Speaker 0 00:00:00 <silence> Hello, everybody. Welcome to the 25th episode of the Atlas Society, asks, I'm Jennifer Anja Grossman. My friends know me as Jag, I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society, which is the leading objectives organization, introducing young people to the literature and ideas of Ayn Rand. Today we are joined by a very special guest, Michael Shellenberger. Before I even get into, uh, introducing Michael, I want to remind all of you guys, I think we have record numbers on Zoom to please type in your questions. Do you know what to do? Also, all of you that are watching our live stream on YouTube, just type the questions in. I'll get to as many of them as possible, so please keep them short. Um, Michael is author of the bestselling book, apocalypse Never. He is a lifelong environmentalist, um, an activist. He's been fighting for a cleaner environment for decades, was even named Time Magazine's Hero of the Environment.
Speaker 0 00:01:12 But he's growing concern about what he saw as a lack of science, um, in the public discussion on climate change, as well as a kind of apocalyptic outlook and partisanship in the environmental movement, uh, inspired him to write this book. Michael has saved the world's last unprotected redwoods in Humboldt County, California. Near and dear to my heart, uh, he's a supporter of nuclear energy, having done four Ted Talks on topic. He writes on a variety of topics, including homelessness and California's forest fires. As someone who lost their house in a, uh, California fire and rebuilt, um, I'm really eager to hear what you have to say on that. Um, Michael has a, uh, quite the stand club in the Atlas Society, um, all the way from our chairman of the board, Jay Lapper, who brought this book to our attention to, um, our Atlas Advocates, um, who recently did a book club, uh, on Michael's book, and he also graciously joined us for that. So, Michael, welcome again. Thank you so much.
Speaker 1 00:02:31 Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.
Speaker 0 00:02:34 So, Michael, what is the biggest potential harm paused posed by climate alarmism, in your opinion? And what do we have to stay to, to gain, particularly with regards to, um, taking concrete and productive positive action on the environment by abandoning, um, this discourse and fear?
Speaker 1 00:02:56 Yeah, I think there's, uh, three broad areas where climate alarmism has, is causing harm. The first is the impact in terms of our relationship to the developing world. The World Bank used to support development. Now it supports under development or the persistence or the sustainability of poverty. Um, the second is the impact on young people in particular, but just on the psychological and mental health of people in all sorts of the world. About half of humans around the world, according to a very large survey that was done, think that climate change, uh, could make humans go extinct. There's zero science to support that. There's not even very much science fiction to support that. And the science fiction that does exist is not very good, by the way. And then the third is that it just actually undermines the policies that we need to protect the environment, ironically.
Speaker 1 00:03:49 So if you think of one of the biggest problems in the, I think maybe the biggest environmental problem in the world is just, you know, poor people working as small farmers trying to eke out a living on the forest frontier in places like Brazil or Central Africa, who are basically being denied actively by, you know, European greens and Americans, um, and the World Bank, the main, uh, drivers of development, which is urbanization, industrialization, um, a chance to seek a better life in the city. Uh, more freedoms for everybody, including women and children, but also a solution to the environmental problems that are created by having a lot of frontier agriculture in particular, which both threatened species, but also as we've seen with the coronavirus, is probably a main vector for the spread of zoonotic viruses from animals to humans. And so we now know that that kind of poverty, that kind of agriculture, is actually a threat to all of us in the form of, um, of new diseases.
Speaker 0 00:04:52 So we just cited that astounding statistic that half of the, the global population believes that the, uh, there's a very good chance that the human population is going to become extinct, and that there's zero evidence for that. Um, why has this kind of alarmism thrived despite a massive body of evidence, uh, to the contrary, and how do we push that against this narrative of, of doom and gloom?
Speaker 1 00:05:22 Well, you're right that the narrative has persisted and in some ways gotten worse over the decades, despite the evidence all going in the opposite direction, basically. I mean, you have to remember that there's prior scares. Prior environmental scares have been around, um, too many people. Um, in fact, the height of that scare, which was in the late sixties, is also when the rate of population growth peaked and, um, started to decline. Uh, we now know that the human population will almost certainly peak at nine to 11 billion. And that, um, for it to peak at the lower number, which most of us that care about the natural environment would like to see, that would mean more wealth and prosperity and industrialization for places like Central Africa, not less. And so, um, um, unfortunately, um, despite the, you know, so many of these trends, I mean, there's, uh, lemme just name a few carbon emissions peaked in the, in Britain, France, and Germany in the mid seventies. They peaked in the United States 13 years ago. Uh, we're in a transition from coal to natural gas. Everybody agrees natural gas is better than coal, just have to use, just cook in your kitchen, and you know that you would rather be cooking with gas than with coal. So it's a very benevolent transition. Um, and, um, but unfortunately, yeah, the, the, the alarmism has just gotten worse and worse.
Speaker 1 00:06:39 And I've had people sort of say to me, why, if you're an environmental activist, a climate activist, do you, why are you pushing back on the alarmism? Doesn't the alarmism help? I I compare it to being like a doctor that works on cancer, for example. So if you work on cancer, um, we're getting much better at treating cancers. Like it's this huge success story. Like we're turning a lot of cancers into chronic diseases like we've now done with hiv aids. It's this major thing we should be celebrating and seeking to provide for everybody in the world. And so, if somebody was coming along saying that, you know, billions of people are gonna die from cancer, which in a in one sense is actually true over several decades. But, but for somebody to come along and say, the world's gonna end because of cancer, you'd kind of be like, that's actually communicating the wrong information.
