In a recent interview with The Browser magazine, uber-Warmist Mark Lynas discusses his favourite books and the importance of their message for the green movement. And his choice offers a fascinating insight into the warmist psyche.
On John Gray’s Straw Dogs which has “relentless pessimism” about humanity, something which appeals deeply to Lynas:
What I like about the book is the anti-humanism. The rejection of this idea we all have, that humanity is at the centre of the cosmos, which is a post-Christian thing. John Gray is an unreconstructed pessimist, particularly on environmental issues.
. . . He thinks that we are going to hell in a handcart and there is nothing that we can do about it. A bit like Lovelock’s later books. It’s just refreshing to read stuff where somebody isn’t desperately trying to claw some minor positive out of the situation. There is always the temptation in these books to say there are these horrible trends that are leading to a hellish fiery future but we can still do something about it.
Lynas’s other choices are pretty much the sort of middle-brow fare you might expect, like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, a melange of pseudo-intellectual ideas about geography affecting culture, society and development. If you like simplistic determinism, you’ll love the pat explanations that Diamond offers his readership. Of course, Diamond’s determinism only goes so far – in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, he appears to argue that we aren’t the product of our environment or geography, and we can alter our future. But then, intellectual consistency has never been a requirement amongst Greens.
Whilst some Greens are content to try to apply ecological observations to human society (e.g. evolution and Social Darwinism), Lynas also wants to go the other way, and apply pop-sociology theories to the natural world. Picking Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point book on how ideas spread through society, Lynas thinks we can apply this right across the board to environmental sciences:
In every single aspect of environmental science there is a tipping point. For example, take a coral reef eco-system. If you put in just a bit too much nitrogen and drive it past the tipping point, then all the coral dies. You get seaweed and algae everywhere. The eco-system can be relatively resilient and then cross the threshold and it will change into a different stage. The same thing is suggested for climate change. We can drive the system so far but then, if we cross a certain threshold which a lot of people (including me) think is some where around two degrees, we cross a tipping point, which will start things like the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and the release of large quantities of methane in Siberia.
The problem with this sort of facile idea is that again it’s a banality masquerading as an insight. Lynas observes that if you put “too much” nitrogen into a coral reef it will die. Well, yeah: that’s kind of the definition of “too much” isn’t it? We all need water to live, but “too much” water and we’ll drown. Or, as Lynas might put it, the amount of water will reach a crucial tipping point.
The thing I took from the interview, was that all five book choices were very much the sort of mass-market, pop-science pabulum that relies on painlessly inculcating a feeling of intellectual superiority in the reader, whilst being light and easily digestible. Take Lynas’s first choice, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This is the sort of thing you chortle over when you’re nine years old, but for a fully-grown man to be citing it as a favourite is frankly a bit disconcerting. It’s like meeting someone in their thirties who still watches Grange Hill.