"The takeover of the environmental movement by capitalism is now complete."

“It’s not the carbon dioxide molecule destroying the planet; it’s us.” That’s one of many provocative claims from a new documentary, Planet of the Humans, which claims, with vivid and compelling imagery, that green energy is an illusion. The film is deliberately sensationalist and provocative; but much of it is factual. I post in GD as a challenge to Dopers to confirm or refute some of the film’s allegations.

Biomass and biofuel are singled out for special attention in the documentary. (They aren’t as renewable as claimed; polluting tire chips or other trash are sometimes added to wood chips to enhance burning.) Huge swathes of the Amazon jungle have been replaced with sugarcane plantations for biofuel. Alligator fat and seaweed are new types of biofuel! But the documentary also claims that wind and solar power are not as benign as commonly thought. Wind and solar arrays need to be replaced every 20 years; production of the needed materials is itself energy-intensive.

Many environmentalists, including myself, still believe that high human population is “the elephant in the room,” or as someone in the film says, “the herd of elephants in the room.”

The documentary points fingers at the Koch Brothers (who are probably the largest recipients of biomass subsidies in the U.S.!) , Richard Branson, Al Gore, and others who are making money via supposedly green programs. Toward the end of the film is the claim: “The takeover of the environmental movement by capitalism is now complete.”

That’s not how Great Debates is supposed to work. If you make the assertion, you confirm it.

Right away I noticed many arguments that are flawed or that lead us to some very unsavory places; as Brian Kahn, writer of climate science and policy and faculty member with Columbia’s MA in Climate and Society program, reports:

First of all, I always thought the whole “The environmentalists are all really trying to promote their secret agenda of…SOCIALISM!” (DUN DUN DUUUUN!!!) was just a silly right-wing meme.

More substantively, I’m not wildly overfond of trying to settle philosophical or political debates by citing the dictionary, but I do think we need to define our terms here:

Environmentalism: advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment.”

Capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

Socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Lord knows, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had a pretty terrible track record of “preserving the natural environment”; in addition to Chernobyl, the U.S.S.R. wound up creating one hell of a lot of (in American terms) “Superfund sites”, as did places like Czechoslovakia. Alternatively, I don’t see why you can’t have private or corporate ownership of the “means of production” and private, for-profit “determination of the prices, production, and distribution of goods”, and not also have policies aimed at “the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment”. I’m not arguing for the glorious “invisible hand of the market” to do everything here; I think we need laws and government regulations, but I don’t think “laws and government regulations” equate to"state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production".

Even if you just want to focus on the population issue; to some extent, some kind of “invisible hand” does actually work there: People in wealthier societies actually very often have fewer children than people in poorer societies. A huge factor in getting birthrates down is educating girls and giving women more control over their own lives (which all seems perfectly compatible with “capitalism”). Moving away from “invisible hand” remedies, “welfare state” programs–but still not socialism–like “old age pensions” (Social Security) tend to make people want (or need) to have fewer babies, since they don’t have to “have enough kids to make sure at least one is still around and able and willing to take care of me in my old age”.

Even in terms of more coercive population policies (or at least policies involving state intervention), “lower population” and “socialism” have nothing much to do with each other. Communist China had its (in)famous “one child” policy; but the Socialist Republic of Romania under Ceaușescu was sort of equally infamous for its pro-natalist policies restricting access to birth control (contraception and abortion); Ceaușescu wanted more workers and soldiers to build socialism!

So, all in all, the quotation in the thread title seems like a total non sequitur to me.

I’ve seen enough.

This shouldn’t be an issue of capitalism vs socialism. Neither side should be hijacking the environment to promote its economic ideology.

I have no problem with capitalists taking over the environmental movement and making billions of dollars by doing so - as long as they are providing real solutions to the problems.

Any decent well-to-wheels lifecycle analysis accounts for production and replacement. Nobody who knows anything is surprised or concerned about replacing a windmill or solar panel.
Re: biofuel, the impact varies by source. Seaweed? We’re not talking about mowing down kelp forests; it’s aquaculture. Animal fats only make sense if they’re a waste product from another industry. Wood chips? That’s a tight carbon loop. Tires? Or, not mentioned, plastics? Those carbons get used twice, and it keeps long-lived materials out of landfills and oceans. Municipal solid waste was also not mentioned. Burning that reduces net GHG emissions. Plant-based ethanol has plenty of problems. Sugarcane based on land use. Corn based on energy and emissions of inputs. Etc. The latter can be mitigated by using electrolysis-based fertilizer, something people are working on.