Speaker 1 00:07:20 Things are getting better. So in the book, just in short, I, the last three chapters of the book describe what I see as the underlying causes of the alarmism money, power, and religion, ultimately concluding that, um, climate alarmism and environmentalism more broadly, which stems from the intellectual class and of scientists and, and media and elites, is really an alternative religion. It's really the new dominant secular religion. You might kind of group it with, you know, black Lives Matter or other kind of, um, left-wing movements as really an alternative religion to the decline of Judeo Christianity. And so I conclude that actually as much as we push back against it, and we should on the facts as we've done an apocalypse never, that we can expect the, this kind of alarmism to increase because people are, are engaging in it really to provide their own lives with meaning and to gain some kind of status and power through conspicuous compassion and virtue signaling.
Speaker 0 00:08:20 Well, that's really interesting because, uh, some of our viewers, uh, might be asking really, well, what does objectiveism have to do with what we're talking about right now? But of course, the sort of central tenant of objectivism is a, is a, that reality exists. Uh, and of course, it's a philosophy of self-esteem, a productivity of finding a purpose, uh, in your life, and finding that purpose and living that purpose. And I, I think that regardless of, of where you ultimately end up in terms of your, your politics or your purpose, but when you have this existential vacuum and you just abandon, uh, trying to find your own personal purpose, you, you open up, um, a, uh, a need to find an alternative form. So, um, I wanna also encourage everybody, please ask your, your questions of Michael. This is a really unique opportunity, so just go ahead and, and type them in.
Speaker 0 00:09:23 But first, I've got a few of my own. So I thought this was interesting, Michael, that you, uh, in terms of politics identify as, as more politically left leaning in your, in your writings, not big surprise. Uh, you're in Berkeley. I think <laugh>, I, uh, certainly started out much more on the, the left side of the political spectrum, uh, myself and much to my parents' chagrin <laugh> have, um, had my own evolution. But you are undeniably, um, gaining a lot of popularity among conservatives, libertarians, and clearly, um, in the objectivist community. Why do you think that might be?
Speaker 1 00:10:08 I mean, I think the underlying reason is that we share the same values. Um, I mean, I'm in favor of prosperity. I'm in favor of wealth. I'm in favor of individuality. Uh, I think what I share with objectivist, um, and libertarians, if I could define it broader, I know you're not the same, um, is yeah, for sure a commitment to kind of, uh, reality and, um, facts and science, um, but also committed to kind of, every human is special, and every human has this internal potential. And, and we're not victims, and we're not helpless victims of our natural environments that we can take control over our lives. You know, much of the environmental discourse paints humans on the one hand, as these kind of terrible greedy predators and destroyers of nature. On the other hand, it depicts us as kind of helpless victims of, you know, I mean, one of the most ridiculous is sea level rise.
Speaker 1 00:11:00 I mean, you know, sea level, you know, climate, you know, my view, climate change is real. Um, we should do something about it. We are, it's not the end of the world. It's not the biggest environmental problem. Sea level rise, the median estimate sea level rise is a half a meter point, six meters. That's about two feet over the next, you know, century. I mean, we think people can't deal with one centimeter, sea level rise a year. I mean, it's, it's, you know, we, we farm seven meters below sea level in Netherlands. Uh, if anybody that's been to Venice in Italy knows that this is an entire city kind of constructed on the water, you know, we, we put a person on the moon, um, we do things technologically that are unbelievable. So this idea that sort of where these passive, helpless victims, I reject that at a kind of primordial way.
Speaker 1 00:11:47 I think in the same way that probably many objective do, which is to say that that's just gross. It treats humans as machines or a simple stimulus response, uh, kind of behavioral view or a kind of a view that basically is dehumanizing. So I think we share that in common. I also support, uh, market signals. I think prices contain a huge amount of information, and that Hayek is basically right about that, and that there's no substitute for it. And I point to the case of the whales where, you know, countries that had more centralized control over supply of oils, by the way of 20th century, they were using whales for, uh, vegetable oils for soap and margarine. Um, the Soviets, some of the worst wailing was done because the Soviets were, were avoiding market, uh, signals that were coming from making from vegetable oils becoming a lot cheaper, and whales become a little more expensive.
Speaker 1 00:12:41 So definitely share some stuff on that. Um, yeah, people are always curious. I am a democrat. I, I remain a Democrat. I'm unhappy with the Democrats. I live in California, so therefore I'm unhappy with the Democrats. It's a single party state. Um, you know, my view is that there's some services that are probably better, that are natural monopolies and are probably better provided by the state, and we can talk about that or disagree about that. But I just think there's some things that are like that, including electricity. You know, we we're in the middle of a psychiatric crisis here, and I just don't, if there's some other, if there's some way to solve that psychiatric crisis with market forces, I get to see it. So I think there's certainly some things that should be in the domain of, of collective action. But yeah, I, I, I admit that I'm, um, um, a bit of an outlier when it comes to Democrats in California, certainly in Berkeley as well.
Speaker 0 00:13:29 Oh, that's for sure. Um, and I spent most of the past year in San Francisco with my parents and wrote an article called, uh, Vagrant in our Driveway, A Teachable Moment. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I took a, a video because I heard my mother upstairs, my mother who's a Democrat and a social worker. Um, and she, we were at home and she was concerned, you know, that there was someone who was completely out of it, um, stumbling around half naked in, in the driveway. And I was, um, saying that I, I thought that it was a usually not a lot of upside when that happens. Uh, it wasn't probably a very good day for, for that individual either. But I was, um, saying at least from an objectives mo perspective, that it was possibly a teachable moment because of the language we used. Um, when ay in Ayn Rand's literature, particularly like an anthem where the word I has been abolished, when you are so focused on, well, we use this word and we don't use that word, you not only limit debate, but you limit even your ability to, uh, think about it.
