Environmentalism is one of the biggest and most successful social movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Fear that human activities are disrupting the planet’s climate – global warming – is one of the movement’s best-known tropes, often accompanied by predictions of frightening environmental disasters of apocalyptic proportions. But is it true?
Rael Jean Isaac, a sociologist who has written extensively about social movements in the U.S., has studied the environmental movement and paid special attention to its global warming campaign. She finds the global warming movement, far from being based on scientific facts or consensus, is basically irrational, ideological, and profoundly anti-science.
Dr. Isaac dissects the motivations and tactics of the leading “roosters” of the global warming campaign, and finds they have much in common with members of the Xhosa tribe in what is now South Africa. In 1856, the tribe destroyed its cattle and ceased planting crops based on the apocalyptic prophecies of a 15-year-old girl.
Today’s environmentalists are using fear of global warming to destroy the foundations of modern civilization. These “roosters of the apocalypse” dominate governments, universities, and even scientific societies, even as the “owls” — scientists and others who doubt the threat of global warming is real — win the scientific debate and warn of the economic consequences of taking unnecessary action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Roosters of the Apocalypse is required reading for anyone interested in environmentalism, climate change, or contemporary social movements.
George Clowes –
Rather than dwelling on the fine details of the arguments offered by global warming alarmists (“roosters”) and global warming skeptics (“owls”), author Rael Jean Isaac instead focuses on the underlying agenda of the movement’s environmentalist founders, who despise technology, who don’t want cheap energy even if it’s clean, and who happily envision restoring an apparently “golden age” of reduced energy use that existed circa 1900. This short but informative book will help the reader see beyond the feel-good public facade of global warming activism – with its calls for “green” energy and reduced carbon footprints – and realize that significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions would scale back the economy drastically and force a reduced quality of life on all Americans.
Would a nation ever deliberately take steps to destroy its economy? Isaac points to South Africa in the 1850s when the leaders of the powerful Xhosa tribe ordered its members to cease planting crops, kill their cattle, and destroy their stores of grain in the belief that this would restore their livelihood to the “golden age” that existed before the arrival of white invaders. But after destroying their economy, almost half the tribe died and the survivors were herded into labor camps by the British.
While we may marvel at the gullibility of a primitive tribe, Isaac points out that the general acceptance of another apocalyptic vision is driving a similar policy of economic suicide in the United States today. In 2010, President Obama warned that global warming “poses a threat to our way of life,” and his administration has taken a series of actions to further his stated goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Such a reduction, notes columnist George Will, would bring per-capita emissions down to the level they were in 1875. The only way to achieve this scale of reduction is to dramatically curtail energy production from coal, oil, and natural gas – and the Obama administration has certainly begun to do that:
* Draconian air quality regulations have reduced energy production from coal;
* Oil production has been curtailed by the shutdown of offshore drilling and by delays in issuing approvals for drilling leases and oil shale development;
* Natural gas production from fracking is booming but further expansion is being hindered by uncertainty about new federal regulations;
* The EPA declared carbon dioxide a pollutant in 2009, which will cost the economy $7 trillion by 2029 and cause annual job losses of 800,000 for several years, according to the Heritage Foundation.
In fact, what poses the real threat to our way of life is not global warming but the energy policies implemented to address the imagined global warning “crisis.” Global warming alarmism is not just about making a few feel-good lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide each person generates from burning fossil fuels (and breathing), it’s about making huge and unprecedented reductions in energy use. Isaac quotes environmentalist David Brower, former head of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, as saying we have to go back to the start of the Industrial Age in order to save the planet – i.e., to about the same 1875 time frame estimated by George Will. In terms of energy use, this would mean no air-conditioning, no washing machines and dryers, no computers and smartphones, riding bikes instead of cars, and riding trains instead of planes. In short, the solution to global warming is to destroy the foundations of modern civilization.
Isaac points out that Brower is not the only environmentalist who views technology as a scourge rather than a liberation from physical limitations. “The only good technology is no technology at all,” said Friends of the Earth writer John Shuttlesworth. “Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity,” said environmentalist Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. This anti-technology attitude goes back to the Luddites at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in England two hundred years ago. The Luddites were bands of workers who destroyed manufacturing machinery that they believed threatened their livelihood by reducing the amount of work available to them. Global warming alarmists are today’s Luddites, urging the rejection of technology – though this is more often a prescription for others to follow rather than for themselves to lead by example.
This is an excellent book that very effectively and succinctly presents the profound implications of “solving” the perceived problem of global warming.
Full disclosure: I am a Senior Fellow for Education Policy with The Heartland Institute – an unpaid position. My educational background is as a research chemist and I am concerned with the devaluation of scientific methodology by the dissemination of junk science to provide specious support for otherwise unjustifiable government policies and regulations.
