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Brownstone Institute

The Betrayal of the Environment by Environmentalists


13 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


I am an environmentalist.

I value clean air, clean water, forests, rivers, lakes, jungles, and wide-open wild spaces and well-used, well-conserved means of enjoying them. Always have. Probably always will.

And this is why I find the issues raised by so many of the self-described “greens” today who have been so subsumed and outright eaten by the “anthropogenic global warming” story so problematic:

Because they have become the enemies of actual environmentalism and ecology by setting their goals and demands in opposition to those which actually support the environment.

And this has become absurd and malformed to the point of being truly dangerous and counterproductive.

These dogmatic eco-warriors have become an actual threat to a cleaner, greener world, and they are sucking all the air out of the room, the money out of the system, and both discrediting the valid aims of what I view to be an important bottoms-up movement and championing top-down actions and mandates that will set it back a century if they don’t knock it off.

Their watermelon religion run by green-grifters and totalitarians is not progress, it’s anti-progress. It seeks to champion only the most expensive, unreliable, and unsound means of energy production to thereby make energy hideously expensive. This will impoverish us all.

And that will harm the environment because, like it or not, “environment” functions in every way like a “luxury good” in the economist’s sense of the term. Before people start howling about “The environment is not a luxury,” let me explain what that means because in the economic lexicon the meaning is very specific and not always initially intuitive:

As defined in economics, a luxury good is a good with high income elasticity of demand. Consider “Ski vacations in the Alps.”

Those with low income will choose to consume little or zero of this good. It’s expensive, and they are focused on food, shelter, health, education, and less costly entertainments than dropping $10,000 on a family weekend shooshing in Gstaad. Many want it, but most cannot afford it. However, when income rises, people begin to disproportionately select to purchase trips like this. It’s a desirable thing, and past income X, this sort of consumption rises rapidly when wealth increases.

And in human decision-making, “environment” works just like this.

It’s just a function of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People desperate to feed their malnourished children are a lot less worried about what they dump in the river than rich people are. Always will be. It’s just a fact, and there is no changing it.

Until the more basic needs are met, you cannot make them care about less pressing desires.

The only way to do this is to first evolve economies to generate plenty. And that takes energy because energy is wealth.

There are no nations that got rich without using a lot of energy. That’s HOW you get rich. And early on, it’s a messy process. Find me a country that went from “poor” to “rich” in any generally applicable fashion without going through a period of nasty environmental degradation. (And no, becoming a banking haven or city-state trade emporium does not count as this neither scales to large populations nor are they universally applicable.) It’s just not a thing. Those inept at generating and using power do not fare well. It’s a path to penury and misery. It’s a path to societal failure.

Environmental vulnerabilities are linked to every other problem in Haiti |  National Catholic Reporter

Bienvenue en Haïti…

And failing societies tend to be filthy societies. Pollution and poverty go hand in hand. They have to grow out of it, and that too can be messy.

Societies reach a stage of organization, see lots of opportunity to generate/acquire wealth, and they go for it. They make the omelets and worry about the broken eggs later. But they DO worry about it later, and that’s the important takeaway: once you cross an income point, the mess you’re making is suddenly on everyone’s mind and they not only want to do something about it, they can afford to do something about it.

Like exotic ski trips, this was a good many wanted but most could not pay for. Then one day, they could. So they did. The US, UK, Germany, even China, all crossed this line and started cleaning up. And it’s working. Air and water quality has been on the rise for decades in the West. And green cover/forests have been increasing in the rich West for decades.

It’s poor countries that strip and slash/burn them.

It’s poor countries that are dumping all the plastic into the sea.

Rich countries do not do this.

In unfortunately typical fashion, the Western climate warriors are all focused on the non-problem and ignoring the real one. Such myopic missing of the forest for the trees seems the oddly universal focus of this whole movement.

They’ll advocate anything except something that might actually work.

(Map of ocean plastic sources. SOURCE)

Despite the posturing and profession of ignorant pastoral aboriginalism, I really doubt people want to go back to scratching out mud hut-level subsistence. Doing so would be such a setback in lifestyle, life expectancy, and the ability to sustain and feed humans that we’d have ~90% fewer humans around. Odd how those professing to be truly committed to such Malthusian causes never seem to wish to lead by example on “dehumanization.” Somehow it’s always us and not them that constitutes the carbon that needs to be reduced.

It’s all just self-indulgent delusion.

The simple, unavoidable fact is this:

In anything resembling a remotely modern society energy use is wealth and wealth, in turn, is environmentalism in pretty much every meaningful sense.

For the developing world to start caring about the environment, it’s first going to have to develop, just like we did. and we need to get out of their way and let them.

You cannot fix the environment by keeping poor people poor and “Green energy for the 3rd world” is just a nasty new way to say “Let them eat cake.”

Sorry, that’s just how it is.

Stunts and stratagems to keep them from moving to modern levels of economic output and energy consumption are simply not going to work.

No one worries about where dinner for their kids is coming from (or if it’s coming at all), cares about greenbelts and dumping stuff in rivers, or putting a little more plant food into the atmosphere.

If you don’t like it, take it up with physics and biology.

(and good luck with that…)

This endless harangue of meaningless mitigation is either the result of deeply unserious people having no idea what they are talking about or the use of trumped up claims about CO2 used to push for funding or to foist ulterior “Green on the outside red on the inside” collectivist agendas of economic dictatorship and central planning upon unsuspecting dupes. (Most likely a complex combination of the two, see the “rule by rube” Gato postulate and “Democracy dies in data adulteration.”)

And it’s certainly doing absolutely nothing positive for the world.

