Challenging the narrative
Review of 'Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All' by Michael Shellenberger.
If you’re a child of God, you are, by definition, an environmentalist. You’ve learned God’s command for all of us to take responsibility for the earth we’ve been given.
With tensions growing between doomsday sayers and the climate change deniers, you may have wondered how to do it right. What is the best way to mine for steel, produce electricity, drill for oil, or fish the seas? What is the best way to use the resources and yet be careful not to pillage the earth for personal advantage? What is the best way to deal responsibly with the waste that accompanies everything manufactured? We lament the island of plastic swirling in the far Pacific. We lament the way industries pour filth into our waters, our land, and our air. But at the same time we do enjoy the material advantages of technology and modern advancements in areas such as agriculture and power generation. Are we fully aware of the effects our actions are having on our earth?
And then there is the messaging. Scientific reports tell us that presently the air is cleaner than it has been in 25 years. Land use for agriculture peaked in the early 2000s. We know that we are driving cleaner vehicles and we look forward to moving away from fossil fuel consumption. We are learning that wind and water power alone simply cannot provide the people of this world with sufficient electricity. And yet, it seems the media amplifies extremist voices declaring an impending apocalypse. If we continue on the present trend, some researchers predict the end of the world as we know it within our lifetime!
How do we as Christians, as keepers of the earth, digest the inflow of competing visions? In my worldview, hope is a key element. God’s guiding hand is a pivotal element. Together, these elements help me process both the apocalyptic messaging as well as the messages of the deniers.
In my research, I found an intriguing book by a world renowned environmentalist. Michael Shellenberger has been an environmental activist and journalist for over 30 years. He was part of the group that championed California’s unprotected redwood forests in the 1990’s. He is an expert and an outspoken advocate for earth-keeping, be it climate change, energy production, deforestation, waste management, or government policy-making. His book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts us All, is an eye-opening account of how environmental alarmists have it all wrong: he explains how big business is influencing key green decisions and government policies, how some earth-keeping lobby groups are hypocritical and misleading hundreds of thousands of common folk who rely on them for direction, and how mainstream media sensationalizes some parts of the problem while ignoring elements which are as important but much less attractive for selling news.
Shellenberger debunks alarmists and their poster girl, Greta Thunberg, and explains how alarmism is detrimental to constructive dialogue. In one chapter he explains how this world needs high energy fuels; that developing countries cannot hope to help their citizens out of subsistence living without moving away from burning wood and dung and moving toward developing a plan for more energy-dense sustainable energy. He is especially supportive of the development of nuclear energy as it is by far the safest way to produce reliable electricity while at the same time its use reduces deaths caused by air pollution.
In another chapter, Shellenberger exposes high profile environmental groups such as 360.org and the Sierra Club. Shellenberger says that they are funded by fossil fuel conglomerates who stand to gain billions with the decommissioning of nuclear plants. We learn that any “green discussions” are exceedingly difficult when parties at the table have ulterior motives. Elsewhere, Shellenberger explains that almost every facet of the environmental issue is complicated and polarizing, be it wind farms, sweat shops, deforestation, use of plastics, and green energy – to name a few.
Published early in 2020, this book is a fresh new look at a topic that has captured the world’s attention. It has been critically reviewed and has received both high praise and loud criticism. In the introductory pages Shellenberger writes “Much of what people are being told about the environment, including the climate, is wrong and we desperately need to get it right.” It’s definitely worth a read.