Speaker 0 00:14:43 And so I, I said, we used to have a very rich, broad vocabulary of the way that we would talk about people who were living on the streets. And, uh, it, it, some of them weren't very polite, uh, you know, vagrants or bums or panhandler or beggars or whatever it might be, um, roust about. So, I mean, the list goes on and on, and now it's just homelessness. And that it, at least to me, makes it think that it's about housing, you know, as opposed to what you're talking about. Would you tell us a little bit about the, the writing that you're doing on that and, um, and maybe some of your thoughts?
Speaker 1 00:15:20 Sure. I'd really happy to. So I'm happy to say too, I, I have a, I just signed a book deal with, uh, my publisher, Harper Collins. My next book is gonna be about the so-called homeless crisis in San Francisco. I agree with you. The word homelessness is a propaganda word. It's a word that is designed to make us think that the problem is essentially poverty rather than being a problem of untreated mental illness and addiction, which any of us who live here know that it is right. There are extremely poor people. Um, I think that there are policies that we should have to help them. There are also people that are addicted to meth than sleeping on the street. Those are not the same people. I mean, sometimes they might be, but this idea that we have one word that could, that combines all these different people, it's, it means it's a propaganda word.
Speaker 1 00:16:03 And you're absolutely right. I mean, I'll make two observations. I mean, the first is that that person in your driveway, you're supposed to, if you're gonna be able to have friends and <laugh> polite conversations in San Francisco, you're supposed to call that person unhoused and suffering from a substance abuse disorder. That's the correct language, which you'll notice about all the language is it's all aimed at, at, at, at eliminating any sense of responsibility or agency or power from what they do. So the very idea that people are victims as opposed to people that have undergone hardship and, and, and in fact have a lot of heroic potential, because victimization, of course, is a stage in becoming a hero. Victimization is part of what it takes to become a full human being that has suffered and suffers and has overcome that. That's, I'm more in the tradition of Friedrich Nietzsche, which says that, you know, that would, you know, that which doesn't kill me, makes me stronger.
Speaker 1 00:16:58 He's not saying that. He's not saying that's how it's for everybody. He's saying that that's what you should tell yourself. That's the attitude you should have when faced with hardship. Well, the left here, mostly the radical left, but the left here says, no, no, no. You could not possibly demand anything from anybody. We can only, it's a really social worker mentality gone crazy not to criticize your mom at all. And my family, by the way, has social workers in it and, and teachers, and they're all very empathic. But we've clearly it's not, it's not, um, it's not rocket science to figure out what's going on around here. I mean, you just go give people all sorts of money and benefits, and then you, and you let them shoot drugs in public and defecate in public and sleep on the sidewalk. That's what people will do.
Speaker 1 00:17:41 And I think it's interesting. There's a writer, um, who I've become really interested in. He's a psychiatrist, he's from Britain, and he describes the language that people really, the kind of the most challenged folks in our society use to describe their circumstances. And he talks about one guy who talks about how he, how he stabbed a guy. And he was describing, and he said the knife went in. You know, it was a completely, it like, completely erased his agency and his responsibility from it. And if you think that responsibility is essential to being an adult and to transcending a kind of, um, familial or paternalistic relationship, then what you want is to have policies that reward responsibility, that require responsibility, where there's some amount of reciprocity. And we have all sorts of words that we use to describe this relationship. We call it carrots and sticks.
Speaker 1 00:18:33 We call it rights and responsibilities. We call it tough love in San Francisco. We basically in San Francisco Bay area, we basically eliminated one half of that equation, um, which is madness. And we see it, but you know, we see it in the whole culture. You know, we're all going soft and I mean, we all know what this problem is. Um, and it's a challenge, I think you guys probably think a lot about, certainly Anne Rand thought about it, um, which is what do you do when you become really rich and soft, um, and, and coddling and you don't create any of these strictures? I mean, what we know I'm a father. Um, I'm not gonna claim to be the best father in the world. And, and, um, like a lot of parents have a lot of regrets. But I do know that my experience with kids is that they want to, they want to have things demanded of 'em.
Speaker 1 00:19:18 People need responsibilities to give their lives meaning and purpose. And so what is a political movement doing that is depriving people a chance to feel powerful, to feel responsibility, to take control of their life. I mean, one of the worst things you can say about somebody in the Bay Area right now is you say, oh, well, that's somebody that thinks that you could just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Like, that would be the worst thing in the world to think that you would actually, you know, want people. Now, of course, you know, look, I am still, like I said, I still think there's some role for the government here. I think there's a role to help people when they're down and out, but it should be tied to some sense of responsibility. So that's, you know, that's where the book is headed. And you just see it everywhere.
Speaker 1 00:19:56 I mean, it's just like, they're literally, I love being asked this. 'cause you can see my poor wife and friends are just sick of me ranting about this. They're literally, harm reduction has gone from giving people clean needles so they, they don't transfer H I v or Hep C to each other, to providing people with meth pipes and with foil to light fentanyl on and smoke it. Like, what's the public interest in that? Like, how is that harm reduction at all? It's just enabling terrible behavior. Um, so, you know, the punchline to it all is that it's pretty simple. You have to restore some sense of some, some requirement of responsibility. You have to have more strictness in how we raise our kids, including, particularly how we raise our boys, because they need it more than girls need it, but everybody needs it. And that, you know, the good news is that mothers can father just as fathers can mother.
