Neoliberal climate populism Creating and protecting the resources of life for all of us!

Creating and protecting the resources of life for all of us!

by Matthias Burchardt*

This article is based on an important differentiation, namely the distinction between necessary concerns about good social and ecological conditions of our lives and the mainstream media climate discourse. It refers to those theory models and narratives currently produced and publicly disseminated around the key topic “climate“. In my opinion we are dealing with copycats here who want to exploit the hysteria for their own agendas.

 

“Arguing against climate populism does not mean to reject ecological responsibility or to discredit real commitment to environment issues. The aim is on the contrary to reconcile the responsibility for nature and the human condition in a meaningful relatedness by scrutinizing those thinking patterns which are currently so popular. The analysis is guided by the suspicion that climate hysteria is really beneficial for the deep state actors, that this discourse is pushed and steered and that this steering is aimed for anything but the good life of humanity on this earth, but rather serves as a cynical tool of power preservation.”

 

Arguing against climate populism does not mean to reject ecological responsibility or to discredit real commitment to environment issues. The aim is on the contrary to reconcile the responsibility for nature and the human condition in a meaningful relatedness by scrutinising those thinking patterns which are currently so popular. The analysis is guided by the suspicion that climate hysteria is really beneficial for the deep state actors, that this discourse is pushed and steered and that this steering is aimed for anything but the good life of humanity on this earth, but rather serves as a cynical tool of power preservation. In other words: a closer look at the climate discussion should help both man and nature, especially if social and ecological arguments were no longer abused to counter each other. But for that goal to be achieved the dissension-mongers, mind traps and political masquerades currently played out in public by the climate discourse have-to be revealed as such.  

