A broadside against the climate-fueled nihilism of Gen Z.
The kids aren’t alright.
Young Americans, especially those labeled as being part of ‘Gen Z’ (born between 1995 and 2010, give or take a year), are in the throes of a mental health crisis. Self-reported depression and anxiety have spiked, suicidality has increased significantly, and a larger portion of these young people, as compared to older generations, have had interactions with mental health practitioners. Both statistics and anecdotal evidence from clinicians prove this point. Causes have varied widely, from the easily understood to the more socially complex. On the former front, the government reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on youth mental health. Lockdowns, remote schooling, social alienation, and masking have all interrupted the regular life cycle of the American adolescent and have caused serious, documented harm to vast portions of Gen Z (and many others). On the more complex side of the ledger, ubiquitous social media and smartphone technology have arguably made major negative impacts. The constant quest for social approval, ease of presenting a false portrait of perfection, and algorithmic manipulation of emotions all play a part in exerting a malign influence on American youth.
Another, more contentious, potential cause for Gen Z’s mental breakdown is a relatively new phenomenon: climate anxiety. A major survey conducted by Nature shows that nearly 60% of Gen Z across the world is either ‘extremely worried’ or ‘very worried’ about climate change; a full 45% of those surveyed said that this anxiety impacts their daily lives in a negative manner. This is highly concerning – and not only because the level of anxiety is not at all commensurate with the level of threat, regardless of what radical activists claim. It is primarily concerning because it is breeding a nihilistic attitude among young people, exacerbating their existing mental health issues. A puff piece supporting this nihilism was published recently in Fortune (archive link here), and reader, it made me mad.
The answer is simple, and goes straight to the heart of the radical climate change movement.
You may have recently seen the photos or videos of radical climate change activists – often associated with the groups Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and the Last Generation – who enter museums and proceed to douse works of art with foodstuffs before gluing their hands to the wall. If you haven’t, the video below, from Germany this past weekend, is a great example of the tactic.
This assault on art has been met with skepticism from some more moderate climate change groups and activists, but has also been praised by many in the media. According to the tactic’s defenders, these paintings are protected by glass and also, who cares about art if we’re all going to die in a decade due to the climate catastrophe?! I’ve written on the absurdity of the worst climate change hysteria before, and the use of emergency language to make an end-run around the democratic process; these activists embrace those tactics and language in their vandalism disguised as protest. Their talk about people “starving,” “freezing,” and “dying” is similarly ludicrous, as those results largely happen due to a lack of fossil fuels, not a surplus; I debunked this specious argument further in my latest podcast episode.
But what is most interesting – and telling – about the vandalistic protests which have recently found their targets in art museums is something which cuts to the very heart of the radical climate change movement: its fundamentally anti-human and anti-civilization ideology.
President Biden has a bad habit of deflecting blame and shifting responsibility, something which may come back to haunt his party in November.
“The buck stops here.” This adage, meant to claim ultimate responsibility and declaim ‘passing the buck’, was a fixture of the Harry Truman White House. The President had it emblazoned on a desk sign, putting himself squarely on the top of the decision-making hierarchy and thus taking credit – and blame – for the state of nation at home and abroad. This attitude has been a model for the office ever since, for good and ill. It has (less often than I would like) led to Presidents taking responsibility for the bad choices of their administrations, but it has also helped along a massive expansion of the power of the President to make decrees from the Oval Office. When the two sides of the coin – making executive decisions and claiming responsibility for them – are both present, things can be balanced. When that coin is weighted heavily in the direction of making choices but denying responsibility for them, political disaster tends to ensue. In bad times for the country, that faulty balance becomes even more noticeable, as rhetoric and reality clash. In the current administration, this issue is not just noticeable, but is a siren blaring at full volume.
Fossil Future is a thought-provoking, full-throated defense of fossil fuels, bringing convincing evidence & a moral philosophy of human flourishing to bear on the contentious topic of climate change.
Human-impacted climate change has been labeled as an “existential threat,” a “catastrophe,” and an “apocalypse.” Depending on the ‘expert’ testimony you choose to believe, we either have ten years, seven years, five years, or a mere three years (back in 2017) to save the planet from total devastation. This intense doomsaying is widely promulgated in our media, our government institutions, and our corporate world. It is leading to serious mental health issues in younger Americans, who take this rhetoric from teachers, parents, and social media influencers seriously and have developed what has been labeled “climate anxiety.” We are told that we need to totally reorient the global economy, completely end all use of fossil fuels, and stop having children if we are to end this horrible crisis and preserve the earth in a pristine natural state.
But is any of this fear and apocalyptic rhetoric justified? A provocative new book from the philosopher and energy researcher Alex Epstein argues that it isn’t. And not only that, Fossil Future argues that to expand human flourishing we need to expand fossil fuel use, not curtail or end it entirely.
The Biden administration is in thrall to the climate change fantasies of progressives, a fact that is now directly harming Americans at home and our interests abroad.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine has continued apace, Western governments have worked to support the brave resistance of the Ukrainian people and punish the naked aggression of the Russian government. Several major steps have been taken – some of which dovetail with the recommendations I laid out when this war started – but there are still a number of significant actions which have either not been adopted in full or have been left entirely on the cutting-room floor. The most impactful of these actions is focused on Russia’s biggest cash cow: the energy industry. Unsurprisingly, many European governments – notably Germany’s – have vetoed these sanctions given their long-term, planned reliance on Russian energy supplies and lack of workable alternatives. What is more surprising, however, is how long the United States took to adopt harsh sanctions on Russian energy, especially in light of the rush to cut Russia off from the SWIFT banking system – a far more serious action. The Biden administration just came out on March 8 with an executive order banning the import of Russian fossil fuels, an action which only took place once Congress was poised to force the administration’s hand by passing a bipartisan bill on the subject.
Although passing a law would be immensely preferable to and more durable than using executive power, and despite the fact that these sanctions should have been applied weeks ago, it is good that the United States has finally decided to take this eminently reasonable step. But as with any action like this, there will be – and already is – an impact here at home. This is where the Biden administration and its progressive allies are falling flat on their faces; their farcical response is incredibly revealing of the deep issues for the political left on energy policy, foreign affairs, and their bête noire of climate change.