I noted in a previous post a surprising fact about the coverage of the Amazon fires: that several media outlets normally only too happy to spread any alarmist rubbish that would aid the catastrophic climate change narrative were publishing articles which contradicted the normal propaganda. I mentioned the BBC, Bloomberg, the New York Times and the Guardian. Jaime and Paul added references to Forbes and (via Steve McIntyre) the Ontario Globe and Mail, and other commenters provided examples of other corrections to the catastrophic narrative. Something seemed to be happening. The Amazon was burning, and many of the normal suspects were behaving suspiciously – refusing to adopt their normal catastrophic position.
This was not a sudden, Damascene conversion of the whole environ-mentalist press. Despite the reasonable, common sense evidence presented in a previous article, the Guardian and its sister paper the Observer continued to preach catastrophe in subsequent articles. This one by Jonathan Watts, the Guardian’s global environment editor, in Sunday’s Observer continued to speak of “Ecocide” and evoke the “language of sexual violence” (attributed to Bolsonaro, but well in evidence in Jonathan’s article (“rape of the natural world;” “Bolsonaro … like a wife-battering husband”…)
Some Guardian readers have noticed the divergence. An article by Brazilian opposition congressman David Miranda puts the blame squarely on Bolsonaro and his “toxic brew of radical ideology, political corruption and banal greed,”while carefully avoiding making false claims. Nothing about the biggest/worst firesever, but, more carefully:
The magnitude of these fires, and the severity of the dangers they pose to the world, have been widely demonstrated over the last week… the National Institute for Space Research documented that it “had detected 39,194 fires this year in the world’s largest rain forest, a 77% increase from the same period in 2018”
though it does repeat the doubtful claim that “the Amazon … currently provides 20% of the world’s oxygen.”
Among the comments (567 so far) to Miranda’s article were several which pointed out the divergence problem in the Guardian’s treatment of climate change:
NASA say these fires are slightly below average for the year and meteorologists say the smoke in Sao Paulo is coming from Paraguay, not the Amazon basin. So whose really being uneducated and angry on these comment pages?
Well what you say is the exact opposite than what Nasa says on it’s own website. So why are you lying?
This actually false. The Earth is a greener place than it was 20 years ago. Mostly thanks to the massive tree planting programmes of India and China.
Unfortunately, the figure of 20% – very widely cited – is most likely wrong. It’s even more disturbing to find this figure quoted in the Guardian, because the same outlet also published this rebuttal a few days ago:
“Although some reports have claimed the Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, it is not clear where this figure originated. The true figure is likely to be no more than 6%, according to climate scientists such as Michael Mann and Jonathan Foley.”
Bolsonaro is a reckless imbecile but he’s not to blame for these fires. These fires have been happening for decades. The current fires aren’t even record fires. The only difference this time is the huge coverage & strangely that is because Bolsonaro is so repulsive, so an easy target for Western media.
As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years.
Halfway through the comments I found a link to a video dated 30 May 2019 from an organisation called Double Down News by one George Monbiot called “Bolsanaro and the Apocalypse: the Most Dangerous Man on Earth.”
Monbiot has lived in Brazil (he claims to have learned his politics there from the efforts of poor people to self-organise) and in this 6 minute video he provides a brief history of modern Brazil, from the military dictatorship, the opposition represented by the liberation theology of Cardinal Romero (assassinated by a right wing death squad in 1980) who led a radical movement suppressed by the Catholic church itself, which (according to Monbiot) led to the Brazilian poor rejecting Catholicism and turning to evangelical Christianity, with its message of an apocalyptic end of the world, and hence (following the corruption scandals surrounding the leftwing governments of Lula da Silva and Mrs Rousseff) to the election of Bolsonaro.
Monbiot is a decent man and knowledgeable about areas of the world you and I wouldn’t dare visit. He was expostulating (is there another verb for staring intently into a camera on Youtube? Why don’t they write what they’ve got to say, like normal human beings?) about Bolsonaro and the coming apocalypse back in May, long before the burning season.