The climate discourse as a means – to cloud the acuity of political judgement

Even without climate discourse there should be enough reason to worry about the state the natural resources of our life are in. Consequences of our ways of living and working on nature and environment are plain to see, if only aesthetically. We diminish our own quality of life by pollution and excessive building, which reduce the very recreational value the landscapes around us might have. From the medical viewpoint we notice hazardous contaminations of air and water, of foods derived from plants and livestock. Viewed from this angle protection for the environment always protects human lives, since poisonous substances, noise and radiation reduce our health. Noteworthy, there is little to no public debate about the 5G nets although there are many hints regarding their health hazards. ( see https://mobilfunkstuttgart.de/swr-2-impuls-5g-und-das-gesundheitsrisiko-peter-hensinger-contra-bundesamt-fuerstrahlenschutz/). But there is a responsibility for nature even where human beings are not directly affected. Christianity, for instance, is called to save god’s creation not only for our sake but for the sake of god. People with a wordly orientation may know the feeling which urged Albert Schweitzer to coin his phrase „reverence for life“, which prevents them from causing unnecessary pain to other creatures.
 Having said that, one should never romanticise nature. As evolution biology and ecology demonstrate, nature is no paradise, but after all a merciless place as well, where strength in the struggle for limited resources decides about life or death. Always and everywhere, man alone puts the ethical dimension of responsibility on the agenda. Culture and politics fulfil the task to recognise and to protect the dignity of the weak and vulnerable. Therefore, only man is capable of the protection of nature. Animals don’t know animal protection, volcanos don’t know threshold values.
All motives of environment protection just mentioned – from the medical and aesthetical to the altruistically ecological one – have one thing in common: they refer to phenomena any sensible human being may perceive. Polluted air, increased noise and the disappearance of intrinsic species and biotopes may go unnoticed by the majority – but climate as the object of climate research is no object of perception at all, but a scientific construction. Man experiences the daily changes of the weather and the longer lasting changes of the environment, the climate on the other hand is strictly speaking a model, research object of climatologists, an artefact based on many pre-assumptions. This is already reflected by the Wikipedia definition of “climate”:
“Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. In a broader sense, climate is the state of the components of the climate system, which includes the ocean and ice on Earth. The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents. More generally, the ‚climate’ of a region is the general state of the climate system at that location at the current time. […] At its 1934 Wiesbaden meeting the technical commission designated the thirty-year period from 1901 to 1930 as the reference time frame for climatological standard normals. In 1982 the WMO agreed to update climate normals, and these were subsequently completed on the basis of climate data from 1 January 1961 to 31 December 1990.”
Based on pre-assumptions and established knowledge climate research develops models, i. e. simplifying sketches of reality, of complex natural phenomena. Measurements and mathematical-statistical procedures play an important role in this process, but also decisions and axioms. Which factors will be considered, which ones neglected?  Which time frames are analysed? Is there a hierarchy of factors? Doubts about its own methods belong to all scientific endeavours: how reproducible are measurements?  How reliable are historical records? Where are the blind spots of the methods used? All these issues will normally result in a productive competition between research sub-specialities which investigate the same phenomenon from different angles, under different perspectives and with different methods, always aware that scientific truths of today may well turn out to be the errors of tomorrow. Therefore, the far-stretched fields of science are usually not easily comprehensible by lay people including political decision makers. Regarding climate research knowledge is more and more replaced by trust and even faith, if not pre-modern authority allegiance in the case of climate discourse experts. The principle behind this is that abstract models escape our perception. All we can observe and perceive in our lifetime is whether certain weather constellations or extreme meteorological perturbations do occur more or less often. But can lay people judge about the hypothesis that such extreme weather conditions are somehow caused by man? Let’s be honest, who feels competent enough to do that? Just recently 90 prominent Italian scientists published a paper in which they don´t doubt climate change as such but its supposed man-made origins. (see http://www.opinione.it/cultura/2019/06/19/redazione_riscaldamento-globale-antropico-clima-inquinamento-uberto-crescentiantonino-zichichi/).
How should this be evaluated? Is this a group of honest scientists finally upholding the mandate of scientific doubt in the name of truth? Or is it a bunch of corrupt crooks on the payroll of global industrial corporations? Are they mistaken because they are in the minority? Or are they bound to be right because of their courage to stand up against “the Mainstream”? I must admit, I cannot tell and will therefore refrain from any conclusive judgment. What I do know from my own scientific endeavours is that most scientific problems are complex and allow only preliminary solutions so that would be hesitant to build radical political programmes with uncertain consequences on such foundations. Moreover, scientific institutions have to acquire sponsors and grants so that independent research can hardly be found any more due to a general lack of financial resources. (see Spelsberg/Burchardt: “Under the yoke of the grant fetish [Unter dem Joch des Drittmittelfetischs]”. In: “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung““15 January 2015, p.15).
But even if it should be hard to establish to which degree mankind may or may not have contributed to a change of the climate – the arguments mentioned above show clearly why we are responsible to protect the resources of our life.
In any case the climate discourse, expertocratic and peer group biased as it is, clouds citizens’ ability to perceive and judge accordingly by shifting the space of action into the invisible realm of abstract models. At the end a propagandistic fake world is projected into the minds of media consumers via dramatising visualisation. Fortunately, at a stage when the mantras of supposed evidence have reached a stage as exaggerated as it is today – when no event will escape climate-populistic exploitation – they will unmask themselves. The best example for this are the pertinent remarks of German Green party chair Annalena Baerbock, who interpreted Chancellor Merkel’s tremor attacks during the German national anthem as a consequence of global warming (see https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/annalena-baerbock-zittern-von-angela-merkel-haengt-mit-klimawandel-zusammen-a-1274955.html). Baerbock and all the others who overstretch the climate argument to such extremes for political purposes ridicule not only the commitment of environmentalist and nature protection groups, but any scientific expertise.

“Based on pre-assumptions and established knowledge climate research develops models, i.e. simplifying sketches of reality, of complex natural phenomena. Measurements and mathematical-statistical procedures play an important role in this process, but also decisions and axioms. Which factors will be considered, which ones neglected?  Which time frames are analysed? Is there a hierarchy of factors? Doubts about its own methods belong to all scientific endeavours: how reproducible are measurements?  How reliable are historical records? Where are the blind spots of the methods used? All these issues will normally result in a productive competition between research sub-specialities which investigate the same phenomenon from different angles, under different perspectives and with different methods, always aware that scientific truths of today may well turn out to be the errors of tomorrow.”

