NYT Stunner: Is Environmentalism The Politics of Fear?

How often have you heard folks in the media, and climate alarmists such as Nobel Laureate Al Gore, state unequivocally that the global warming debate is over?

Too many to count, yes?

On the flipside, did you ever think you'd see a major media report suggesting the environmental movement, including global warming alarmism, was "premised on a 'politics of fear'?"

Well, on Wednesday, Sewell Chan posted a rather lengthy piece at the New York Times City Room blog concerning an exceptionally provocative discussion about environmental politics that occurred Tuesday evening at the New York Public Library.

Frankly, readers are going to be shocked by some of the article's contents, especially the astounding opening paragraph (emphasis added throughout):

Is the environmental movement, like the war on terror, premised on a "politics of fear"? In other words, does it try to unify people by scaring them with threats to their basic survival?

Sounds a lot like arguments put forth by global warming skeptics including yours truly, wouldn't you agree?

But that was just the beginning, as one of the lead panelists, Alex Gourevitch, a doctoral candidate in political theory at Columbia University, offered some observations that must have made many attendees' jaws drop:

Let's say it: Environmentalism is a politics of fear. It is not a progressive politics. When I say it is a politics of fear, I don't mean that it just deploys hysterical rhetoric or that it exaggerates threats, which I think it does. I mean it in a much deeper sense.


Environmentalism is not just some politics. It's a political project, a full-bodied ideology, and one that presents itself in terms of progress and aspiration. But when you look at what this ideology is built on, it's built on the idea that a collective threat that makes security the basic principle of politics and makes the struggle for survival the basic and central aim of our social and political life. This, to me, is not a progressive politics at all.

Quite right, Alex. This is regressive politics:

What is it that moves us? It's not actually ideals. We're not stirred to action by ideals. We're compelled by the force of circumstances. It's the sheer spur of necessity that drives us forward. What's more, this ostensible politics is really an antipolitics, because the idea is that we should put to one side the conflicts of interest and ideals that are the real cut and thrust of politics.

Of course, not all the panelists shared Gourevitch's views, and the reader is encouraged to review the entire article.

That said, it is indeed quite fascinating that the Times would share such a discussion with its readers, one that clearly goes against the liberal conventional wisdom that the debate is over.

On the other hand, as this is just a blog piece, who knows how many people actually read the Times' blogs?

Regardless of the answer, the mere existence of such content was indeed encouraging.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.