Zero carbon in the foreseeable is as daft as it is dangerous.

Depending on the extent to which social media has infused your life, a meme is a non-hereditary behaviour passed from one person to another through imitation, or a short video clip of a farting cat. Under either characterisation we’re currently testing the meme-guided life to destruction.

Increasingly, we’re emotionally airlifted to a destination, then we labour to deploy our rational selves to justify where we have landed. The flight we are now boarding in biblical numbers is the one scheduled for zero carbon. And it is not going to touch down anywhere near its advertised destination. Meanwhile, meme power induces us to believe that we’re progressing towards zero carbon.

Progress is always collaborative. It is never one person or singular group’s killer idea. The digital economy enables collaboration at a scale and pace previously unimaginable. Novel- and-     fast covid vaccines are a superb example of how fast and far we can move with our digital tailwind.

A darker aspect of the digital economy is its potential to globalise civil wars. Civil wars are the worst conflicts because, once escalated, they destroy our lived compromises and make enduring peace so hard without the subjugation or extermination of one of the participating tribes.

We had a powerful demonstration of how the information age can push civil conflicts across borders a decade ago with the Arab Spring. Persistent but varied instabilities and injustices across Arab societies suddenly coalesced in a shared meme-movement. The people knew they were unhappy and wanted better. Global digital platforms paved the way for instant cross-border revolution which metastasised into brutal inhumanity in some places.

We will see eco-terrorism and murder this decade.

A great example of meme-life is our current nascent civil wars – the culture, race and environment conflicts in Western societies. Like the Arab Spring, real concerns, instabilities and injustices underlie these causes which are strong and cross borders and continents. The vast majority of those who identify with them would not be able to begin to present solutions yet they vociferously proclaim that the “facts” unequivocally support their vibe.

Of these struggles the environmental conflict is the one that has the potential to be hypermedia-accelerated to a state whereby meme overwhelms our lived and accepted reality, driving fissures and failures that lead to outright conflicts.

There’s no question that pumping out carbon and other pollutants while exhausting and damaging our environment and biodiversity presents humanity with real catastrophe risk. How to quantify and manage that risk is unclear. The meme masters would have you believe it’s a simple choice. The question they pose is merely: do you have the morality to choose righteously?

The environmentalist meme of the moment is that the science on climate risk is settled and that we are living in a climate emergency. The imminence of catastrophe may prove true and an argument that it is already here can be made.

However, the scientific unequivocality of an immediate climate emergency is a dangerously explosive and emotive message with more downside than upside for today’s environmental activists. What if oil prices hit $200 next year, catalysing immediate global pressures and instabilities and the climate seems roughly similar as it did today? Or simply, ordinary people feel fatigued, complacent and increasingly disinterested in the boys and girls that cried wolf?

Our plan to do something entirely revolutionary and novel by replacing our main energy source within a few years is not rational.

The unequivocal but always-avoided truth is that human society at all levels of sophistication is an energy-based system. Free will, free time, education, art, technological advancement, and food abundance are privileges that can only be sustained by an available excess of energy.

All of human advancement is a story of better harnessing of energy. Never have we replaced an energy source. Rather, as our use of energy grows we just add a new even better source on top. Our plan to do something entirely revolutionary and novel by replacing our main energy source within a few years is not rational. It’s meme-pumped ideological thinking.

And the view that we can go backwards in time and energy to a mythical place of civilised low energy existence is pure fantasy. A very dangerous one where energy rationing, cheating and differentials create local and global violence. The requirement is to replace all the carbon energy we currently use, and then some.

Technology is not energy, be wary of the evangelists and charlatans who peddle that line. Sadly, we are quite gullible when it comes to the magic of technology now that it has moved well beyond our lay comprehension. No energy solution we have true sight of comes anywhere near the energy density and portability of oil, nor its massive energy return on investment.

Absent a technological revolution like no other in the space of a few years, none of the green energies can replace hydrocarbons. Anyone who claims differently has not committed to any serious system thinking around how human society can function. To proclaim a net-zero religiosity without wholesale systemic energy planning and investment is magical thinking on a scale never before seen or attempted. Any serious plan must include investment in, and management of, hydrocarbons to facilitate the transition.