Speaker 1 00:20:50 And that turns out that the both sexes can play these roles, but that kids need that and they need to have things expected of 'em. And, and we all need that. And I think that we're in a moment in American life right now where nobody knows what's expected of each other. And that's why every institution in the society is failing from the White House to Congress, to the New York Times, to, you know, the United Nations to c d C and world hell. Every institution is in crisis in Western civilization. And I think the reason for that is because there's no vision. There's no sense of what do we owe each other as taxpayers and citizens. There's no sense of, you know, um, if I get something, what do I owe for it? Um, and I think that ultimately Californians will, and Americans will come back to this balanced place of rights and, and obligations, rights and responsibilities that, um, sure, you know, there is some obligation, I think, on the society to provide some basic shelter, particularly to people that are pretty low capacity and incapable in some ways of taking care of themselves.
Speaker 1 00:21:52 We have some obligation to them, but everybody can work. Everybody can do their part, everybody can contribute. You know, I was in the Netherlands, which is one of the most liberal countries in the world, and people with pretty high levels of severe mental illness also do work. They are constantly doing work for themselves. And I think it makes social work a little bit harder, and sometimes it's easier just to provide the service than to demand things from people. But ultimately, the whole society needs to be demanding both individual and some sense of social responsibility for ourselves if we're gonna solve this untreated, you know, addiction and mental illness crisis and, and frankly just prosper, develop and continue to, you know, protect and, and strengthen our institutions rather than allow them to be completely, you know, denigrated and, and dismantled.
Speaker 0 00:22:40 Yeah. That, that there's so much there that resonates when you also talk about people, uh, with mental illness or other kinds of disabilities, um, that can work. You know? And one of the reasons that I patronize the particular grocery stores that I do is because I see that grocery store going out of its way to provide some kinds of work opportunities for the people that, you know, the mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's sometimes it can be a little strange, right? That the guy that's, you know, that bagging, bagging groceries Yeah. Clearly, uh, you know, is autistic or something like that. Um, I also did it, you know, at, at the Atlas Society gala. I, uh, had my dress that was made by a Guatemalan 23 year old Guatemalan, um, fashion designer, who also happens to have Down syndrome, right? So we can, we can each of us make these kind of choices as individuals, as organizations, as businesses to, uh, to live, to live our values. So we are gonna get to, um, to some of these questions. Um, but I, I didn't want to, uh, let you go without also asking a little bit about your origin story, Michael. Like, what, how did you become, um, so interested in, in the environment and what was, what was your path? Were there people that were influences? Were there books that were influences? Was it
Speaker 1 00:24:08 Sure. Um, yeah, boy, a lot to talk about. Um, yeah, I've actually started to understand a little bit more about my family. So I am, um, from a long line of Mennonites, which is a, uh, Christian Protestant sect that is, um, including in my family, was pretty anti-statist, uh, held a lot of ideas that I think Atlas Society members would share, ironically, um, though others not. Um, it's a very, they're not the Amish, um, but the Amish, um, are close. And, and often, you know, my, the Amish, when you stop being Amish, you just become Mennonite. And so, for example, my grandfather's parents, um, were Amish, and then they, they became Mennonites. And so in that tradition, there's a lot of radical thought, a lot of outsider thought, um, we were suspicious of the states, suspicious of the nation, very pacifist. My whole family was like that.
Speaker 1 00:25:01 Um, I was, I was not, I I was a pacifist. And then I became more of a radical, more of a radical leftist, uh, certainly had a socialist phase, certainly had a Marxist phase, um, spent a lot of time in Latin America. I was never malthusian. I never thought there was too many humans. I never thought there was too many people that always struck me as racist, even from a very young age. Always loved the natural environment, never thought there should be a conflict between people and the natural environment. And so it was always, there was always something strange about some environmentalists to me. I mean, the other part of it was, I was always struck by how wealthy they were and how aristocratic so many environmental folks were compared to other left-wing movements. Um, and then, you know, what can I say, uh, mugged by reality.
Speaker 1 00:25:47 You know, I lived in peasant communities and Latin America. Um, people want prosperity. Prosperity is good. Uh, progress is mostly good. You know, we all suffer the, some of the consequences of progress, but all else being equal, we'd rather have it than not have it. Um, and, um, yeah, no, what else? I guess the stuff on the, you know, really the stuff on markets was some of the most recent, um, in the sense of, I never really was against that stuff, but it always, I came to appreciate more. You get older and you just kind of understand how the world works better, and you kind of go, markets are important. So it was a gradual process. Um, you know, I actually did some work in Venezuela. This is the final stage of my socialism was, um, being in Venezuela. And it just got crazy. Like the Marxists were just nuts. And it was just, I just remember being like, this is not, there's something really kind of wrong about this at, at multiple levels. And I just remember that being the kind of goodbye to all that <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:26:49 That broke the camel's back. Well, it's interesting, yeah, what you're saying about, uh, Venezuela, and we'll have to make sure that you see our latest life. My name is Venezuela, which we've also translated into Spanish and after the United States, which is, um, has, that's our biggest audience. The second biggest audience, the most engaged audience for the United States in the entire globe at the moment is Venezuela. So it's, uh, it's interesting. It's interesting that there are still enough people physically there when so many have left. And I identify with your journey kind of in, in, in the reverse, because I was, uh, raised in a very liberal, um, more belief in state intervention background. And then I also made my, you know, you went through your Marxist phase, your socialist phase. I went through, you know, my Republican phase. My li arrived Objectivism. Uh, and we have here a question from the man that made this possible. He is Le Pere, uh, the chairman of the board of the Atla Society. And, uh, he wants to know, Michael has your book made conference among environmentalists. And what are the legitimate criticism your book received, uh, if any?