Norman Rogers –
In 1856 the Xhosa tribe deliberately destroyed its economy based on a prophecy. Isaac sees global warming as a similar prophecy that is leading us to destroy our own economy by ill-considered projects to substitute green energy for fossil fuels. Isaac calls the prophets of global warming roosters, because roosters crow loudly. The global warming skeptics are owls, because owls are cautious and wise.
As a global warming skeptic, or owl, immersed in the pro and con arguments, I’ve heard almost every one of Isaac’s many debating points previously. But Isaac brings them together in a comprehensive, readable package. Because I’m so close to the issues I can’t judge how effective Isaac’s book will be in convincing the undecided. Of course true believers in green religion, global warming and renewable energy mostly won’t read this book. In any case the book wouldn’t change their opinions, although it might create a small seed of doubt with the potential to grow into an epiphany. True conversions are rare, but believers often lose the evangelistic impulse.
Isaac amply documents the subterfuges, evasions and contradictions of the promoters of apocalyptic global warming. But there is not much on the extensive science that rebuts their theories. Richard Lindzen, a distinguished and persistent critic, is mentioned once. Fred Singer appears once. Roy Spencer appears only in a footnote. Roger Pielke, senior or junior, does not appear. Henrik Svensmark does not appear and his theory is mentioned only in a passing reference to the CLOUD experiment at CERN.
Perhaps the communist movement is a better analogy with apocalyptic climate change than is the prophecy that caused the Xhosa to commit economic suicide. Using Marxist jargon, the “masses” have a false consciousness. They aren’t really sold on the idea and if the lights start going out or the gas stations stop pumping, the masses will rapidly turn against the greens. Like communism, the green ideology can only be put in place by stealthy measures instituted by a close knit elite. It can never be fully implemented except by totalitarian measures. The totalitarian impulse is very strong among the climate change evangelists. Isaac notes James Hansen’s suggestion that opponents of green ideology are guilty of crimes against humanity and nature, with the obvious implication that they should be put on trial and jailed. Scientists who dispute the global warming establishment are in much the same position as critics of Stalin were in the 1920’s. They are tolerated but gradually marginalized. Presumably if the establishment is able to consolidate its power the critics will lose their jobs and be labeled in some fashion so as to be banished from respectable company.
I am optimistic because the warmist’s science is bad science and eventually it will collapse. It is essential to provide moral and financial support to skeptic scientists. The financial odds may seem to be stacked in the warmist’s favor given the huge sums now devoted to promoting the warmist cause, but given that many scientists are protected by tenure and civil service rules, all they really need is moral support to enable them to come out of the closet.
D.J. Miller –
The marvel of this short, insightful assessment of the global warming debate is that the author approaches it through the eyes of a social scientist.
Thus Dr. Isaac (Ph.D. sociology, City University of New York) places global warming alarmism among discredited millennial movements and apocalyptic prophecies whose heritage goes back eons.
The decisions to halt offshore drilling for oil or to subsidize green-energy alternatives, for instance, aren’t so much matters of public-policy debate over land use and environmental protection as they are to further the cause of throttling the U.S. energy industry from the get-go. By doing so, alarmists — the roosters in Dr. Isaac’s metaphor — can restrict economic growth and personal freedom, making it all the easier to command and control not just the owls — the global warming skeptics — but the rest of the animals on the farm in their pens as well.
To be sure, Dr. Isaac is fluent in the the science of global-warming skepticism, and easily cites the data that contradicts various alarmist predictions. She correctly recognizes how easy it is for owls and skeptics to get lost in the scientific weeds of North American oscillations and tree rings, and failing to change a single skeptic’s mind.
Better, she argues in this presidential year, to focus on who will benefit if the United States embraces the apocalyptic vision of global warming alarmists, strangles the nation’s energy sector, and looks to totalitarian governments such as China for relief.
Jay Lehr –
My readers will note that many of my reviews amount to a CliffsNotes(tm) guide, provided in case you fail to buy the book. This review will be like that as well, but I will leave out enough that I can insist you contact The Heartland Institute and buy this little inexpensive 88-page (112 including references) paperback as soon as you get to the end of my review.
The author, Dr. Rael Jean Isaac, is a sociologist who has written extensively about social movements in the U.S. Now she has studied the environmental movement with fresh eyes and a brilliant mind tracking closely with the great global warming delusion. She has sifted through all the relevant data and history over the past 40 years. She describes the green lobby’s efforts to stifle human progress by eliminating inexpensive energy that can bring this country back to its roots as a manufacturing power house and the world’s greatest repository of fossil fuel.
The title derives from the author’s use of the term Roosters to describe fearmongers and then Owls to describe the wise people. For her story she starts with a tribe in Africa that destroyed itself as a result of an absurd prophecy of a 15-year-old girl. She finds it a neat means to unfold our story, but you can ignore it as you wish without losing the impact of her concise telling of the predicament in which we find ourselves.
She opens by explaining that the apocalyptic story surrounding us has led to many with a stake in the environmental movement, such as scientists depending on government grants and projects promoted by roosters such that, according to the Government Accountability Office, between 1993 and 2010 the federal government poured almost $107 billion into programs based on our new-found fears.