Our surging environmental idealism could make The Inquisition appear scientifically rational.

The net zero meme is being religiously adopted by politicians, legislators and business. They are desperate to harness the power of the meme for short-term approval while being clueless to its consequences. Like the environmental militants they have magical views of energy and its role and do not have an executable plan for “System NetZero”. Nevertheless, they are setting targets and laws; in truth they are setting a trap.

It’s becoming more likely that we will experience an energy crisis soon. The size and consequence of this crisis will overwhelm the climate crisis meme for most people. None of us understand the science or long-term consequences either way but we will understand the immediate effects of an energy crisis and the attendant deep and painful personal costs it brings.

This is a road to real intra- and inter-societal conflict. The chances it moves from civil disobedience to internal or external wars is high. Our foes know this and for that reason the likes of China and Russia are intent on ensuring maximum energy supply to their economies and that means a lot of hydrocarbons. The more we embrace meme unreality, the more likely it is we desperately capitulate to hydrocarbon gorging in the next few years, to hell with the long-term.

Will we survive our meme surfing or is it our road to renewed serfdom?

The Outsider

The Outsider is a hedge fund investor and financial entrepreneur from a working class background in North East Scotland.

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3 Comments on “Environmentalism is a self-harming meme”

  1. This is a very bizarre piece of writing. I can’t work it out, one way or the other, though the final reference to ‘the road to serfdom’ (Hayek) makes it seem as if the anonymous author is a rightwing libertarian.

    Among other things, it’s not true that “Never have we replaced an energy source”. We replaced whale oil with natural gas, we replaced charcoal with coal, and Germany has replaced nuclear power with renewables.

    1. The author is a card carrying leftie I’ll have you know…shame on you for cheap shot ‘rightwing libertarian’ denunciation. Play the ball not the anonymous man. Most of us are capable of thinking outside politically mannered silos.

      So, to respond in kind…clearly you are not very serious about climate stuff beyond a bit of self promotion and enjoy magical thinking over dealing with the possible. I’m not going to sup from the same brown paper bag.

      Germany replaced some nuclear with renewables. It hasn’t replaced hydrocarbons to the extent that UK has as it is an industrial power with a great need for energy plus it does not have UK’s blessed wind dynamics (a lot of persistent wind and coastline). If carbon dependent imports or outsourced production is included hydrocarbon use would be much higher than current.

      In the case of Germany you clearly support hydrocarbons (inc a lot of brown coal) as closer to your environmental goals than nuclear. More people will die from producing ‘renewable’ power than nuclear and more environmental damage will occur….see if you can work out why this is correct. Hydrocarbons are unquestionably killers.

      How do we replace current hydrocarbon and nuclear with renewables and grow our overall energy use still further? You can say de-growth but you know that reduction in energy will not be countenanced by many people and countries that count…so such a suggestion is not serious input (get off that pedestal!). China is a great example. The leader in solar (subsidised by a lot of carbon, environmental damage and exploitation) is China. With such a superb advantage why is solar not replacing hydrocarbon? China is growing overall renewables at same absolute pace as hydrocarbon approximately (obvs the relative growth is higher for renewables as the base is lower). There is no doubt China would build all solar if it could – energy control and security. What impedes China from doing this? It is very important to answer this.

      Through history we add new energy on top of old and grown our overall energy use. Whale oil was replaced but it was not an energy driver of the economy so that’s a dubious proof. Everything else was added on top -> we didn’t reduce our use of wood, coal etc…we just added oil, nuclear, renewables on top.

      I look forward to the greens taking power in Germany. This may be watershed moment that encourages the broader movement to deal with difficult realities rather than moralisingly grandstand from the sidelines. Then we may move to solutions that are truly helpful and meaningful around environment and sustainability rather than current meme nonsense from people like you.

      Best wishes
      The Outsider

  2. Who’d have thought it? It is a surprise to all that we cannot meme (ie transubstantiate) energy into being…

    “Germany: Coal tops wind as primary electricity source – In the first half of 2021, coal shot up as the biggest contributor to Germany’s electric grid, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. Officials say the weather is partly to blame….”

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