Speaker 1 00:28:15 Well, unfortunately, you know, this environment is so polarized. My book did not really get a fair hearing on the left. Um, I've written for the New York Times and Washington Post before, I've reviewed books for the Washington Post, and neither of them, um, uh, reviewed the book. Um, one of those newspapers, I won't say which, so I don't get anybody in trouble. The review editor sent back a note, sort of saying that he thought it was too bad that the newspaper decided to shut me out. Um, it's not, as you know, from reading it, this is not some right wing book. It's not even really a libertarian book. Um, there's just nothing kind of, it's not really very ideological at all. But, um, it, it iced out of the left. So there's just a lot of people that never heard of it. I mean, it's just, it's sad.
Speaker 1 00:28:56 Um, but, um, that's just, you know, I can't do anything about that. So, um, so unfortunately not enough. I did get some very nice notes. Some of the most rewarding notes I get are from people who were depressed about environmental problems. Like I, especially from adolescents, young people emailed for sure, and we're like, thank you. And I felt better. I know the world's not gonna end. And, um, you kind of broke it all down. And those were extremely rewarding to get. Um, I think it has had an impact as well on the discourse, not as, it's not as obvious to some people, but if you pay super close attention to the conversation about these things, I can see it's just slightly less acceptable to be hysterical about climate change, particularly in elite media audiences, like on Twitter, still a bunch of it around the forest fires.
Speaker 1 00:29:43 We saw it, you know, where, which was just ridiculous. But, um, I do think in some other areas it's gotten better. Um, you know, legitimate criticisms of the book. Um, I'll say there's criticisms I've felt the need to respond to, and criticisms I haven't felt the need to respond to. And the ones I felt the need to respond to, I put 'em on the website and I responded to them. I mean, the most substantive criticism of the book came from somebody who defended Reverend Thomas Malus, who's the villain in Apocalypse Never. So, it's funny because you're kind of like, on the one hand environmentalists, they said, oh, Michael, you're constructing a straw man. Nobody really follows the ideas of Thomas Malus anymore. And then the main attack on me, like they had a huge photo of Thomas Malthus's face, a painting of Maltus as a, uh, an attack on Apocalypse.
Speaker 1 00:30:33 Never, um, you know, substantively, you know, ticky tacky stuff. I've, I have issued a small number of corrections that mostly were typos on the website, but nothing of significance. Um, you know, I will say, you know, um, and, you know, it's hard to ask an author, <laugh> <laugh> what Chris Are, are valid. But I will say, you know, um, I wasn't trying to, there were some people that were like, it's not super, my book's not super original. And, and I, I think there's part of it that's true, which is that I wasn't trying to break new theoretical ground or new journalistic ground even. Um, what I was really, I think where, where the novelty in the book exists is that I synthesize it. And, um, you know, I was praised recently for being good at synthesizing. And, and it's actually something I, I take a lot of pride in at being able to, um, you know, kind of explain some complicated ideas and a small amount of space. So for me, the book is, um, what's special about it and what I, what I am proud of with the book is that it, it covers a lot. You know, it covers both the debunking of these, of the alarmism, but also tries to get at some of the deeper psychological, and I think even spiritual, um, um, motivations that underlie so much of the alarmism.
Speaker 0 00:31:52 Speaking of motivations, uh, we have another question here from another one of our donors, Phil Coates. Hey, Phil, great to see you and appreciated those kind, uh, comments that you had about the Atlas Society on, uh, Carl Barney's blog. So, uh, Phil wants to know why has the apocalyptic version of climate change taken over among scientists? And I guess first, you know, whether or not you'd agree with that premise. Phil wants to know, are they confused politically intimidated from speaking out, or three, are there quite a few out there who, uh, do like you but just really aren't getting picked up by the media?
Speaker 1 00:32:31 Yeah, I mean, the answer is yes, <laugh> to all, all, all of those. Yeah. Yeah. I, um, one of the characters in the book is, is one of my favorite people in the whole world. Um, a gentleman named Roger Pelke Jr. Who's a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. And was, is one of the most just balanced, um, scientists in terms of, he's famous because he shows that there hasn't been an increasing cost from natural disasters once you account for economic growth or more, more property in harm's way, once you account for that, hurricanes don't cause more damage today than they did in the past. Um, and he is taken a lot of, he suffered significantly for that. Not a victim, <laugh>, he's actually the hero of the book one, the heroes of the book. Um, but he said, you know, he was like, you know, look, a lot of this is just people, you know, the majority of people are just herd animals.
Speaker 1 00:33:20 Um, see, I'm trying to work in all of the <inaudible> concepts I can, um, <laugh>, um, you know, that most people are just kind of follow the herd and they're obedient, and they just, you know, people, most people, I mean, and I understand it, they just don't want to be criticized publicly. They don't wanna be attacked on Twitter. And of course they don't. Nobody likes that. And so, I just think a lot of people are just intimidated into silence. I think most scientists are not radical left, um, and alarmist. So there's definitely a handful that are, they're true believers, every single one of 'em. Um, yeah, I mean, there's financial motivations always, but the main event is, I just think they're true believers. And I think it makes sense that, for me, I, at the end of the book, I talk about how I think that the, of course, the narrative that sci alarmist scientists say, and they wanna say is, well, I'm just more in touch with the facts, and that's why I'm so alarmist.
