Not long ago, a former leader of the B.C. Green party, Stuart Parker, used the term climate nihilism to describe how politicians are dealing with the biggest threat facing humanity on Earth.
It came in an interview with me after his recent resignation from the B.C. NDP.
He also quit the party's provincial council following Premier John Horgan declaration that the NDP government will subsidize producers of liquefied natural gas.
"The NDP believes in these things because it is just another capitalist party indifferent to the global extinction event the capitalist system is producing," Parker wrote on his blog.
This weekend, another British Columbian with deep concerns about climate change, Martyn Brown, wrote a lengthy article exposing shocking shortcomings in the NDP government's Climate Change Accountability Act.
"Yup, nothing screams climate 'action' like waiting 10 months to table new emissions reduction targets for 12 years and 22 years in the future, for which no government will have to answer until at least three elections hence," Brown wrote in a devastating takedown of the legislation.
The dictionary definition of nihilism is "the belief that nothing has any value, especially religious or moral principles".
Last year, this notion was explored in Eco-Nihilism: The Philosophical Geopolitics of the Climate Change Apocalypse by Bloomsburg University philosopher Wendy Lynne Lee.
She argues that the only way to stave off disaster is to embrace a radical rethinking of the global economy while transforming personal and collective conscience of the problem.
Vancouver authors Am Johal and Matt Hern advanced ideas along similar lines in their new book Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life.
Another Canadian author, Naomi Klein, also linked capitalism to the climate crisis in This Changes Everything.
The nihilists simply don't care
At the root of climate nihilism is the endless pursuit of fossil fuels to power the economy, regardless of the ecological consequences.
“I’ve said many times that there isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and leave it in the ground while there is a market for it,” Justin Trudeau said in 2016.
This was the epitome of climate nihilism.
The nihilists are basically saying: "To hell with carbon budgets in the Paris climate agreement. To hell with scientists raising alarm bells about the melting of the polar caps and ice on Greenland. To hell with farmers who are not going to have water to irrigate crops. To hell with the billions of people who rely on rivers fed by glaciers for their drinking water. To hell with plant and animal species that are going extinct. To hell with those who have to endure more intense hurricanes. We simply don't care."
The preface to Lee's book carries the title "The Planet Doesn't Need Human Beings: Human Beings Need the Planet".
It's a phrase I'm hearing more often in interviews with those who are knowledgeable about climate change.
It was one of the first points made by Ontario environment minister Glen Murray, who heads the Pembina Institute, when he dropped by the Straight office last November.
Yesterday, another long-time climate activist was in my office expressing a similar sentiment. He quite rightly predicted that if we continue on our current trajectory, many millions will die.
He was befuddled that elected officials like Trudeau appear more concerned about the election timetable and political strategizing than the survival of the human species on Earth.
The general public is equally culpable for not making climate change a priority.
Just to cite one small example, if I write an article about Vancouver real estate or the opening of a new restaurant, it will likely receive 10 times as many page views as an article on climate change.
The pieces about real estate and new restaurant openings will be shared on social media.
In comparison, a relatively small number of people will share articles highlighting that we're on a road to Armageddon because politicians around the world, including in B.C., craft toothless climate-change plans.
That's climate nihilism.
Media outlets face disincentives to covering climate change
Here's another example of climate nihilism.
The B.C. Interior community of Grand Forks is experiencing a once-in-a-200-year flood. Thousands have been evacuated as their homes and businesses are being drenched by the overflowing Kettle and Granby rivers.
The next Interior community where citizens had to be evacuated in the face of serious flooding was Osoyoos.
B.C. media outlets have given this extensive coverage. But the words "climate change" very rarely pop up in news stories.
When I raised links between the flooding in Grand Forks and climate change in an article yesterday, it wasn't passed around on social media. It died a quick death, as I say about pieces that hardly anyone reads.
Later in the day when I wrote about a foul-mouthed nine-year-old rapper named Lil Tay, it rocketed up to become the most-read article on this website.
I can only conclude that far more people are interested in hearing about children who use profane language than the root cause of a catastrophic flood in our province.
In light of this, is it any wonder that media outlets don't devote more attention to climate change?
Media corporations know that they can't monetize nonexistent page views. Plus, covering climate change risks ticking off advertisers. So why bother?
Much of the public doesn't get worked up about rising greenhouse gas emissions. This leads the politicians, reporters, and columnists to focus on other areas.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation still hasn't created a climate unit in its news operations.
It becomes a vicious circle, leading inexorably to more climate-induced crises.
This summer, we'll probably experience another round of smoky cities in B.C. caused by major forest fires.
People with asthma and the elderly will have to stay indoors. Inhalers will be flying off the shelves of B.C. pharmacies.
It's also looking like people in the Caribbean might face another brutal hurricane season.
Scientific American pointed out last year that regions of the world that previously weren't known for hurricanes are now experiencing them.
An example was Ophelia, which struck Ireland and the United Kingdom.
And yet the climate will continue to get short shrift in the media as the premier courts LNG producers with subsidies to set up shop in B.C.
The premier of Alberta wants to use tax dollars to subsidize the Kinder Morgan pipeline. And the prime minister has instructed his finance minister to figure out other ways to get the project completed.
Yes folks, that's climate nihilism.
Ultimately, it could lead to the death of civilization.More