 

The climate discourse as a shock strategy: “I want you to panic!” – Greta Thunberg

Another aspect shows clearly how climate research gets corrupted by the public climate discourse: the dire prognosis. It may have something to do with my age, but since I have already outlived so many apocalyptic scenarios from AIDS, mad cow disease, the ozone gap and the „Waldsterben“ ( forest die back, a specifically German blend of apocalypse due to the demise of forest trees) I react no longer merely sceptical but more and more allergic to the current wave of alarmism. In the 1980ies Hoimar von Ditfurth recommended to what was referred to as the Nofuture-generation to plant an apple-tree – in modification of a supposed Luther quote – since the world was coming to an end.
Apart from the looming danger of a nuclear war especially “Waldsterben” was conjured as a symptom of eco-apocalypse, flanked by the ozone gap. I myself was utterly convinced at that time that my children would never live to see any trees in the year 2000. Accordingly, the time of my youth went by in a rather depressed mood since all authorities kept telling me that in view of the lack of alternatives to the imminent apocalypse my life in general and any political activities in particular, where doomed to meaninglessness from the start.  
Arguing against climate populism does not mean to reject ecological responsibility or to discredit real commitment to environment issues. The aim is on the contrary to reconcile the responsibility for nature and the human condition in a meaningful relatedness by scrutinizing those thinking patterns which are currently so popular. The analysis is guided by the suspicion that climate hysteria is really beneficial for the deep state actors, that this discourse is pushed and steered and that this steering is aimed for anything but the good life of humanity on this earth, but rather serves as a cynical tool of power preservation.
Based on pre-assumptions and established knowledge climate research develops models, i.e. simplifying sketches of reality, of complex natural phenomena. Measurements and mathematical-statistical procedures play an important role in this process, but also decisions and axioms. Which factors will be considered, which ones neglected?  Which time frames are analysed? Is there a hierarchy of factors? Doubts about its own methods belong to all scientific endeavours: how reproducible are measurements?  How reliable are historical records? Where are the blind spots of the methods used? All these issues will normally result in a productive competition between research sub-specialities which investigate the same phenomenon from different angles, under different perspectives and with different methods, always aware that scientific truths of today may well turn out to be the errors of tomorrow.
This year a documentary film producer friend of mine told me how journalists especially of the state-owned media used all techniques of visual manipulation in the supposedly well-meaning intention to picture “Waldsterben” as drastically as possible in order to “awaken” their viewers. Is such a self-moralisation of the opinion-producing media ever justified? Today we are again confronted with deeply troubling reports and computer simulations which – following the advice of late propaganda expert Walter Lippmann – install inner pictures in peoples’ minds, a concocted pseudo-environment which is meant to become the starting point for all their actions in the social world. As Walter Ötsch shows, the power over these inner pictures is a crucial tool to govern people (see https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=45252).
For this power it is totally irrelevant weather the prognoses have ever come true or not. Nobody holds the scaremongers responsible since nothing is older than yesterday’s news, as they say, and nothing is more true than a noble intention. The German journal Der Spiegel for instance caused panic by predicting a new ice-age in 1974. (see https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-41667249.html), while another journal (“Die Welt”) was sure in 2007 that the North pole would be entirely ice-free by 2013 (see https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article1456952/Nordpol-bereits-infuenf-Jahren-eisfrei.html).
Are the scaremongers themselves sowing climate change scepticism that way? In a pragmatic approach one could answer, the end justifies the means and who cares about truth if the end of the world is at stake. But if a world based on lies as its structural principle would even be worth surviving is a completely different matter. In any case it is doubtful weather emotionalisation and scaremongering are good for mankind or the environment. Sowing fear is similar to a pollution of the psychical environment which makes people sick. And what of that is exactly what the copycats of climate hysteria want to achieve. Put bluntly, prognoses in general are always a speculative business: starting with the weather prognosis which gets more inaccurate the further its predictions are stretched into the future. How reliable can climate prognoses ever be, given that they are all based on models with their inevitable blind spots?
By the way, this rhetorical question is no argument against climate research but only against its exploitation for political shock strategy in the medial-political climate discourse. Any climate researcher will confirm the limited statistical and prognostic power of their models: things could turn out differently. This is actually written in the terms-and-conditions-apply section of the IPCC report, a United Nations think-tank commonly referred to in the media by the awe-inspiring term world climate council”:
“In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” (“Climate Change 2001”, p. 774. Source: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/03/WGI_TAR_full_report.pdf)
In its dramatisation of apocalyptic prognoses the climate discourse is rivalled only by 11 September 2001, the great shock exploited to justify the restriction of citizens’ rights and waging wars. The threat scenarios burnt into our minds stress our reptilian brain and render us docile and will-less. Therefore, we should automatically mistrust any scaremongering discourse which puts us under pressure for time and immediate action. This is nothing but a widely and successfully used manipulation technique taught to corporate personnel and public servants under the name of “change management”. This way not only external factors but internal attitudes and personality traits of employees are meant to be altered. However, these alteration processes do not address the reasonable insight of those subjected to these techniques, since this could trigger possible counterarguments or justified resistance. It is rather their personal sovereignty which is meant to be undermined by the psycho-techniques. Shock, excessive demands, paradoxical imperatives, infusing guilt, smashing social peer-groups, irritations by changes in the accustomed environment, new language rules and so on create insecurity and render people docile. These are social-technologically sophisticated control mechanisms which are, of course, widely used for political manipulation of the public.  (see http://peira.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/swr2-wissen)