Speaker 1 00:34:13 But I think that, um, that's not true. And, and I think a deeper motivation is that, remember, scientists were the first ones to, to struggle with, um, purpose. Once you accept, if you believe there's no God. And so scientists were the ones out there making the world godless, so to speak, kind of being like, look, we can explain a lot of evolution without God. You know, we can explain a lot of things in the world without, without, uh, the Bible. And I think that undermines, um, a very powerful basis for human civilization, which is the idea that our morality, that we should behave properly. Because if we don't, then we will suffer for it in the afterlife or be rewarded for it. So once that's gone, I think people then search for some other ways to make meaning, and they, they decide to make meaning, um, through, um, really trying to enforce, um, power in this new morality. And so there's been this effort in particular, by alarm of scientists to do that, by activist scientists. But like I said, they're in the minority. And, and most people are just intimidated.
Speaker 0 00:35:19 Thomas Oday has a question he wants to know. How do you answer the question of human impact on global warming? I believe we are impacting it, but not as much as is being stated. Nature is a much bigger impact. Correct. Is, is that, is that your view?
Speaker 1 00:35:40 Well, it depends. So it sounds like he wants to talk about climate change. So, um, my view of climate change is pretty close to the mainstream view, which is that carbon dioxide is a heat trapping molecule. It makes sense that a lot of carbon dioxide would be contributing to warming. The mechanism is well understood scientifically, and it has been since the late 19th century plus, we have, we have good observations of temperature changes. There has been some problems with land-based temperature records, but we have good temperature records for the oceans. So we know the world is getting warmer, and we see the impact of, of climate change, um, we do. And, um, um, is there, uh, is, is nature playing a role? Well, of course. I mean, it's like saying, you know, I mean, it's, it's a funny word, nature 'cause it just refers to everything.
Speaker 1 00:36:26 So it's like, are there natural? So people might wanna say, is there natural cycles? Could be, although, you know, um, we may have been heading, heading towards a cooling period. In fact, a lot of scientists thought we were headed towards a cooling period. And then were surprised when we, uh, that all of the, that we got warmer. And so that is part of where the theory comes from. But I, I think the evidence is pretty strong. And, um, and, and with the book you'll see that I sort of defend, uh, that more, uh, mainstream view of the effect of, of, of carbon and other heat trapping gases on climate change. But I just pushed back on the idea that, that we're just victims of it all and that we can't have any control over it. In fact, I show that, you know, that greater adversity, that fighting adversity, including in terms of where you live, whether it's Venice, Italy or, or Amsterdam, can bring great achievements.
Speaker 1 00:37:17 You know, I mean, arguably the greatest achievements, um, the only great achievements are achieved through some sort of struggle and, and challenge and adversity. And so, so what I'm really pushing back against is the idea that this is some apocalyptic threat that we're incapable of dealing with. And I'm also pushing back against the fact that there are other things that we do to the natural environment that are pretty terrible that we don't need to do, and that we could stop doing, like eating less wild fish. You know, like not using biofuels at all. You know, like not spreading garbage energy sources like, you know, solar panels, you know, made in China over vast landscapes or killing birds with wind turbines, that they don't need to do those things. And so in, in the name of climate change, we're causing significant amounts of harms. So, um, but I think that the conservatives, and in some ways I wrote the book for my conservative friends, or I wrote the book for my friends on the right, which is to say, um, don't just be anti, you know, the malthusians though, that's important, but we should have a positive program.
Speaker 1 00:38:21 And that's a positive program that's built around, you know, human aspiration, human development, um, innovation, energy transitions, intensified agriculture, and the move towards more, um, energy dense fuels.
Speaker 0 00:38:35 I think that that's a wonderful, uh, way to put it. And, uh, our most recent honoree at the Atlas Society Gala in October was Peter Diamandis. And, uh, he is an environmentalist as well, but he has a perspective on technology, exponentially accelerating innovation and, uh, an optimistic perspective on the ability to overcome challenges. And I think that's part of what, what I'm hearing from you, because, um, if, if ever we're heading into a, a vortex where we're able to, um, source solutions for some of these global crises, it's now. But of course, if we enact socialism and we, uh, get rid of these sources of capital which can fund these efforts, then, then we're gonna be in trouble. Uh, question from Joe L. Dread. He wants to know, um, have you written about Greta Berg? I dunno if I'm pronouncing her name right. What's your opinion of her and the things that she says?
Speaker 1 00:39:40 Yeah, she's a character in the book I write extensively about Greta. She's very interesting, very important, uh, figure. Um, I treat her as an adult, which means that I make criticisms of her substantively. I reject this idea that somehow she can denounce all of Western civilization, and that anybody who responds to her is somehow picking on a girl, which has been the nature of, of, of her advocacy in her defense, which I find pretty terrible, honestly. Um, so I treat her as the adult that she is, and I point out that what she's recommending is panic in her own words, <laugh>, she says, I don't want you to have hope. I want you to panic. Well, I don't wish panic on my worst enemies. And, and the reason I don't do that is because what panic means is unthinking behavior and, and action. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Speaker 1 00:40:34 Like, why would you, why would you wish unthinking behavior, particularly on your opponents? Um, I don't think we want anybody engaging in unthinking behavior and action. And you might say, well, that's just rhetorical, Michael, why are you making such a big deal of it? But I point out that in fact, um, uh, two radical environmentalists with extinction rebellion, um, were dragged down from the top of, uh, tube cars. Uh, that's the subway in London, of course, uh, from the tops of tube cars and are protest. And they were kicked and beaten, could have been killed. I mean, genuinely they could have been killed. Um, and there was, there have, and there's been, you know, a lot of harm, you know, caused by that sort of rhetoric. And so I think it's irresponsible. And I also point out that at the end, you know, at the beginning of last year, she started by talking about how poor countries we should, you know, poor countries need to use a lot of energy.
