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Tribulations of a Climate Activist: Farhana Yamin in Search and Dissent

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- April 8, 2022

Ed. Note: MasterResource has profiled the personal stories of defeated or disillusioned activists as climatism flounders 34 years after James Hansen’s testimony in 1988. From disengagement to social withdrawal to raw anger to even suicide, the true believers are in turmoil, while the climate industrial complex reaps the money, power, prestige, and confabs that come with ‘being green.’

“If you are honest and practical, the theory and data are out there to challenge your beliefs and even change your mind–and your life. You do not need to fight depression or withdraw. There is life and optimism in climate- and energy-realism.”

The title of the NYT article is: A Climate Warrior’s Journey From Summit Talks to Street Protests (New York Times: March 29, 2022). It is the story of the despair and resurrection (temporary?) of a climate activist. As such, it is a window to the world on the futile fight against carbon dioxide and energy density.

Not only is there an open-ended tripartite fossil fuel boom several decades after climate alarmism was birthed (in 1988), there also is a growing residue of planetary waste and destruction from industrial wind turbines, solar slabs, and batteries packs galore. Real environmentalism, anyone?

There is greenwashing and corporate cronyism run amok–just what could be expected from trying to artificially manage a market of inferior energy choices (the politically correct being economically incorrect).

After a high-profile career as an international lawyer and negotiator, Farhana Yamin decided “we cannot rely on lawyers and diplomats alone.” Her story as recounted by the Times is reproduced with my comments in green (yes, green as in energy density).

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It took 20 minutes for police officers to unglue Farhana Yamin from Shell’s offices in London. It was April 2019 and Ms. Yamin was one of many protesters from the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion occupying the streets of central London and calling on the British authorities to take climate action.

Comment: Gluing herself to an office building? We are dealing with an unstable person who will not reconsider climate alarmism and the perils from inferior energies.

But unlike other protesters, some of whom had always been anti-establishment, Ms. Yamin had spent most of her life not only believing in the system but working at its top levels. “My life and my work is a dance between an insider and an outsider,” she said.

Comment: The nutty outsider was a nutty insider. A smart, professional nutty person.

Her experience as an insider goes back more than 30 years. Ms. Yamin, 57, is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer and a respected adviser to developing countries and small island nations like the Marshall Islands, working on their behalf at the international level.

Comment: Many years on a false cause dulls the intelligence and revs up the emotions. She did not choose well at the beginning, a methodological flaw.

She is also a leading author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was a key architect of the Paris climate agreement. Ms. Yamin is widely seen as responsible for securing, through behind-the-scenes diplomacy, a central element of the pact: The goal of net-zero emissions by midcentury.

Comment: The heralded IPCC? She discredits what is widely recognized as a political, special-interest, religious group with some good science buried deep in the physical science report.

After the agreement, though, as Donald J. Trump rose to power in the United States and other countries continually delayed strong action on climate change, she said her faith in institutions began to crumble. “I was naïve about what we could achieve,” Ms. Yasmin said of her intellectual journey. “I’ve learned we cannot rely on lawyers and diplomats alone.”

Comment: Energy density more than Donald Trump is the foe of forced transformation to the energies that consumers do not naturally want.

That journey started when Ms. Yamin was studying law in her 20s. Growing up as a Pakistani immigrant in England who experienced racism, Ms. Yamin knew she wanted to spend her career fighting injustice. When she embarked on an internship with a small environmental law firm in 1991 as a recent Oxford graduate, Ms. Yamin knew she had found her calling. “I never looked back,” she said. “I was optimistic.”

Comment: Did she study physical science critically? Did she assess energy physics and the unique characteristics of electricity as an economic good? Did she understand opportunity-cost economics? Good intentions are not enough….

Since then, Ms. Yamin has attended nearly every major international climate conference, but she is best known for her work at the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement.

Comment: A party-goer with a big carbon footprint? Lots of confirmation bias at those meetings … has she ever attended a Heartland conference, say, to consider differing views?

She had spent years working with academics, civil society groups and lawyers to make net-zero emissions — the idea of using reductions, carbon capture and carbon offsets to ensure that no additional greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere — the rallying call of the 2015 conference. “Farhana was among a handful of collaborators who was willing to step up and champion this quest,” said Bernice Lee, a research director on sustainability at Chatham House, a London research organization.

Comment: If fighting injustice was her goal, why side with global government on public policies relying on coercion? Why energy imperialism against Africa? India? China?

But just months after Ms. Yamin achieved one of the biggest victories of her career, she said, things took a turn for the worse. By 2016, some Western countries were seeing a rise of nationalism and a growing distrust of international institutions, with Britain voting to leave the European Union and Donald J. Trump threatening to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement if elected. “I felt that the whole multilateral world, the international framework for human rights, was just collapsing around me,” Ms. Yamin said.