Monbiot has a follow-up video, a 2 minute rant called “Earth is Burning and run by Psychopaths, but there’s hope…” in which he says:
There’s no aspect of our civilisation that is not threatened by climate change. I mean, we’re already seeing its huge impacts on the natural world. We’re seeing it in the forest fires sweeping across southern Europe, South America, in Siberia even […] This is going to come closer and closer to home. […] You can say two different things about the global response to climate change. One is that the response of the nation states has been pathetic. But on the other hand, you’ve got this amazing mass movement of people, loads of people, especially young people, who can see their futures being destroyed in this way and are not putting up with it. Who are trying to stop the entire destructive industry which is literally putting a match to our future and just cooking us alive in the global cauldron which they’re turning the planet into.
Climate change isn’t an accident of the system. Climate change is the product of the system. The key thing we need almost everywhere is a change of government. We’re currently governed by a psychopathic class who don’t share our interests, who in fact don’t seem to share human interests in general. What appear to be hopeless situations actually are not hopeless at all. All you need to do is to imagine a better future and then put that imagination into practice. Political failure is at heart a failure of imagination. A failure to see what can be done when very large numbers of people mobilise; what can be done when you don’t leave politics to the politicians alone […]
Double Down for principled reasons does not run adverts. So it relies instead on your help. You can become a patron, provide monthly donations, small, large, enormous. Help this to become the future of broadcasting that I think it is destined to be.
The words: “..amazing mass movement of people, loads of people, especially young people”are illustrated with pictures of the Climate Rebellion weirdoes dressed in red robes like senior Ku Klux Klan members, plus the inevitable Greta. The words:“We’re currently governed by a psychopathic class…”are illustrated with images of Trump, Pence, and Bolsonaro.
This video was posted on 22ndAugust. By the 23rd, stories of the burning Amazon were everywhere, although the official Brazilian burning season started on August 10th. It wasn’t Monbiot’s video that did it, that’s for sure, since total views are less than five thousand. Whatever the cause, the story of the destruction of the Amazon forest took off, Bolsonaro became an arch-villain overnight, and the mainstream media were suddenly behaving strangely, passing up the opportunity to blame climate change in favour of a political message blaming populism in a far off country.
Whereas Monbiot’s May 2019 video on the history of Brazil proposed a simplified but possibly valid history of this complex country, informed by an experience on the ground and based on solid historical facts, the 22nd August one presents nothing but the gibbering of a hysterical loon. George has always been barking, but this time, in identifying some very ordinary forest fires as a good reason for régime change, he’s definitely up the wrong tree.
But he has the support of President Macron. The Amazon fire story exploded in the middle of what promised to be a rather boring G7 meeting hosted by the French President, who immediately started spouting about the lungs of the planet and accused Bolsonaro of lying. Bolsonaro and his entourage replied, insulting Macron and his wife, and Macron, during the official final press conference, expressed the opinion that Brazilian women would no doubt be ashamed of their president (not improbable) and hoped that Brazil might soon have a more acceptable leader..
Oi oi oi. Elected heads of state don’t normally talk like that about other elected heads of state. But Macron is different. Brazil was meant to host the next COP thingy, but Bolsonaro refused, and the COP job passed to Chile, and so Macron invited the president of Chile to Biarritz, but nobody noticed, just as no-one noticed his attempt to put the textile industry (i.e. South Asia) in the dock for trashing the planet. So only a fuss about the Amazon would do to put the climate back on the front page, and only a spat with Brazil would do as an excuse to renege on the EU’s Mercosur trade agreement with South America which threatened France’s highly subsidised sugar beet industry and one-cow-per-field livestock rearing policy.
The big Brazilian burn, announced in advance, started on August 10th. The successful campaign to make it the climate story of the year seems to have only started twelve days later, catching some major media like the BBC, the New York Times and the Guardian on the hop, leading them to rely on NASA and other scientific sources for factual material about forest loss, oxygen balance, etc. Extremist claims about suffocation, the imminent disappearance of tropical forests, and the extinction of everything are being countered and corrected by some of the very same media which have been most active in promoting them.
Monbiot, on his new media outlet, Double Down News (views in Double figures, Down at the bottom of Alexa ratings) is having none of it. He’s going with popular opinion, the Oxford Circus shamans of Extinction Rebellion, and Greta. While the Head Leveller ties himself in plaits on his video fireside chats, leveller heads in the Green Blob no doubt realise that that way lies madness and loss of subsidies from governments and green philanthropists.
Could this be the beginning of the Great Schism? At least that would demonstrate that environmentalism has truly arrived as a world religion.