First Environmentalism – Then Socialism!


Written by Keith Goetzman

To the power brokers of America’s right, climate change poses a dire threat to business as usual. Environmentalism, in fact, is seen by many of them as a stalking horse for an even more sinister force: socialism. Progressive thinker Naomi Klein expertly dissects this dynamic in her Nation article “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” explaining why the average modern conservative is terrified silly by the prospect of confronting human-caused climate change:

Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative. …

Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.

Klein’s essay is well worth reading for anyone with an environmental consciousness who’s trying to understand why saving the planet sounds so damn scary to some people. I would say it undermines everything they believe in, but as Klein makes abundantly clear, they don’t believe in much of anything except preserving their own privileged, comfortable lifestyles.

After reading Klein’s piece, I didn’t have to go far to find someone willing to buttress her argument from the other side of the spectrum. James Delingpole, the London Telegraph reporter who set off the whole ridiculous “Climategate” imbroglio that allegedly exposed the climate hoax—but in fact did nothing of the sort—is now trotting out a book, Watermelons, apparently meant to capitalize on his hero status to climate-change deniers. He tells the libertarian magazine Reason, apparently without a trace of irony:

I call the book Watermelons because they’re green on the outside but red on the inside. After the Berlin Wall came down, the communist movement, the global leftist movement, was left in a bit of a quandary. They pretty much lost the economic argument. They needed somewhere else to go, and global warming has become the great proxy issue. It enables them to achieve many of the same aims as before but under a cloak of green righteousness. This book, although it is about global warming, is about something in fact much, much bigger than that. It is about a global takeover by fascism, communism, call it what you will; their aims are much the same. It is about control.

So, let’s review. If you’re concerned about the future of humanity and the natural world, and you accept the scientific experts’ consensus that we’re rapidly degrading the planet, and you believe we need to take immediate corrective steps, you’re basically a control freak trying to resurrect communism. Wow. I’m going to go for a walk in the woods and try to wrap my head around this one. Care to join me, comrade?

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


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Photo from scottfeldstein via flickr


Chloe Louise
Past Member 5 years ago

I'd rather be a Socialist than a Fascist Conservative. I hate Conservatism/Conservatives.

Nancy C.
Nancy Crouse7 years ago

I would much rather have a very left of centre government giving the people in a country some chance of democracy than a neo-con right wing facist government which sells out the country and its people like the slaves of yesteryear. I think it's time to put the proverbial banana peel under the proverbial corporate feet and watch them slip and fall beneath themselves. The neo-cons love getting government hand-outs but then immedialtely turn right around and call said the government meddling liberal elitists if they put forth a bill to protect the environment for the great good of humankind.
We should fear all multinational corporations because they are like leeches on the backs of the very people who really need some charitable grace from their own government.

Lauren Tebo
Lauren Tebo7 years ago

wow, scary. Thanks for sharing

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B7 years ago


Lee Witton
7 years ago

While corporations may be necessary, fascism is not the kind of government any countries peoples should aspire to be ruled by. America is a Republic ('power' is the 'people' who Vote for political leaders to legislate). That has been lost in this country. Corporations have become far too powerful and as we've seen with the U.S. Supreme Court Justices; the golden rule has been passed into law (those who have the gold, rule). Employees have the ability to contribute as individuals without a second, much more influential power, the corporation 'itself' entering into a political foray. Now a corporation is considered an individual who can exert as much influence as money will buy; and they're doing just that. This is not only a vile threat to Democracy, but may be the undoing of America and what this freedom loving country has represented throughout the world.

Penny C.
penny C7 years ago

Thanks for this.

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian7 years ago

First problem: If the excerpt here is representative of Klein's essay, then her analysis of conservatives is, as usual, totally wrong. It's not a fear of addressing environmental issues, but the belief that addressing them does not require that we "break every rule in the free-market playbook". They see attempts to address environmental issues specifically in the manner that Klein advocates as doomed to fail the environment, but effectively support socialism.

Second problem: The real meat of the original Climategate was ignored by most media. Forget the emails. I didn't even bother with them after seeing the programmer's log, "HARRY_READ_ME.txt". The guy who wrote the software used to make the predictions used by the IPCC was apparently shocked by the dreadful record-keeping and untrustworthy data he was told to use.
Here's a link to a summary, with links to the full file:

Danuta Watola
Danuta W7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

KS Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Hugh W.
.7 years ago

Corporations, even though they as a collective get blamed for everything, they are necessary. Go to any country that doesn't have corporations to rival the power of the national government and you will see real oppression, extreme corruption and a lack of concern for citizen's rights.

Sorry, this is more tangential to the conversation.