The Great Greta Conspiracy

It's really confusing this climate change / Greta thing.

I mean on the one hand Donald Trump says it's a hoax and he pours scorn on Greta but then on the other hand you have David Attenborough and the Dalai Lama saying she's legit and we have a crisis.

I mean, who to trust?

There is a conspiracy. Your intuition is correct. Your fears are justified. It is even more insidious and manipulative than you think.

But it's not that Greta is a puppet. That climate crisis is a 'globalist' plot to restrict your freedom with green taxes.

It's pretty much the opposite.

It can be bewildering. Navigating social media. The competing narrative torrents. Often the stories that cut through are the simplest and most often repeated.

Sometimes simple = true. Greta is cutting through because her message is 1) we're in deep shit 2) governments are not doing nearly enough even though they know this.

Sometimes simple = false. The story that 'everything's fine folks, it's a plot by lying baddies out to limit your freedom'.

Sometimes the stories that cut through are the ones we want to hear. Who hasn't hoped that bad news isn't true?

The reality is a little more complex. There is a conspiracy around climate crisis. But it is the opposite to the memes hating on this passionate teen and ignoring the science she asks us to heed.

Big Oil has known that man is causing global warming for almost four decades.

Since that time, just as Big Tobacco paid corrupt doctors and faux scientists and created fake news denying that smoking causes lung cancer, Big Oil has funded climate change denial. The billionaire Koch Brothers have been amongst the worst offenders.

The adage 'follow the money' is true.

But it doesn't lead to a sinister low-energy light bulb manufacturer. Or to proposal's like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, a proposal to invest dramatically in green tech and reforestation as well as penalise behaviour which endangers life.

Proposed taxes on C02 would hit polluters and raise revenue to fund planting forests. The market would switch to producing greener products because consumers would demand cheaper products. It wouldn't hit the pocket of the average person. That's not the purpose. It's to change our economy by targeting the manufacturer. And we're making (slow) progress. Car manufactures are already investing in electric (though public transport is much better of course).

Big Oil propaganda would have it that these taxes are an attack on 'freedom'. This is bogus. It's an attack on their freedom to pollute for profit! And their freedom to pollute affects our freedom to live on a sustainable planet.

Nothing scares big business, the financial elites, more than people recognising their power and curbing their exploitation for profits. So they attack science, claiming that scientists and those who promote their views are the true elites. And for some feeling intellectually excluded seems to hurt more than feeling financially excluded.

Big business also attacks the idea of collectivism and of government which in even the worst democracies (and the US is pretty bad) are elected by the people. They want us to remain powerless, passive, individualistic consumers. Democratic government and international organisations very imperfect and sometimes very bad: but it is always better than unelected corporate power, which is the alternative.

They attack international bodies like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up by the UN to collate and publish the best climate data humanity has. Big Oil propaganda claims such bodies represent a sinister 'globalist' plot. But they are simply the coming together of the men and women who are experts in their scientific field and who have mostly chosen the field of studying the environment because they love the earth and want to protect it.

The real conspiracy is the rise of corporate power.

In some countries they buy politicians through 'donations'. In the USA they have one of their own in power, Trump, who appointed the richest cabinet in US history, mostly entirely corporate. He appointed Rex Tillerson, formerly CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State - in charge of foreign affairs. It's no surprise that Trump calls climate change a "hoax" and has muzzled the Environmental Protection Agency, fired scientists and has forced deletion of data.

Corporations want to run the world and resent governmental limits on their power: hence the myth of 'globalism'.

Big Oil insidiously invade our minds through misinformation (if you have the sensation that someone is trying to brainwash you, you're right). Memes, fake-news sites. Misleading stories that most have no time to follow up. Watch The Great Hack to see how individuals were targeted with specific and misleading stories prior to the US 2016 election and Brexit Referendum. They are buying up space in our minds. Corporate colonisation of your interior.

Here's an example which has been circulating on Facebook this week. It's pretty typical of Big Oil counter-narrative:

'Over 30,000 scientists say 'Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming' is a complete hoax and science lie'

Natural News is an example of corporate propaganda specifically aimed at those who reject the mainstream. It's Big Oil with a hemp-lace curtains as window-dressing. It's ceaselessly promotes pro-corporate anti-democratic concoctions, from praising Putin and Trump to denying climate crisis. Amongst a multitude of crap-mongers it's one of the worst fake news sites.