Dr. Isaac explains with surprising simplicity the weak support for mathematical climate models, such that any confusion remaining in the minds of readers with disappear. She uses the phrase “post-normal science,” in which consensus substitutes for real science. Sound familiar?
The book deals eloquently with the preposterous support for renewable energy here and abroad, which is unraveling everywhere as European nations see their economies go south as a result.
She explains North Dakota’s good fortune with the gigantic Bakken Oil field that is being developed only because it is on private land out of the reach of the feds. Well not exactly, as they tried to shut it down when they found some dead birds in a waste pit, while they continue to promote wind power, which the Audubon Society says kills more than 400,000 birds a year, many being endangered raptors.
Dr. Isaac explains how 39 states are committed to reducing greenhouse gases and how EPA got away with calling the carbon dioxide we exhale daily a pollutant. She cites Heritage Foundation calculations that this ruling will drive energy prices up 30 percent and cost the nation $7 trillion in the next 20 years.
In a take-no-prisoners manner she takes on the likes and lies of Paul Ehrlich of Population Bomb fame (as well as dozens of other wrong predictions), David Brower (once of Sierra Club and Friends of The Earth), Amory Lovins, the great promoter of any energy that cannot work, the United Nations’ Maurice Strong, a very rich man bent on eliminating all industry on the planet now that he has made all his money, and the infamous fearmonger-in-chief Jeremy Rifkin.
If you are not fully aware that Barack Obama’s administration is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environmental lobby, this book will be quite the eye opener. Dr. Isaac is on target and on time as to how Obama took advantage of the BP oil spill to quell oil exploration, how his loan for two inconsequential nuclear power plants in Georgia were a trade for more important environmental votes, and how Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been every bit as important as Lisa Jackson of EPA in thwarting development of anything on public lands including decades of nuclear fuel, in Arizona.
While the government’s war on hydraulic fracking for natural gas production is relatively new, she uncovers the entire strategy.
And you will not want to miss the recounting of the famous bet between Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, and Julian Simon regarding the ever-declining costs of metal resources within the Earth. Ehrlich and Holdren were allowed to choose any five metals and the amounts that $200 would buy, and Simon wagered the $200 per metal would buy more ten years later. They chose chrome, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten Simon won the bet, Ehlich went on to win the MacArthur genius award, and Holdren became Obama’s energy czar.
While Dr. Isaac illustrates with numerous polls around the world that public opinion no longer supports a significant concern for global warming, the wave of damaging actions by governments against their citizens has by no means slowed. The many stakeholders in this sham remain more powerful than the people. The financial resources of the environmental lobbies dwarf those of the author’s wise Owls.
While Dr. Isaac is not very optimistic about turning our ship away from the precipice, because she does not see a political regime strong enough to turn the wheel itself, she does quote Milton Friedman talking about economics as having the proper way forward.
“I do not believe, he said, that the answer to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.”
This can happen only if we convince our friends and neighbors of the dire economic and personal freedom circumstances that will develop if we do not yell STOP.
Buy multiple copies of this book and give it to anyone willing to invest three hours on an education about the too-powerful environmental power grab.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is science director of The Heartland Institute.
One expects the best factual, ideological, and social analyses from Rael Jean Isaac, and one certainly gets that in this, her most recent book. Isaac has been one of America’s leading intellectuals and scholars for three decades. I recommend that Amazon users also read her other books, particualrly Coercive Utopians, which is as relevant today as when it was first published. As usual, what she writes is straightforward, clear-minded, sustained by facts, and convincing to those with an open mind.
Richard Trzupek –
As many people have observed, the modern environmentalist movement has more in common with a pagan religious movement than anything having to do with science and reason. In this marvelous, easy-to-digest book Rael Jean Isaac takes that analogy to its logical conclusion: today’s enviro-theocrats are the latest in a long-history of doomsday prophets who have attempted to use the specter of supposedly imminent disaster to inflate their importance and/or line their pockets. Unfortunately, the gullible, technically ignorant mainstream media and a host of equally misinformed policy-makers have provided the echo-chamber that these “roosters of the apocalypse” so desperately need in order to scare the begeezus out of the general population, and Isaac takes them all to task.
Isaac neatly exposes and skewers the spurious foundations of global warming alarmism: the fact that “consensus” only exists with regards to points that don’t actually matter; the IPCC’s shameful history of dissimulation; the appalling ignorance of media-types who purport to speak with authority and a host of other topics. She is one of the few voices to point out that – contrary to popular perception – the United States and the Obama administration have already taken a number of economically-damaging steps to reduce the use of cheap, abundant fossil fuels in the name of eco-purity. All of the information and arguments are clearly and logically presented and Ms. Isaac’s style makes it a fun read to boot. This is a book that every policy-maker should read before they cast another vote for the President’s next “green energy” boondoggle. It’s full of truths that Al Gore would find terribly inconvenient, if only he had the guts and integrity to read it.