‘The Ecologist’, widely considered to be the most influential environmental magazine, has published an article which asserts that using machines that require “fossil fuels” (for example, petrol in your car, or gas for your stove) is “morally comparable” with owning slaves.
The article, entitled “Climate Change: We Are Like Slave Owners” bases its case on two separate but linked arguments:
First, slaves and fossil-fuelled machines play(ed) similar economic and social roles: ‘energy slaves’ (machines powered by fossil fuels) now do the work in our homes, fields and factories, which used to be carried out by slaves and servants in the past . . .
Second, in differing ways, suffering resulting (directly) from slavery and (indirectly, through Climate Change) from the excessive burning of fossil fuels are now morally comparable. When we burn oil or gas at a rate that exceeds what the ecosystem can absorb, we contribute to global warming, which in turn contributes to droughts, floods or hurricanes. These climatic events cause suffering to other human beings, today and in the future. They contribute to crop failures and put some people at risk of falling into debt bondage, a condition similar to traditional slavery.
The Ecologist, 29th Dec. 2010. Climate Change: We Are Like Slave Owners
This condemnation of machinery, on what are extremely tenuous grounds is a favourite topic for The Ecologist magazine, which has been arguing for the abolition of labour-saving devices since it was first published.
An article in 1977 by its founding editor, Edward Goldsmith (brother of the noted corporate raider and industrialist, Sir James Goldsmith, who financed the magazine) discussed phasing out machines and how it could be done. Goldsmith argued that “The consumer goods we wish to phase out must simply be removed from the market“. The new ecologically-oriented society Goldsmith envisioned would not need such things:
To suggest that dish-washing machines and other domestic appliances should be phased out would meet with instant opposition. These [machines] are undoubtedly needed in a family of but two or three people and in which both husband and wife must go out to work. They would become quite unnecessary, however, once the family had become re-established and eight to ten people once more inhabited the same house
The Ecologist, Vol. 7, No. 4, May 1977, De-industrialising Society
Goldsmith fantasized that environmental disasters and general alienation would lead to a general disenchantment with modern society and that would provide the opportunity to put these plans into action:
At this point panic will set in and people will grope about frantically for an alternative social philosophy with an alternative set of solutions. The most attractive is likely to be the most radical – the one which provides the best vehicle for expressing the reaction to the value of industrialism.
This phasing out of machinery was seen by The Ecologist as part of a “rural revolution” for society, and they were particular excited by the example of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
In an 1975 article Robert Allen (later Head of Publications and a Senior Policy Advisor for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the IUCN) defended the Khmer Rouge against the “distortions” that had been appearing about them in the media, arguing that the Khmer Rouge had to force the sick out of the hospitals and into the fields otherwise there would be too many “exceptions” to their program of agrarian communism. The Ecologist saw in the ‘Year Zero’ program of the Khmer Rouge an exciting possibility that could be copied in the West as well. Of course, people in Western society had been so brainwashed by consumerism that they would have to be ‘forced to be free’:
If Cambodia succeeds in forging a rural economy, it will force us to appraise the prison of industrialism. Most men and women today are slaves who if offered their freedom would reject it, refusing to spend the time that freedom requires.
The Ecologist, Vol. 5, No. 6, July 1975. The City is Dead
The article ended with The Ecologist congratulating the Khmer Rouge and the people of Cambodia on their approach:
They deserve our best wishes, our sympathy, and our attention. We might learn something.
The Ecologist, Vol. 5, No. 6, July 1975. The City is Dead.
The Ecologist magazine was founded in the late 1960s by Edward Goldsmith and funded by his brother, Sir James Goldsmith the noted corporate raider, industrialist and financier. The editorial staff came from the Soil Association’s Mother Earth magazine following the death of its editor in 1963, the well known fascist Jorian Jenks, formerly Oswald Moseley’s Secretary of Agriculture for the British Union of Fascists (1).
1) Graham Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Moseley and the Resurrection of British Fascism After 1945 . (I.B. Taurus & Co: London, 2007) P. 65.