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“Why We Won’t Quit the Climate Fight” (the growing futility, despair of climate alarmists)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- February 12, 2019

“We are old climate veterans who have tried to do our part, in every way we know how, to keep our fossil-fuel addicted civilization from driving off a cliff. Are we tired? Sure. Discouraged? Absolutely. Pissed off? Yep. Sad? Call it broken-hearted.”

– Kathleen Dean Moore and SueEllen Campbell, Why We Won’t Quite the Climate Fight, Earth Island Journal, January 28, 2019.

“The admittedly ‘tired … discouraged … pissed off … broken-hearted’ deep ecologists can either live in gloom and despair or check their premises to entertain happiness…. Don’t quit–study. Consider Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource 2 for starters. And live joyfully.” (below)

It is a fossil-fuel world for as far as the eye can see. Abundant, affordable, and reliable, mineral energies are the ones that consumers voluntarily purchase. In many applications, particularly in transportation–boats, ships, planes, trains, trucks, automobiles, and rockets–petroleum is the only viable option. Peak demand not.

Little wonder that global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are robust and rising. The same is true in the U.S. after years of decline.

This is energy reality–and political reality. From America to Brazil to yellow-vested France, climate policies are moribund if not in retreat. It is dense energy in a rout.

So imagine that you are a climate crusader–a real believer. Even to the point of making isolating lifestyle changes. There is great emotional involvement, even fear. The emotions roar in a world where just about everyone else is having fun and thinking nary a thought about what to you is doomsday–sort of what the Club of Rome believers went through nearly 50 years ago. In 1972 after their study Limits to Growth was completed, in particular, authors Dennis and Donella Meadows retreated to a New Hampshire farm “to learn about homesteading and wait for the coming collapse.” [1]

For a look in the mindset of  the deep ecologists, banking on global-warming ruin, consider this Earth Island Journal article (reprinted at Yale Climate Connections), Why We Won’t Quite the Climate Fight. Authors Kathleen Dean Moore and SueEllen Campbell reveal much in their 916-word essay. I interject comments in the bullet section below.


We are old climate veterans who have tried to do our part, in every way we know how, to keep our fossil-fuel addicted civilization from driving off a cliff. Are we tired? Sure. Discouraged? Absolutely. Pissed off? Yep. Sad? Call it broken-hearted.


It might be time. Game over, friends and experts tell us. We’re doomed. It’s true that the news about global warming is awful. More and bigger wildfires, great swaths of drought, stronger and wetter hurricanes, floods of all kinds, coastal villages a few storms away from destruction, feedback loops kicking in as methane leaks from melting tundra and heat-absorbing soils replace reflective ice, hundreds of thousands of refugees looking for safety as weather turns cruel.

Destructive ways of living are skillfully protected by tangles of profit and power around the globe, and we are running out of time. The IPCC now gives the world twelve years to cut global greenhouse-gas emissions in half, if we are to stop warming at “only” 1.5 degrees Celsius. Don’t think quitting hasn’t crossed our minds.

Last month, on the way from one meeting to another, we stopped along the coast to watch a red sun set through purple clouds. While parents gathered up their families, lingering children stood ankle-deep in pink water, looking out to sea. A flock of gulls flew north. Why do we keep doing this climate work? we asked each other. Maybe to our surprise, answers to the question flooded out, one reason after another.

  • Because we are not doomed, as long as we act. A world in which we do everything we can to restrain climate change barely resembles one in which we do nothing. We won’t like the first world, but we might not survive in the second.

Comment: Not really. The climate crusade has wasted tremendous resources with little to show in terms of reduced CO2 emissions. The climate crusaders’ angst against nuclear capacity and hydroelectricity has left them with expensive, intermittent, infrastructure-intensive wind and solar capacity The just-released Green New Deal does not include nuclear power at all!

  • Because I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t give up on important jobs. You don’t do what’s right because you think it might get you something. You do it because it’s right. That’s what integrity is – doing what you believe in, even if it won’t save the world.

Comment: Integrity is more than “doing what you believe in.” Integrity is being intellectually open and honest to understand reality (energy, climate, otherwise) to avoid “causes” that are misguided–even counterproductive. Good intentions do not result in good outcomes, which is why intellectual integrity must come first.

  • Because I won’t walk away from the hurting world any more than I will walk away from my mother as she grows old and frail and sometimes confused. I love her and owe her and have a duty to her and admire her and enjoy her company.