The climate discourse as populism

In a quite plausible scenario it could be that in the near future particularly the German political party AfD and the Greens could attract electoral votes because in contrast to the former major parties they clearly raise a theme and aggressively champion it. The representatives of the party mentioned first see the world from a nationalistic-authoritarian, the others from a globalistic-eco-repressive perspective. None of both positions however meets the standards of a sovereign-democratic conception of politics, that is of a conception of the state which is comitted to the citizens alone (democratically) and neither to NGOs nor any transnational or transatlantic structures to be able to act sovereignly even in foreign politics. Despite all substantial and conceptional differences certain similarities in the mobilising communication patterns are found in both political camps. There, the threat of cultural and ethnic identity loss is adressed, here, the eco-apocalypsis is conjured up.
Both discourses orbit a certain core of truth which, however, is blown up by emotionalising and dramatisation, fuels fears and in the end splits up society by radicalisation. While these focus on the own and the foreign the others as politically correct speakers and climate savers turn vehemently against the chain smokers, diesel drivers, sexists, meat eaters and polluters, against loosers of globalisation and socially outdistanced. And so both sides look alike in their black and white thinking, in their friend or foe patterns and in their not very complex, monothematic model of explaining the world which has a high power of mobilisation. But in the end presumably they represent only pseudo-alternatives inside the neoliberal regime.
In any case the climate discourse earns the Greens to be on a roll in the polls and makes thereby forget that it was this party which led – in the person of Joschka Fischer – the German Federal Republic in military conflicts the first time since 1945 and made possible the liquidation of the welfare state by the neoliberal Hartz reforms. A party, which has pursued an ideological educational policy at state level at the disadvantage of social welfare and of the maturity of the next generation. In the purgatory of the climate discourse the reminiscence of these sins is burning down and at the same time weapons produced which are needed to seize power and as climate governess reeducate the population.

