbon neutralization written by Andreas Malm, a syndicalist who joined the newspaper’s cultural section a few years ago. In his article, Malm argues that the trade in carbon credits is nothing but a modern equivalent to the indulgence trade of the 16th century.
Using a recent report by Larry Lohmann to support his claims, Malm criticizes the idea of carbon neutralization, suggesting that neither planting trees nor offsetting carbon by for instance installing solar panels in Third World countries will do any good.
Though this topic may be too big for a blog post, the article by Malm and the underlying report by Lohmann once again persuaded me that so called “greens” are not in any way interested in finding pragmatic solutions to the environmental problems. Their agenda has a lot a more to do with creating a paradoxical sense of guilt while at the same time mustering support for future “radical action”.
I write “paradoxical” because these greens prophets fly around to the same environmental conferences as I do. They herald some quasi-mystical inner change of humanity which one day will bring about the “sustainable society”. Obsessed by “small-scale solutions”, “local knowledge” and “soft technology” they fail to see the urgent desire for an adequate living standard held by billions of people throughout Asia, Africa and South-America.
They want to turn the environmental problems which we are now facing, and especially the threat of climate change, into an ethical test of humanity. Fuelled by an almost utopian zeal they want to see a radical transformation of society, a dismantling of global capitalism and a return to their own highly romanticized images of the “organic society”.
Glossy as such utopian images may seem we have to recognize that we as a civilization are very young, we are just beginners. We have just played the game of “modernity” for a little more than two hundred years. The current environmental problems should not come as a surprise and they can also, most likely, be mitigated through radical technological innovation.
What we need is more time to learn about the human condition, we need to allow more generations to grow up in prosperity all over the world and discover their own desires, not the ones of a particular sub-group of Western intellectuals. We cannot simply “reverse modernity” and reject the enormous progress which has been made during the last centuries. Instead we should use the instrumental power of modernity and through conscious political action develop new technologies, “ride the Juggernaut” to speak with Anthony Giddens and start to build a cosmopolitan planetary civilization.