Environmental activist Bill McKibben played an integral role in the White House's decision to block the Keystone XL pipeline. Now, Mckibben has a new project: Get universities to divest from fossil fuels.
McKibben's website makes his case clearly enough: "We can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon and stay below 2°C of warming -- anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth ... Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they're planning to burn it all -- unless we rise up to stop them."
This is a fool's errand. Fossil fuels provide over 80 percent of the energy used in the United States, and they're expected to continue to provide the bulk of our power for decades. But McKibben's environmentalism has never been about what's practical -- or effective. There's a myopic radicalism underlying his agenda, which is pretty obvious from his own public statements -- often a bit too sincere for his own good.
McKibben has explicitly said that "I don't think everyone can live a middle-class American lifestyle all over the world, including middle-class Americans ..."
This was his advice to the hundreds of millions of Americans that use their cars to commute to work: "If you carpooled [six miles per day], you'd have about three pounds of CO2 left in your daily ration -- enough to run a highly efficient refrigerator. Forget your computer, your TV, your stereo, your stove, your dishwasher, your water heater, your microwave, your water pump, your clock. Forget your light bulbs, compact fluorescent or not."
It gets worse. This the alternate food reality McKibben wants for America: "Local, labor-intensive, low-input agriculture." And this is how he sells it: "You'll be standing guard over your vegetable path with your shotgun, warding off the marauding gang that's after your carrots." Yes, seriously: A man that has heavy sway in the Obama White House wants you to drop that grocery bag and go load up on bullets and carrot seeds.
According to McKibben's twisted math, the poorer we are, the better for the planet, because "one-seventieth the income means one-seventieth the damage to the planet." And he doesn't just want to shrink our incomes. He's also looking to shrink the size of human civilization overall. As he's put it, his environmental vision means "the human population would need to get gradually smaller."
And to get to this Utopia our society will have to "develop an enormously powerful social taboo against 'progress' of the defiant kind -- a religious or quasi-religious horror at the thought of 'improved chickens' or large families."
No kids. No progress. No income. Working intensively in subsistence farming. Hiring militias to enforce anti-progress social norms.
McKibben is not alone. He's currently on a speaking tour with nonscientist Naomi Klein, who would like to end free trade and redistribute wealth "from the North to the South." That is, if there is any wealth left to redistribute.
Joining this fearsome duo is noted nonengineer Josh Fox. He wants to end all natural gas production in the United States. Thus, he would free the American people from the burdens of economic growth, low energy costs and employment.
Smart policy to combat global climate change is worth considering. But these radical, deeply uninformed activists are dehumanizing the 9 million-plus American workers employed by the fossil fuel industry. And their own words indicate that their alternate, "greener" future means less people, more poverty and global tyranny.
Jerry Rogers is president of Capitol Allies and founder of the Six Degrees Project, an independent, nonpartisan effort that promotes entrepreneurship, economic growth, and free-market ideals.