Speaker 1 00:41:28 They need to develop. She at least recognized that by the end of the year she was denouncing economic growth at the United Nations. And I point out, you know, Greta Thunberg, upper middle class child of an opera singer and an actor, and stay at home dad, who are clearly very affluent, live in very affluent circumstances. There is no Greta Thunberg without economic growth. Like she is a product of economic growth. And it's that lack of gratitude and awareness. She came to the United States, this is after I finished the book, and I've never written about it 'cause it's just annoying. But she did this podcast of her trip around the United States, and it was the most patronizing, insulting, um, you know, talking. She would like, I mean, she was like criticizing Americans for having like cattle ranching. I mean, it's like, what do you think in Sweden?
Speaker 1 00:42:18 They don't eat meat. I mean, it was the most kind of typical stereotypical European put down of Americans I'd ever heard. And I'm not some, like, you know, whatever, you know, red state, you know, or bust guy. I live in Berkeley for Pete's sake. But the kind of disrespect that she levels at, at people that, that share her class mm-hmm. <affirmative> actually at people that are slightly below her class by at working class people is offensive. You know, it's the same way that, I mean, the way, the way that Sno it's a kind of European snobbery. So I think she's, and I think that ultimately, and I sort of conclude this at the very end of the book, is that a lot of what you're, a lot of this climate alarmism and an effort to try to control how countries produce energy and food has to be read as a rear guard action to protect globalization and elite privilege at a time when nations are reverting towards nationalism and working classes are asking what's in it for them. And at a time when people are asking, what does it mean to be an American and to assert the dominance of Greta Thunberg and United Nations officials over, you know, domestically elected governments is just terrible and nobody wants that.
Speaker 0 00:43:28 You know, uh, what you were saying about panic, um, I thought was interesting that you certainly wouldn't want anybody, but particularly somebody who actively wished you harm, to revert to a mode of unthinking behavior. Uh, and it also struck a tone with what you were saying about the ingratitude that you observed and that you're picking up re's message. And something that our chairman has talked a lot about, uh, is, is gratitude. We have a, my name is Gratitude video, and it's like, well, what your is, how does that fit in? Uh, because just as panic is not gonna help you or anybody function in a productive goal oriented manner, um, being constantly thinking about what you need, what other people have, resenting other people is a very disempowering agency towards Thanksgiving. We definitely recommend, uh, a dose of gratitude every, every day, every day, 365 days a year. John, uh, lacks me, and we are getting to the end here. So, um, maybe we can get to one or two short questions. Uh, since Michael should be congratulated for the course correction he made, it would be useful to present the arguments and facts in the book in a visual documentary format. Any, any underway to do that?
Speaker 1 00:45:02 Well, on the one hand we did in the sense that if you go to environmental progress.org and you go to the dropdown page for Apocalypse Never, you can see all the graphs and charts of all the scientific or the stuff that's easy to quantify. We did do some qualitative stuff on those slides, but I mean, my colleague, by the way, Madison Cywinski, who did it, who is a amazing researcher, there's something like 200 slides of all the charts and graphs, and they are easy to download and also easy to just kind of right click and paste into social media so people can share them. And then yes, should, should each chapter of Apocalypse Never Be its own episode on a Netflix documentary series? Absolutely. <laugh>. Um, I would love that. Um, I, I wrote the, the story of the book is that I was contacted by a talent agent who, after she saw my Ted Talks, wanted to see if I wanted to do a TV show about nuclear.
Speaker 1 00:45:55 And I said, yeah, I'm working on a book about that. And then she's like, we'll do the book first, then we'll talk about the TV show. And then I did this book and it changed in the middle, and it became this, this new book. Um, and, um, and, you know, I was talked, I have talked to folks that wanna make it into a TV show, but so far, um, it hasn't panned out. And, and it's disappointing because I think it would make for better television than a lot of stuff that's on Netflix right now, <laugh>. Um, and, um, I think it would be great. And also my, my daughter, you know, she's, um, 15. She's not quite into the book yet, and I really wanted her to have something for gen, you know, for Zoomers and young millennials and others, and people who just don't read, you know, people don't read that much. So yes, if anybody's listening, I would like a TV show on Netflix <laugh>. Um, but apparently what the universe wants is for me to write a book about the homeless crisis in San Francisco. And so I've kind of made my peace with that. Um, and that's what I'm working on.
Speaker 0 00:46:50 And yeah. And, and the universe wants you to write a book on, uh, on fires too. I I certainly would. I can be, I can, I can be, I can do a whole chapter on, on that in terms of, uh, what, from my own personal experience I've seen that mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, contributed to, to, uh, the very precarious situation in which we find ourselves. So, um, we have a few other questions. Uh, people are asking your thoughts on some others, uh, like Matt Ridley. Um, I think we also have a question about if you have any thoughts on, uh, the animated film director, hay Miyasaki? I'm not, I'm not sure who that,
Speaker 1 00:47:36 Oh, I love Hay Miyazaki <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:47:41 So,
Speaker 1 00:47:41 Um, yeah. Um, well, those are two very interesting characters. Um, so Matt Ridley and I are friendly. Um, I've met him in person. Um, I like him. Um, I, we don't see eye to eye on everything, you know? Um, I did a history of the fracking revolution in the United States. I did find more US government involvement than he acknowledges in his history. But, you know, it's at that level of disagreement. It's not, um, we're, we're good friends. And I think his books, he's written some very fine books. Aya Miyazaki is a very interesting character. He, of course, is the Japanese filmmaker who made his most famous movie of Spirited Away. And, um, but he is made other movies that are absolutely some of my favorite movies in the entire world, not just animated films. I mean, I think he's a genius. Um, I love all of his movies.
