We must recognize that European environmentalists, and the far left in general, have an enviable ability to communicate. While conservative movements are still too often embodied in what seem like dehumanized caricatures of policies, European environmentalists, apart from a hysterical Greta Thunberg, have given themselves fresh and pleasant faces as spokespersons who state the worst horrors in an appealing, calm and articulate manner.
Take, for instance, the recently concluded Beyond Growth 2023 conference in Brussels, Belgium. Beyond Growth is the annual ideological gathering of European environmentalists, and their countless relays in the world of government-funded, supposedly "non-governmental" organizations (NGOs).
Beyond Growth does not meet in the lounges of a prestigious hotel or some country mansion, but confers and gathers directly in the European Parliament buildings. This does not happen by chance: when the press lovingly reports on the Beyond Growth conference, it broadcasts images of people gathered and speaking in the tidy rows of the European Parliament. What do most people remember when they look at the Beyond Growth report? The European Parliament. The link between Beyond Growth's radical proposals and the European Parliament is presented as perfectly natural: If the European Parliament wants radical environmentalism, how could you, a small local voter, oppose it?
The star of the most recent conference was the Anuna De Wever, a Flemish Belgian representing the young greens.
You have to read and listen to what these activists are saying. Most announce what, if they attain power, they will do. Let us, then, listen to the "proposals" of the charming, smiling De Wever:
- "We must redistribute the wealth", De Wever begins. To whom, how? No details. This has been a standard feature of every self-respecting, moonstruck European speech for a century. Would it be out of line to suggest starting wealth redistribution with the salaries and assets of the Green Members of European Parliament (MEPs)?
- "Cancel climate debt": In the minds of environmental activists, countries in the "global North," which have undergone significant development, have an ecological obligation to the countries in the "global South." Even though Western capitalism has rescued the greatest number of people from poverty in the history of the world, apparently the West also created the greatest emissions of greenhouse gases. In addition, Europe and the US still allegedly "exploit" and "colonize" many regions in the "global South" through their multinational corporations, systematically depleting natural resources. Therefore, the "debt" to the "South" must be cancelled, even if this "debt" might have nothing to do with the climate.
- Let us introduce a "universal basic income" immediately, tomorrow. One can imagine the eagerness of China, Russia, Japan, the U.S. and Cuba to introduce a common universal income -- which is of course is probably only conceivable through the establishment of a "universal" world government: a mere formality.
- The West must decline. Indeed, the West is evil. The proof is that it is "rich". Therefore, the West must be punished, by throwing it into a collapse -- a "degrowth" -- while others not in the West will continue to grow, of course.
- Universal public services must be increased (doubled? tripled?). How, in a context of decline, will this increase be financed? Those details are not specified.
"All this," De Wever continues, to a great deal of applause, "will of course only be possible if we destroy... white supremacy."
White supremacy? What does white supremacy have to do with economics, you might ask? It would seem that in the minds of many environmentalists, economic growth and white supremacy are effectively synonymous. After all, the reasoning seems to go, it was the West, embodied by Adam Smith in 1776, that "invented" economic growth, and the West at the time was largely white, so by destroying white supremacy we destroy the very idea of economic growth.
They seem to be into a kind of magical thinking which, seeing two realities in the same whole — "whiteness" and capitalism — they then postulate a causal link between them.
If, according to Adam Smith, economic growth for everyone is the key to being lifted out of poverty – with the goal of making the poor richer, not the rich poorer – then destroying growth does not appear as an economic model that will provide much help. Worse, there are now those pesky choices such as: Would you rather encourage growth by allowing people in poor countries to use fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas -- or drive these people even further into poverty by denying them fossil fuels?
This strange goulash of Marxist remnants -- imperialism, decolonization and badly digested Critical Race Theory -- creates a program that is unlikely to unite the majority of Europeans. The program even has been given a name: Immediate European Suicide. If Europe engages in economic "degrowth," as the Greens wish, this "degrowth" implies the destruction of entire sections of the European and Western economies. "Degrowth" and economic destruction are perfect synonyms. "Degrowth" means curtailing economic activities -- or taxing them so punitively that they cease to exist.
These green advocates represent 10% of the seats in the European Parliament, and seem to be in the process of being electorally eradicated in many EU member states. No matter: the undemocratic, unelected, untransparent, unaccountable EU offers them a recourse: in the EU institutions, Greens are everywhere. The "Green 10," for instance, is a coalition of ten of the largest environmental organizations and networks active on the European level. They work to ensure that the EU prioritizes the climate, the local environment, biodiversity and human health within and beyond its borders. To spread their ideas, these unelected NGOs are generously financed by the EU institutions themselves.
The fundamental problem with Beyond Growth is that "degrowth" -- what happens next -- is never defined. If Marxists, and before them socialists, including German national socialists, have always tried to define an economic theory -- concrete projects, and the destruction of what exists -- environmentalists have never bothered to do that. Or is throwing Europe into energy dependence on Russia the main agenda of environmentalists?
This reluctance to describe "the world after" is understandable. In the context of a Europe that is up to its eyebrows in debt and already taxing its citizens just to pay the interest on the debt, reducing economic output means facing the question of who will be left to die first. Healthcare, for instance, is already being rationed and has seemingly become more about cutting costs than delivering services, and more about growing an administrative bureaucracy with massive paperwork than investing in more doctors and better and timely patient care.
What would happen if there were "degrowth"? How, for example, how can we conceive of an obligatory decrease in economic activity without subjecting any technological innovation to control by an "administrative agency"? The dream EU of environmentalists starts to look like a version of Atlas Shrugged: a dystopian country in which private businesses suffer under increasingly burdensome laws, regulations and bureaucrats. Perhaps the Greens should ponder the message of the book: despite attempts by the state to enslave minds by force, people emerge victorious in their commitment to freedom. The human mind is the power that moves the world, not coercion.
Drieu Godefridi is a jurist (Saint-Louis University of Louvain), a philosopher (Saint-Louis University of Louvain) and a doctor in legal theory (Paris IV-Sorbonne). He is the author of The Green Reich.