The climate discourse as instrument of separation

The government around Emmanuel Macron used the climate discourse to push through the neoliberal agenda in France. Accordingly the yellow vests were diffamed as unwanted people: “They don’t represent the France of the 21st century that we want.” (cf. https://www.neues-deutschland.de/artikel/1124783.g-gipfel-francafrique-a-la-macron.html). The people who took to the streets were “chain smokers” and “diesel drivers”. Who wants to get an own idea about these people should do this here: (cf. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cBiHJxGxz1g). In the video the moral arrogance of the urban-globalistic elites and the degradation of the population is marvellously ironised.
But not only elites and non-privileged shall be played of against one another, in the same way it is about urban versus rural, young versus old, present mankind against mankind of the future. Especially the spin of an accusation against the elder generation which supposedly has caused or at least not prevented the climate catastrophe, remembers with its medial mis-en-scéne of a Childrens’ Crusade with a quasi-religious gestus. This begs the question: Is not the political idealism of a whole generation exploited here? With the perspective of a foreseeable frustration which will deprive the involved of their motivation for a political engagement once and for all. Greta Thunberg was stylised as a prophet by the media at least after her well-prepared performance in Davos.
The accusation of the elder generation is unfair and separating. The parents of the Fridays demonstrators were ecologically engaged themselves in their youth and were sufficiently stressed by the neoliberal putsch in East and West of the republic after 1989 to look after their own survival and enable their children a somewhat endurable childhood This while the power elites in the background pressed ahead with globalisation and faned fear of social decline, instigated terror and wars, razed democracy, health system, educational system, welfare state, state of law and civil rights. Victims are turned into offenders to allow those really guilty of social, political and ecological misery stay in the dark. Political energy which could turn against the really responsible actors is thereby neutralised from the beginning by the already tried and tested “divide et impera” (divide and conquer).

The climate discourse as anti-humanism

The primordial soup of the green movement has many components: In addition to the peace movement, the anti-nuclear movement, feminism, environmental groups and citizens’ initiatives, there are also less appetizing ingredients such as activists for the legalisation of paedophilia or supporters of deep ecology and the Gaia theory. In these latter currents, man appears as the actual ecological problem, as a troublemaker whose existence per se damages the earth; pointedly summarised in the well-known joke:
Two planets meet. Says one: “You don’t look well. Are you sick?” The other replies: “Yes, I’ve got man.” “Oh, poor you! But don’t worry, it’ll pass!”
According to the radical representatives of this conviction, the solution to the ecological crisis lies in the elimination of man, if not totally, then at least quantitatively or qualitatively. Accordingly, population management such as sterilisation, birth control, speculation with food is directed against certain groups of people, Africans, Chinese, the poor, the disabled, and chain smokers. An example of this is the discussion between Christoph Butterwegge and Richard David Precht about an unconditional basic income at PhilCologne (international festival for philosophy in Cologne):

Precht: No basic income for babies, Mr Butterwegge, but for all as of 21. [...]
Butterwegge: And what about child benefit? The child benefit will be abolished?
Precht: Yes, of course.
Butterwegge: Okay, if the child benefit is abolished, then anyone who has five children should feed them from 1,500 euros, and someone who has no children can spend the basic income elsewhere?
Precht: Exactly. I do not want someone who has a basic income of EUR 1,500 and no prospect of a career to get the idea of having five children.
Butterwegge: So that is no longer just neo-liberal, but already socially reactionary.
(Source: Philosophie Magazin, August/September 2018, p. 61)