Comment: Beware of global warming policies, not global warming itself. Older, non-working people are very vulnerable to artificially high energy prices. And would you allow your mother to live near to an industrial wind turbine? (Kathleen and SueEllen, have either of you even visited a modern industrial wind turbine to hear the noise?)

  • Because I promised my newborn children: I will always love you. I will keep you safe. I will give you the world. I didn’t mean, I will give you whatever is left scattered and torn on the table after the great cosmic going-out-of-business sale. I said, I will give you this beautiful, life-sustaining, bird-graced world.

Comment: Ditto (the above comments)

  • Because everybody knows what we have to do. It isn’t as though the world is waiting for some technological breakthrough or divine revelation. We just need to stop setting carbon on fire.

Comment: A world without “carbon (-based energy) on fire” would be a world of not only energy poverty but also human poverty.

  • Because climate change is unjust. It threatens the greatest violation of human rights the world has ever seen. But injustice is cowardly and fragile; it crumbles when people stand up for what is right.

Comment: Ditto (the above comments)

  • Because we have so much to lose, and so much left to save – everything from birdsong to our own sorry souls.

Comment: Ditto (the above comments)

  • Because we don’t want to be free riders, taking advantage of the actions, often sacrifices, of those who step up. If we avoid planetary ruin, if we find better ways to live, it will be because of the courage of those who act.

Comment: Like it or not, billions of people will “free ride” on the futile, needless actions of the thousands.

  • Because failing to act is worse than neutral. It’s saying that this climate disruption is no big deal – exactly the message fossil-fuel corporations and complicit governments want to convey. If we don’t respond to the emergency, we become part of the storm itself.

Comment: Climate policy is the “big deal” for interjecting coercion and waste into the everyday, self-interested actions of consenting adults.

  • Because I am wearing my Dad’s rubber boots. They are too big for me, but my own are old and torn. So I am walking in the boots he wore at the edge of all the marshes he defended until the day he died. If you are walking in the shoes of a hero, you can’t exactly turn back.

Comment: Saving the marshes could have been a worthwhile, achievable endeavor versus promoting energy poverty via government coercion.

  • Because I can’t and therefore don’t have to solve the whole problem alone. I only have to help where and how I can. So many good people are in this fight with us – in governments around the world, in businesses, in states and towns and neighborhoods and churches. They are smart and experienced and empowered by a vision of a planet redeemed.

Comment: See comment immediately below

  • Because I believe, and choose to believe, that in this emergency, as in every emergency, more of us will come out to help each other than will rush in to exploit and loot.

Comment: No, ‘tears-in-the-ocean’ actions are doomed by the great masses, explained above.

  • Because despair is lonely and useless while climate action is full of friendship, satisfaction, and glee – you get to hang out with people who care as much as you do and act with the same remorseless resolve. Taking action is the only real cure for hopelessness. It feels good, and important, like you’re not wasting your life on small things.

Comment: Your friends and allies need to have the courage to rethink the whole issue of carbon dioxide, beginning with the CO2 fertilization effect and ending with the ecological benefits of a moderately warmer, wetter world. There are positives to counter the negatives of the human influence on the natural world and on the climate.

We stayed at the beach, mulling over our reasons to stay in the fight, until the stars came out and the breeze came up. Then we walked back to the car on a mossy trail through a tunnel of spruce trees. A Swainson’s thrush sang and would not stop singing, even in the deepest dusk, and that also was a reason. The deep moss was a reason. So were the ancient trees. So were the children standing in the swash. We can’t quit now.


What is bad for the deep ecologists, the modern-day Malthusians, is good for human flourishing. The admittedly “tired … discouraged … pissed off … broken-hearted” deep ecologists can either live in gloom and despair or check their premises to entertain happiness. One can only hope that an intellectual approach is chosen over self-immolation. [2]

Doomsaying has another downside that should be taken to heart from the depressed. Asked Amory Lovins in The Guardian back in 2008:

My way of dealing with doom-mongers is to let the person talk for a while and then I ask, gently: “Does feeling this way make you more effective?”

Don’t quit–study. Consider Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource 2 for starters. And live joyfully.


[1] Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy (Scrivener Press: 2008), p. 235.

[2] In a suicide note sent right before he doused himself with gasoline and lite himself, David Buckel stated: “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

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