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.
November 2022 has been a busy month in terms of international affairs. We’ve seen continuing protests against the theocratic regime in Iran, major counteroffensives by Ukraine against Russia, and the COP27 global climate conference in Egypt. In this Foreign Telegram, we discuss all three – recapping recent events, analyzing their impact, and explaining why you should care about each. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this tour around the world of foreign policy!
The Biden Administration is getting played by Xi Jinping and flirting with national disaster in its geopolitical handling of China.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden met with China’s dictator Xi Jinping for nearly 3 hours in Bali, Indonesia at the G20 Summit of nations. The meeting has been described by analysts as a boon for future cooperation between the nations and their leaders on major transnational issues and a positive step away from tension and towards engagement. According to the Biden administration, the discussion cemented the idea on both sides of the Pacific that conflict is not coming and that a new Cold War is indeed not in the cards. The Biden administration is touting this as a genuine diplomatic success and a move towards stability in East Asia, and has praised President Biden’s warm personal relationship with Xi. From reading major news reports of this meeting, you’d think that the US and China are on a glide path towards better relations in the short and long term, under the joint leadership of Xi and Biden – a big step towards mutual security after the chaos of the Trump administration.
Unfortunately for us, that framing is inaccurate in the extreme. This meeting makes us no safer, gives us no positive assurances from China, and betrays the Biden administration’s terribly naïve instincts on foreign affairs.
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.
The narrative of constant crisis promulgated by the Democratic party and progressive activists is merely a fig leaf for authoritarian, anti-democratic power grabs.
Emergencies have been recognized as unique and special events for most of human history, something the dictionary definition confirms. On the societal or civilizational scale, these crises can take many forms and relate to myriad causes – natural disaster, war, famine, pandemic, economic collapse, revolution, and more. These unforeseen, dramatic events are generally time-sensitive and limited in nature; floodwaters recede, harvests improve, viruses weaken and immunity spreads, and the business cycle rises once more. As the centuries have gone by, human societies have found useful ways of dealing with these emergency events, often tasking government institutions or leaders with crisis response. From the ancient past to the modern day, those temporary powers granted to government during periods of extreme tumult have been used to greatly relieve suffering and shorten the duration and scope of the disaster. But just as often, they have been used for ill; to agglomerate power in non-emergency situations, superficially extend real crises to retain deeper control, or permanently alter the political status quo. We are not yet at those destructive levels, but our politics have been slowly inching along that path for decades now. Under the current Democratic administration and Congress, however, this slow burn has rapidly accelerated. History can help us understand the perils that come along when one stokes the flames of permanent emergency.