In the view of poverty researcher Butterwegge, a socio-political concept such as the unconditional basic income proves to be a bio-political control instrument with a social Darwinism undertone: Reproduction please only for the successful!
Malthusianism, the idea that population growth must at some point inevitably lead to the impoverishment of the masses, especially because the uneducated or uncivilised would reproduce uninhibitedly, forms the background of this way of thinking. This suggests that the best way of fighting poverty would be to control the births of the underprivileged.
In the climate discourse we find the image of the ecological footprint, which certainly has an educational meaning for illustrating the consumption of resources by people or nations. At the same time, however, the idea of the footprint creates the image of a competitive situation: foot without space. This can lead to self-doubt or extinction fantasies: May I to set foot on earth at all? Shouldn’t a few million people somewhere else disappear so that I had more space? Wouldn’t a war be necessary again, like a kind of cleansing, like a peeling for the earth’s surface?
The unborn, never existing beings have the smallest footprint, which is why anti-natalism, i.e. the rejection of conception of human offspring par excellence, is a model student of the climate discourse (cf. https://www.zeit.de/kultur/2018-04/antinatalismus-theophile-de-giraud-bevoelkerungswachstum-feminismus). Childlessness not only gives many freedoms to fruitless non-parents, but also saves the earth the footprint of the next generation.
This, at first glance, very plausible argumentation suffers from its social blindness, which can be healed quickly by looking at who is propagating this theory with passion (see https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/09/africas-rapid-population-growth-puts-poverty-progress-at-risk-says-gates).
In 2018, Bill Gates warned against population growth in Africa – at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a place where none of us, no matter how great our need for mission, might ever speak, but Greta Thunberg did. Somewhat curious.
The fact that one of the richest people in the world is committed to reducing the world’s population with his foundation could be seen as a sign of exuberant philanthropy (love of humanity) or as the anti-humanist cynicism of a father of three. Converting the billions of the ten richest people on the Forbes list into footprints, might – with a little modesty on the part of these families –- make room for a few Indian girls, Chinese twins or African Tönnies babies** alongside the Gates offspring.
To avoid misunderstandings: Of course people should be concerned with their own reproduction or overall social demography, if only for the sake of the children for whose well-being they have to stand up in private as well as in public. However, in the context of climate discourse, certain social imbalances arise when the great profiteers of neoliberalism choose the weakest in the world to hold them responsible for the planet. Anti-natalism, social Darwinism and eugenic selection are massive excesses of an anti-humanism that not only legitimises inhumane conditions, but also brings up the idea of a global self-extermination of mankind. This, incidentally, creates the paradox that, while the climate discourse on the one hand acts as the advocate of unborn future generations, it fights at the same time their existence through anti-natalism.

“In the climate discourse we find the image of the ecological footprint, which certainly has an educational meaning for illustrating the consumption of resources by people or nations. At the same time, however, the idea of the footprint creates the image of a competitive situation: foot without space. This can lead to self-doubt or extinction fantasies: May I to set foot on earth at all? Shouldn’t a few million people somewhere else disappear so that I had more space? Wouldn’t a war be necessary again, like a kind of cleansing, like a peeling for the earth’s surface?  The unborn, never existing beings have the smallest footprint, which is why anti-natalism, i.e. the rejection of conception of human offspring par excellence, is a model student of the climate discourse.”

 