Speaker 1 00:48:28 Um, and his movies are deeply nostalgic. They tend to be, they're actually nostalgic in an interesting way. They tend to be, they're steam punk. They tend to be nostalgic for kind of early industrial revolution. They tend to be very nature nostalgic. Um, he's definitely, uh, hardcore. I think he's a Malthusian, um, low energy, um, you know, romantic reactionary, you know, that's who he is. And I see it in a lot of artists. I forgive it more because I think, you know, artists have a kind of, um, they're romantics, right? And so they have a view that things were always better in some past period and when we were either hunter gatherers or farmers, or the early industrial period for high Miyazaki. And, um, I don't think it's very healthy for politics, but it seems like it's just a really deep part of art. And so for me, you know, I don't write about how za in the book, because he's not, you know, depriving poor countries of energy, <laugh>, you know, he is not a, he is not a villain or anything.
Speaker 1 00:49:35 But, but it's interesting that one of your, one of the folks asked about it, I think one of the most interesting about, I'll say also about Miyazaki's films. He made a movie called Nasca, I believe, where the world is polluted and contaminated, but then when they get beneath it, they discover that that earth is, um, healing itself. That actually it's clean. That earth is clean itself. And I think that's important for people to remind themselves of is that, you know, one of the things we found in the plastics chapter, well, the first thing, the most important thing is that we shouldn't re you should not recycle your plastics, because the chances are that they'll end up being shipped to poor countries that don't have waste repositories and end up in the ocean. But the other thing is that the ocean actually does degrade a lot of plastics, and we should just be appreciative of our natural environment for breaking things down. And that it's not the case that, that, you know, our pollution is everlasting or something that, um, it's not an excuse to pollute, but, but it is to say that nature is much more resilient than we give her credit for being.
Speaker 0 00:50:36 Well, I am, I'm going to see if I can get my parents to read your book because, uh, especially after spending several months, um, in under the same roof with them, they are religious, uh, recyclers. I mean, even to the extent that neighbors complain that my father goes out, he smashes the cans, and, you know, they're, they're just very meticulously organized. And I, I said, I'm not really sure that this is doing much, you know, um, and what I'm hearing you say is actually could be doing some harm to, for countries. So,
Speaker 1 00:51:17 Yeah, I mean, you know, aluminum and glass recycle really well because they're heavy. And, um, but, but plastics are, are light and it's, they're made from a byproduct from oil and gas production already. So you're already, um, down cycling and we have these perfectly good solutions for plastic, which is incineration and landfills. The incinerators have, are now burning really hot and clean, and the landfills are fine. We capture the methane gas that comes off of the waste and, and in fact, the waste problem, the plastic waste in the ocean problem. And it is to some extent, a problem, is really a consequence of poor countries not having achieved high enough economic development to have their own waste repository system. So, you know, if you care about, I, it is one of these classic things where it's like, if you care about the natural environment, then you would actually embrace prosperity and economic growth, not resisted.
Speaker 0 00:52:07 So I talked about the message that I'm going to be bringing as a daughter to my parents. Uh, I would love for you as a father to bring a message to your 15 year old daughter that she is, is welcome here at the Atlas Society. Uh, i, I especially feel for young women. I know it was true for me that, um, being exposed to Ayran, who wa did things that, that no other women did, and wrote books in which there were very strong, uh, female heroines and role models. Um, and yes, a few villains, uh, with something very unique and helped kind of give me, or give myself permission to not necessarily have to conform to social expectations or be in a, a, uh, a subservient role, but to pursue my own habits. And we would be more than thrilled to send her a shipment, uh, if and when she's
Speaker 1 00:53:10 <inaudible>. Thank you. Yeah, it would be great.
Speaker 0 00:53:13 So, we'll, thank you again, uh, Michael, I, I hope we can still cont continue to think about. I know that our chairman's gonna have some ideas. I can hear a draw. My life is taking shape in his head as we speak on how to bring your message to others. What are other ways that we can, uh, learn about your, your work? Uh, is the site or social media that we should be following you on?
Speaker 1 00:53:40 Yeah, sure. I'd love to stay in touch and definitely when the new book comes out, uh, next year, I'd love to come back and talk with you all. I think it, it's, um, for me it's a chance to, um, offer a kind of new, uh, you know, kind of vision of how we should think about the social contract and what obligations do we owe to each other. And I hope it's appealing both to left and right to folks in a society and people outside of it that understand that something's that we, we need a new, we need a new social contract. You know, we need some way to know what is our obligation to each other as taxpayers and citizens. And so that's what the book is gonna try to confront. And yeah, people should definitely, um, stay in touch. I'm on Twitter at Shellenberger md, which are my initials. I'm not an md. And also on, uh, Facebook. Um, and yeah, buy the book and send it to your relatives for Christmas, please. We need to, we need to get the book out there more.
Speaker 0 00:54:33 That's great. And we will be doing, uh, what we can to get it out there, including meaning it, uh, and then linking all of those memes to this interview. And, um, we're definitely invited back for next year as well. We will, um, make your upcoming book a subject of the Atlas Society Book Club. And so, taxpayers, citizens, and all of you out there, uh, donors who are supporting the work, making it possible for us to bring not just the ideas of Ayn Rand and other, um, philosophers and, and libertarians to the younger generation, but also new and contemporary thinkers and writers like Michael. Thank you. Oh, and by the way, Jay would not want me to get off without saying, uh, all new $5 donations between now and the end of the year are going to be tripled, essentially, because they're gonna be double matched by our board. So thank you all. Thanks for joining us. Thank you, Michael. Hope to maybe see you up in, uh, in the Bay Area.
Speaker 1 00:55:33 I'd love that. Thanks, Jennifer. Take.