The story originates from Heartland. Heartland are not disinterested scientists. It's a political think-tank specifically created to lobby for less regulation on big business. Including regulation on polluting for profit. They no longer disclose their funding but previous funders include you guessed it, the Kochs.

They 'report': "The claim that the debate about the severity and cause of global warming is "settled science" has taken a beating with the release of the names of 31,072 American scientists who reject the assertion that global warming has reached a crisis stage and is caused by human activity."

Let's analyse this. Firstly 31,0172 individuals would be a fraction compared to the international consensus - 97-99% of all climatologists agree climate change is happening and man is causing it. Secondly it's from 1998, why is it reappearing this week? Thirdly, what's the origin of the petition? It's the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine,

who, unlike genuine academics, who are transparent and publicly accountable, do not reveal where their funding is from.

It's headed by a four-time Republican candidate for Congress.

Fourthly, what is the criteria for 'scientist'? Unlike climatologists in the IPCC who have PhDs in their field it is simply someone with a bachelor degree. It includes vets or astro-physicists and family doctors. It's like listening to people with degrees in Art History on the subject of Economics. Only 12%, a few thousand, have any qualification in a relevant degree.

And lastly since this was in 1998, when we knew much less many of the few whose opinion has any value may well have changed their minds. In fact in 2006 when Scientific American reached out to 30 at random they found "When the magazine Scientific American reached out to a random sample of 30 "six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer."

So irrelevant, insignificant, very misleading and out-of-date.

Yet spread this month to counter the threat posed by the publicity raised by a young girl who is frightened at what the future holds.

It's obviously an exhausting process to fact-check everything.

We can't.

A rule-of-thumb is if it's from a source you've not heard of, well it's probably because it's not a reliable source. If it's a random bloke on YouTube or Facebook it's probably not a rogue genius, but someone who has fallen for these conspiracies or is an active agent of them. Use news sources you know are by respected journalists and not for-profit click-bait. Sites ending .org or .ac are often better than .com as they are held to higher standards of accountability. For truly independent, serious journalism outside the mainstream try the excellent Double Down News (which takes no advertising) or the Intercept.

We should be as least as conscious about what we take into our heads as our bodies. Avoid junk news on random sites. It’s the info-equivalent of buying a hotdog on the street and hoping it might be vegan. Not using established media like Channel 4 or the Guardian and opting for whatever pops up in your feed is like avoiding drinking municipal tap water and drinking from puddles instead.

Conspiracy theories spread because as humans we all like to feel knowledgeable. It makes us feel powerful. Especially in such a scary, chaotic world. And those who feel least personal power or confidence might be particularly attracted to feeling they know better than the 'sheeple'.

Ironically of course in spreading corporate conspiracies they’re actually working for 'the Man' for free. Seriously, if you’ve been spreading climate denial posts you’ve been working as an unpaid intern for Exxon. Write and ask for a check.

At the end of the day we have to also simply use our heart’s wisdom as well as our critical-thinking. Many of us haven’t been educated in how to check source reliability. It’s usually not taught in school. And we are bombarded by competing messages. It can be dizzying.

So let's apply common sense. Our heart's wisdom.

Trump pours scorn on Greta and denies climate change.

David Attenborough has spoken alongside Greta and regularly voices his concerns about climate crisis and species extinction. The Dalai Lama also gives his support. Thich Nhat Hanh has spoken about the dangers of climate change.

Who do you believe to have the most wisdom, honesty, integrity and intelligence? To have at heart the best interests of humanity? Trump or Attenborough, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama?

Who do you trust? Can you trust anyone? If we are not to live in a constant state of confusion and anxiety we have to trust some voices.

For me mistaking Trump for the voice of reason and Attenborough and the Dalai Lama for the dishonest rubes or dupes would be like watching Lord of The Rings and thinking Sauron was the goody and Gandalf the baddy.

What does your heart say?

An edited version of this story was first published at the excellent Plant Based News

Law grad, teacher of history and politics. Training under Brazilian shaman and psychotherapist Xamam Alba Maria. Aikidoka, guitar-strummer, runs men's circles.

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