The climate discourse as a neoliberal re-education programme

Neoliberalism is much more than a model for the design of the economic area. It is totalitarian in its demands and permeates all areas of human life. However, since people would prefer a different way of life of their own choosing and also on the basis of their historical experiences, it requires the propagandistic reprogramming of the people. The “new man” has to come, the “old man” with his habits and attachments is identified as the root of all evil and has to be transformed, in the spirit of Macron’s rule, so that only those people live who embody the France of the 21st century. This, however, turns the principle of democratic representation on its head. Obviously, the political elite is no longer there to live up to the will of the citizens, but arrogates to construct people to fit in with their policies.
Also, one hears again and again from the loudspeakers of the climate discourse, that it is about “Changing the lifestyle” (see https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/smile-for-future-101.html). There seems to be a lot to be said for that, after all, we are still far too wasteful and for example, we appreciate the gifts of nature, the efforts of agriculturists and farmers far too little. Of course, this has to be discussed. Now here, too, the memory of the recent past of political rhetoric helps. Quite innocently, the formula was repeated there: one had to tighten one’s belt, that is to say, for the benefit of all, the renunciation of the individual was demanded. After tightening our belts for decades, where is the promised reward? Or am I responsible for the financial and banking crisis because I lived “beyond my means”? No, that’s not me! However, I only just met Bill Gates at the leather goods store yesterday. There he had five new holes punched in the belt, because he has to loosen it once again.
Thus, the economic and ecological crises function wonderfully as a weapon in the elite’s war against the populations. Or as Warren Buffet puts it: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” (“New York Times”, from 26 November 2006). A political problem – for instance of the environmental and industrial policy – is shifted by the climate discourse from the democratic public sphere into the sphere of the private lifestyle. The actual perpetrators and profiteers of the social and ecological problems, however, stay invisible and the problems remain unresolved, while the individuals, responding on the bases of idealism or bad conscience, struggle to save the planet. The climate discourse dumps the distortions of the unleashed neoliberalism into the biographies of the non-privileged people, who were already cornered in the maelstrom of globalisation, modernisation and migration, into a zone of uncertainty (cf. Hannes Hofbauer “Critique of Migration”, Vienna 2018). The envisaged CO2 tax, which the Scientific Service of the Bundestag considers by the way as unconstitutional, (see https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article198175347/Wissenschaftlicher-Dienst-CO2-Steuer-waere-verfassungswidrig.html) would excessively burden people without or with low incomes. It is not difficult for members of the royal family to make an ecological contribution as compensation for frequent air travel by private jet. People in rural areas, where, in the wake of neoliberalism and globalisation infrastructure, public transport, work, provision for old age and  cultural integration have become meagre, have to commute with their private cars to work. The closure of hospitals threatened by Bertelsmann increases the CO2-intensive mobility pressure on people in certain regions (cf. https://www.die-linke.de/partei/parteistruktur/zusammenschluesse/bag-gesundheit-und-soziales/erklaerungen-und-stellungnahmen/detail/news/bertelsmann-plant-krankenhaus-landschaft/). Thus, as long as there is no alternative, the life of the people will not become more climate-compatible, but simply more expensive, if they want to participate furthermore in social life.
The climate discourse plays on a neoliberal strategy, called “responsivity” in sociology: it means people are termed responsible, for things that are generated elsewhere systemically and structurally, without them being actually given at hand the political power for actual changes or even the resources for the mastery of these tasks. The shortage of nurses is a good example: You economise the health care system, but hold the exploited nursing staff responsible for this. Out of the shortage, they have to draw a minimum of humanity for those in need of care. Since they went into their profession empathically and idealistically, self-exploitation of the caregivers is often a consequence of the artificially created scarcity. The pull of strength by this responsivity squeezes the last resources out of the employees: Human fracking.
The appeal to the “consumers” to avoid buying ecologically or socially harmful products works in a similar way. As if a Hartz IV receiver were responsible for the poor working conditions of the seamstresses in the low-wage countries, because he or she does not buy eco-textiles from the Westerwald. Making a living entirely with products from organic shops is not possible for all people. Downgrading political questions to questions of consumption insults the political freedom of the citizen, who is more than and quite different from a mere homo oeconomicus.
It is cynical when the climate discourse is shifted from the ecological distortions in society as a whole into the guilty conscience, the wallet and the renouncement of the individual, as long as the real causes have been neither clarified nor disclosed nor addressed politically.

Outlook

The article has set out for searching toxic elements in the climate discourse but does, under no circumstances, justify ecological indifference, but rather a political decontamination of this discourse, a detoxification. The following ingredients are termed precarious: The expropriation of the political judgement, the shock strategy, populism, separation, anti-humanism and the re-education programmatic. In the interplay of these elements a hard-hitting instrument of power is created that could pave the way into a climate dictatorship which is just as smart as it is totalitarian. That it is possible and necessary to treat man and nature with more care, might have emerged as a core of truth regardless of the poisoned discourse …
In this respect, the motto is: Create and preserve the foundations of life for everyone! Though please, without apocalyptic shock strategies, without expertocracy or female prophets, without separation and populism, without a eugenic or social Darwinism agenda, without Orwell ecologism and re-education programmes. The supposedly worthy end does not justify the means. Called for are open discussions, scientific controversies and, furthermore, respect for the experience of knowledgeable people without expert status.     •

* Dr phil. Matthias Burchardt teaches philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Cologne. His research areas: anthropology, theory and politics of education. He is vice chair of the Gesellschaft für Bildung und Wissen (GBW) (Society for Education and Knowledge), which critically discusses education reforms at schools and universities.

**    The term refers to Clemens Tönnies, a German meat manufacturer and chairman of the supervisory board of the “Schalke 04” football club. In a speech on the subject of climate change, he suggested that 20 power plants should be built in Africa, then Africans would stop felling trees and producing children. He was then called a racist, he paused for three months, but did not have to resign as chairman.

(Translation Current Concerns)

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