Comment: Energy density drives consumer-voters, and consumer-voters drive politics. Energy was one of the reasons Trump pulled the upset–and why Biden’s crash-climate agenda will reverberate at the polls this November and beyond.

When, from a meeting room at a United Nations climate conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, Ms. Yamin watched Mr. Trump win the election, she was despondent. She felt that her 30-year career as a government lawyer and climate negotiator had amounted to nothing. “All of it was going up in smoke,” she said. “I couldn’t tell my clients, I couldn’t lie to the Marshall Islands, that we would fix this.” Ms. Yamin took a year off, spending most of her time in nature therapy classes and camping in the wilderness for weeks at a time.

Comment: This bit of realism and honesty is a start to reconsider the very premises of climate activism, which is resulting in the worst of all worlds for the anti-fossil-fuel activists: a carbon-based energy boom and a mess from wind, solar, and batteries.

During her time off, Ms. Yamin began reading about other social movements, like the anti-apartheid campaign and the suffragist movement, that used social mobilization and nonviolent resistance to advance their causes. “I felt that the climate movement was almost unique and fragile, relying mostly on insider tactics and not on movement building,” she said. “It wasn’t relying on the full sets of tools.”

Comment: Bad choice. Yamin should have studied climate science (models and feedback effects in particular); plant biology (CO2 fertilization effect); climate economics (benefits of warmth, precipitation); and Public Choice (government decision-making).

It was this idea that reignited Ms. Yamin’s passion for climate and helped her get back to work. Instead of returning to climate diplomacy, Ms. Yamin joined the nascent Extinction Rebellion movement, a decentralized group that uses nonviolent action and civil disobedience, in 2018.

Comment: Doubling down on failure by joining the nut wing–not good at all. And a path to further demoralization and radicalism.

Initially, Ms. Yamin became the leader of Extinction Rebellion’s political team, using her knowledge of the diplomatic terrain to help the movement be more strategic in its activism and get more funding. Even in her new activist role, though, Ms. Yamin felt she was relying too heavily on her intellectual skills instead of putting her body on the line. When an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was issued in October 2018, Ms. Yamin was reading the report as activists filled Parliament Square in London. As she saw pictures of young people refusing to move and waiting to be arrested, she thought, “I want to be with them.”

Ms. Yamin spent the following two years working with Extinction Rebellion, organizing and protesting alongside other activists. She stepped down from her role with the group in 2020 because of disagreements with other leaders. Ms. Yamin said she believed the movement was not focused enough on climate justice.

Comment: Climate justice? Could that include affordable, reliable, accessible energy for the masses?

Since then, Ms. Yamin has been charting a new path, one that does not depend on institutions or activist groups. At COP26, the latest United Nations climate summit, held last year in Glasgow, Ms. Yamin worked as hard as she always has at these events, eager to defend the legacy of Paris. But rather than spend her days in the negotiating room, surrounded by what she calls a “toxic positivity,” Ms. Yamin focused on movement-building and listening to vulnerable people who spoke outside the conference center.

Comment: How about ringing a few doorbells outside of COP to understand energy and real people? Enough of the exaggerators and prop protesters.

She said she left Glasgow heartbroken, both by the outcome of the conference and the stories she heard from marginalized communities about climate impacts. “I could almost cry. We keep pushing the deadlines out,” she said. “At what point do we say, ‘Enough?’”

Comment: Predictable. COP 26 was a ruse, a carbon-fest of elites. COP 27 will be worse.

For her next chapter, Ms. Yamin said she wants to work directly with frontline communities of color in Britain and help to mobilize the cultural sector to become more engaged in climate issues. “We need the cultural sector and the creatives to help us imagine our way out of the crisis,” she said. She also wants to educate philanthropic organizations on climate justice to help get more money to frontline communities. Her goal is to make sure every pocket of society is fighting the climate crisis. “Everyone should have ‘activist’ on their C.V.,” she said.

Comment: Tripling down on failure? How about become an energy advocate for human betterment. Alex Epstein has a new book coming out, Fossil Future. Read it for liberation.

When asked how she feels looking back at her career, Ms. Yamin paused. “I’m proud of my achievements,” she said. “But I can’t keep carrying on doing that in the face of known indifference.” She added, “I’m much more honest now.”

Comment: If you are honest and practical, the theory and data are out there to challenge your beliefs and change your mind–and your life. You do not need to fight depression or withdraw. There is life and optimism in climate and energy realism.

One Comment for “Tribulations of a Climate Activist: Farhana Yamin in Search and Dissent”


  1. John W. Garrett  

    She’s a nutjob— and she’s beyond redemption.

    When she glued herself to Shell’s office building, they should have left her there.

    It is evidently quite possible to graduate from Oxford without learning anything— just as it is obviously possible to graduate from Harvard College with no knowledge of physics, chemistry, mathematics or economics (see Al Gore, Bill McKibben and Amy Goodman).

    Reply

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