What did I miss?

No, we aren’t headed toward some mystical green fairyland future. Nor do we have a grim green future buried in old wind blades. We don’t have a magic bullet; we have an arsenal.

If we’re worried about population, the best way to control that, per the late Hans Rosling, is to improve the economic condition of people in countries with high birth rates.

Meh I’m cool with people hearing about something they’re ignorant about, figuring some of us might be interested, and posting in hopes to learn something.

I’ll need to see if I can find a transcript. Like hell I’m spending 100 min listening to that idiot’s work (using that noun loosely.)

Or maybe I should make bingo cards. E.g. “won’t anyone think of the bats,” “carbon fiber composite blades aren’t recyclable.” Etc.

I watched this yesterday, and was curious about doper reactions. Thanks to OP for starting this.

My take was that a lot of cool “green sounding” phraseology was being used to hide business-as-usual energy production. Apparently, biomass is a fancy new word for logging.

There’s logging and then there’s logging. It’s typically not harvesting ancient redwoods to help push electrons.

Let’s leave the moderating to the moderators, please.

Sure, some “green technologies” are scams, but that doesn’t mean they all are. Just because bioethanol doesn’t work well, doesn’t negate the fact that windmills work great.

This for me as well.

I end up agreeing with Moore and I find his films provocative and entertaining. They’re good for starting a loud, angry rant over a few drinks, but not much else. He’s not a good primary source of information.

I do agree that modern economic systems must fundamentally change in our lifetimes and probably within the next 10-20 years or humanity and life on earth are screwed.

I’ve been reading more and more about wealth-equality or wealth-distribution economists like Thomas Piketty and thinking that maybe something like the Green New Deal could go hand in hand with redistributing wealth.

But one area where I’d nevertheless (I assume) agree with people like Moore is that popular sentiment has to massive enough to pry the oligarchs from the political system, and it starts with stripping them not of their wealth but from their disproportionate levels of it.

At the same time, protection of the environment must be incentivized through capitalism’s inherent systems of rewards, which can be done efficiently insofar as those rewards aren’t of obscene proportions.

Re: Sugarcane and the Amazon, total sugarcane acreage in Brazil has remained constant over the past decade and actually has been decreasing over the last few years. Hardly any of the cleared land is being used for permanent agriculture. Yes, there are issues with ethanol, and specifically, sugarcane ethanol. But replacing “huge swathes of the Amazon jungle” is not a huge one.

Capitalists won’t do this on their own. They need the government to do the outlays in terms of investment and infrastructure first. The problem is that for those capitalists who’ve already built their empires on fossil fuels and their related industries, change is a threat to their wealth, so their investments go not toward the environment and different types of energy but on rigging the political system to protect their wealth. And not only do they seek to protect it but also to strip more people of their wealth. More wealth means more access to the political system, and less of it means greater financial insecurity at the individual household level and less time devoted to politics and more time worrying about basic survival. And the poor are still motivated to vote, then just move the voting precinct 40 miles away.

The message that environmental solutions are Bad if they enrich certain people, and that only massive population reduction will solve the problem (viable methods for achieving that goal not mentioned) does not resonate with me.

If a startup company or even a giant corporation has a useful product that helps get the job done, I don’t object to their profiting from it, as long as they’re not using insider influence to get huge government subsidies for a boondoggle.

note: I also have an allergy to "prove him/them wrong!, something I often hear in connection with dubious scientific claims.

The profit motive is one of the most reliable tools for stimulating innovation and increasing efficiency. No problem as gigantic as climate change can be realistically solved without capitalism and the profit motive. Obviously you also need government action through a carbon tax, funding for R&D etc.

Well, I don’t know for sure if it is the only solution, but reducing the human population is something that’s well within our capability of doing if we put our minds to it, and it almost certainly will be beneficial in the fight against climate change. However, I’ll echo the “Michael Moore” comment and say that this is obviously another piece of sensationalist garbage meant to stir people up, filled with arguments only loosely tied to reality, even if what is being argued for is something I am basically in favor of. Michael Moore does progressives no favors by showing off all the worst arguments available.

Ars Technica has a good piece on the film:
Michael Moore’s green energy takedown—worse than Netflix’s Goop series?

I think maybe you can guess the author’s opinion on the work. Though as noted, one doesn’t have to look any farther than “Michael Moore” to realize it’s complete claptrap.