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How To Spot “Mainstream” Climate Propaganda

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By Brad Zarnett

· 5 min read

Somehow they always neglect to share the Big Picture

These days there are many articles that are designed to make you feel less terrified about how we can make a difference when it comes to climate change. But don’t let your guard down. Here are some tips to ensure that you don’t fall for the mainstream propaganda.

1) First, the article will try to gain credibility by referencing expert “mainstream sources”. But it’s important to keep in mind that the word “mainstream”, isn’t necessarily what you think it is. As I wrote in a previous article:

“Everyday the term “mainstream thinking” is used to describe vague ideas of what most people want. It’s a relatively innocuous term and we don’t give it much thought. We tend to accept this loose definition because it carries a veneer of rationality, as if the ideas have been thoroughly vetted, but that’s simply not the case. [Link to the full article, Why is Mainstream Thinking at the Epicentre of Our Climate Crisis.] Like a fish that doesn’t see the water in which it swims, we are equally oblivious to the sea of capitalism that surrounds us. And after years of brainwashing and being manipulated to think that despite a few flaws, capitalism is the greatest wealth creation and problem solving machine that the world has ever known…we’ve come to accept the big lie.”

Don’t be fooled. Those who are “certifying” the article’s ideas have been thoroughly corrupted by corporate interests…which is the foundation of our failed approach to addressing climate change. Not one major government has put forth a detailed plan on how to scale back the oil and gas industry or reduce our level of consumption within a time frame that’s consistent with the alarming climate science. Not even the IPCC has stated this in clear and concise language. (If you’re not familiar with degrowth then now might be the time to take a look. Thanks to Erin Remblance for explaining what it is, and what it isn’t. (Pssst…it’s not a recession, nor is it austerity)

2) Pay attention to the publication’s ownership. This tells you everything you need to know about where its interests lie. Is it owned by a giant corporation? By a publishing billionaire? Or both? Where does its revenue come from? Who advertises with them and/or sponsors their events. This is your second clue that you might be getting a skewed opinion.

3) The solutions they put forth are often about individual actions like eating less meat or planting trees. There’s almost no mention of stopping the source of the harm.

4) When looking at the big picture they will often reference technologies that don’t yet exist (at scale), like carbon capture and storage OR technologies that celebrate capitalism, like electric vehicles, which aside from being expensive toys for the 1%, are at best, long term solutions to an immediate crisis. The quote below is from a previous article:

Capitalists love the EV storyline. It’s the one initiative that plays into their ideological fantasy that all problems can be solved in the marketplace. Have you ever noticed how defensive they are of Elon Musk? They put him on a pedestal because they know that their entire worldview is invalidated if you can’t find a profitable way to protect the climate. But truth be told, electric vehicles (EV’s) are given far more credit than they deserve. Yes, it’s a positive initiative and EV’s have a role to play but it’s also incremental and doesn’t really deal with the urgent problem that we face today.

Electric vehicles are a tiny slice of the global car market. There are approximately 1.3 billion cars on the planet of which 11 million are electric — that’s 1%. Next year it’s expected that there will be sales of 3 million electric vehicles out of 70 million — that’s 4%. But politicians are a lazy bunch who crave attention so it’s an easy win to capture a headline by “out targeting” another politicians’ vague commitment about phasing out fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks by a certain date.”

5) They will often make positive comments about the completely inadequate work that our governments and corporations are doing. I call the plan that is on the lips of every politician and corporate CEO — 2050 net zero — nothing more than, “immunity via collective failure.”

What’s missing from all of this noise is how to address a system that is fundamentally at odds with life on this planet. How do we gain control over the levers of regulatory policy? That’s where we need to make the meaningful changes AND nowhere in any corporate media will you find those answers. In fact, they’re not even asking the right question:

They want to know how we can “sustain” our industrial economy with its growing population and ever growing need for energy, while keeping our way of life intact AND…protecting the planet in the process. Of course this is impossible. The correct question to be asking, is what can we do to help the Earth repair the damage caused by this culture?

Below is the article to which I’m referring. I just noticed that it was written in 2019 but I don’t think that the message has changed. 20 ways you can save the planet this summer.

This article is also published on the author's blog. Illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Energy & Sustainability writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Brad Zarnett is a Sustainability Strategist, Writer & Speaker based in Toronto, Canada. His research explores how business as usual capitalism fails to protect environmental and social capital, and what we can still do about it. He manages a Substack Community, and can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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