DOOMER CHRONICLES: Why Won't The American Environmental Movement Fight Growth?
The Doomer Movement is growing and it’s showing up in more places under more names by more people.
The general concept of “Doomerism” is that humanity has pushed the Earth beyond its breaking point, beyond “Nine Planetary Boundaries” as described here on Wikipedia and elsewhere.
The concept was the central theme of the wildly famous film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore titled, “Planet of the Humans”. Inherent in parts of the Doomer Movement is a strong critique of the environmental movement, especially the mainstream American environmental movement which I will simplify by calling the “Big Greens”.
That critique is that the Big Greens are obsessed with technical fixes that support more growth, more profit for the technicians, more funding from Big Green foundations lurking behind the groups, while every environmental problem gets worse. What the Big Greens won’t touch is “growth” – economic growth and population growth – and those are the exact things that are making every environmental problem worse.
Consider this example: As gas prices reach record highs and oil companies make record profits, the U.S. is paradoxically producing more oil than ever. In fact, the U.S. is already the biggest oil-producing country in the world. At the same time, NOAA reports that Greenhouse Gases are trapping more heat than ever in history, CO2 is measured in the atmosphere to be its highest in history, and CH4 (methane) has also reached record levels.
What’s President Biden’s response? Drill more oil.
The latest discussion on this topic is on a podcast titled “The Collapse Chronicles” hosted by freelance journalist Sam Mitchell who interviews Dr. Jeremy Jimenez, described as a “Doomer-adjacent” professor of education at SUNY Cortland.
Their 5-minute conversation, here on Youtube, gets to the heart of the matter where Dr. Jimenez describes why trying to address climate change, rather than economic or population growth, is such fertile ground for Big Green environmental organizations as well as the mainstream political establishment in the U.S.:
“Climate change is the one problem that involves ‘more’. We can solve it by building more solar panels, by more carbon capture and storage, by shooting up sulfates in the stratosphere. We can solve it by inventing more stuff. It invites the idea that you can ‘do more stuff’ to solve the problem, and that way there’s more jobs, more careers, more inventions, and more public speaking. There’s more grants. The rest of environmental problems are like, ‘do less’”. … Climate change invites ‘business as usual’ deluding people to think that ‘businesses as usual’ and industrial development can address it.”
After a bit more conversation, host Sam Mitchell gets to the heart of the growth problem:
“They’re certainly never going to talk about demand-driven solutions rather than changing supply. We need to lower demands on the planet by lowering the number of units making demands on the planet. It’s all about supply, supply, supply and it’s just a given that there’s going to be 10 billion people on the planet. Nobody suggests we can approach this from a demand side by reducing the population.”
(For my own insertion into this debate, check out my 2021 interview with Doomer-Professor Bill Rees on #OvercomingOvershoot on EarthX TV.)
The Doomer Movement is alive on social media as well as in some smaller and edgier environmental groups and professorial discussion groups. What Doomerism mostly lacks, in a word, is “hope”, and that’s also one of the main critiques of the Big Greens, that they sell “hopium” that all we need to do is build, sell, invent, develop something to fix our environmental problems.
And that likely answers the question in the title of this post. The mainstream environmental movement won’t fight growth because it can’t promote building, selling, inventing, developing anything in the campaign to fight it. To actually protect and restore the environment, we have to stop building, selling, inventing, developing, and of course, procreating. We need less, not more, of us and our economic growth. And that’s a hard sell.