Wealth is also survival. Wealth is adaptation. The “heat deaths” issue is hilariously overblown. Most of the current “record heat wave” in the EU is a fabrication or the result of data being tortured until it confesses to crimes it did not commit, and cold kills FAR more people than heat, but there is another factor here as well.

To the (dubious) extent that this is actually a problem, the very air conditioning they love to vilify solves this. it’s just not widespread in the EU because, after decades of socialist policy suppressing growth and wealth accumulation, most of the EU is too poor to afford it.

These “heat deaths” are really deaths of poverty.

And that’s a very important perspective to maintain because this gang wants to cure problems of poverty with economic suppression.

And that will be an environmental, economic, and human disaster.

The social control vectors they got a taste of under covid have left them hungry for more.

They are not even trying to hide it.

Suddenly, “climate is the new covid” and in just the manner that certain internet felines have long been yowling about, they are going to play all the same stupid games and try to hand you all the same stupid prizes.


They are selling you poison and penury as panacea. The new absurdist push into “We need blackouts and climate lockdowns and 15-minute cities” is an idea as dangerous as it is deluded. It will not save. It will kill.

It’s anti-progress, anti-human, and anti-environment.

It’s also another horrendous foray into anti-science reality denial.

We just had a massive global experiment on this from covid lockdowns. Travel dropped precipitously, offices were empty, few people flew or drove, factories were idled. We experienced a level of human suppression and a drop in activity of unprecedented (and unsustainable) magnitude.

The effect on global CO2 levels was zero. Nothing changed. The rise was perfectly average and you cannot pick it out of the surrounding data no matter how hard you squint.

The most aggressive implementation of purported mitigation in human history occurred and it had no impact.

It was probably the most expensive intervention in human history and it did not move the needle even a micrometer. All cost, no benefit.

And now they want to try again?

Maybe the New York Times is right:

Maybe climate truly is the new covid…

Source NOAA. Trend lines added.

Reprinted from the author’s Substack


  • El Gato Malo

    El Gato Malo is a pseudonym for an account that has been posting on pandemic policies from the outset.

Brownstone Institute

A Coup Without Firing a Shot

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER  

We all have a different starting place and journey but each of us has the following in common. We’ve realized that official sources, the ones we’ve trusted in the past, are not going to make any sense of the above for us. We have to seek out alternatives and put the story together ourselves. And this we must do because the only other choice is to accept that all of the above consists of a random series of disconnected and pointless events, which is surely not true.

The last few years can be tracked at two levels: the physical reality around us and the realm of the intellectual, mental, and psychological.

The first level has presented a chaotic narrative of the previously unthinkable. A killer virus that turned out to be what many people said it was in February 2020: a bad flu with a known demographic risk best treated with known therapeutics. But that template and the ensuing campaign of fear and emergency rule gave rise to astonishing changes in our lives.

Social functioning was wholly upended as schools, businesses, churches, and travel were ended by force. The entire population of the world was told to mask up, despite vast evidence that doing so achieved nothing in terms of stopping a respiratory virus.

That was followed by a breathtaking propaganda campaign for a shot that failed to live up to its promise. The cure for the disease itself caused tremendous damage to health including death, a subject about which everyone cared intensely before the shot and then strangely forgot about after.

Protests against the goings-on were met with media smears, shutdowns, and even the cancellation of bank accounts. However, and simultaneously, other forms of protest were encouraged, insofar as they were motivated by a more proper political agenda against structural injustices in the old system of law and order. That was a strange confluence of events, to say the least.

In the midst of this, which was wild enough, came new forms of surveillance, censorship, corporate consolidation, an explosion of government spending and power, rampant and global inflation, and hot wars from long-running border conflicts in two crucial regions.

The old Declarations of rules on the Internet put free speech as a first principle. Today, the hosting website of the most famous one, signed by Amnesty International and the ACLU, is gone, almost as if it never existed. In 2022, it came to be replaced by a White House Declaration on the Future of the Internet, that extols stakeholder control as the central principle.

All the while, once-trusted sources of information – media, academia, think tanks – have steadfastly refused to report and respond in truthful ways, leading to a further loss of public trust not just in government and politics but also in everything else, including corporate tech and all the higher order sectors of the culture.

Also part of this has been a political crisis in many nations, including the use of sketchy election strategies justified by epidemiologic emergency: the only safe way to vote (said the CDC) is absentee via the mails. Here we find one of many overlapping parallels to a scenario hardly ever imagined: infectious disease deployed as a cover for political manipulation.

Crucially and ominously, all of these mind-blowing developments took place in roughly similar ways the world over, and with the same language and model. Everywhere people were told “We are all in this together,” and that social distancing, masking, and vaxxing was the correct way out. Media was also censored everywhere, while anti-lockdown protestors (or even those who simply wanted to worship together in peace) were treated not as dissidents to be tolerated but irresponsible spreaders of disease.

Can we really pretend that all of this is normal, much less justified? The exhortation we receive daily is that we can and must.

Really? At what point did you realize that you had to start thinking for yourself?

We all have a different starting place and journey but each of us has the following in common. We’ve realized that official sources, the ones we’ve trusted in the past, are not going to make any sense of the above for us. We have to seek out alternatives and put the story together ourselves. And this we must do because the only other choice is to accept that all of the above consists of a random series of disconnected and pointless events, which is surely not true.

That leads to the second layer of comprehension; the intellectual, mental, and psychological. Here is where we find the real drama and incalculable difficulties.

At the dawn of lockdowns, what appeared to be a primitive public health error seemed to be taking place. It seemed like some scientists at the top, who gained an implausible amount of influence over government policy, had forgotten about natural immunity and were under the impression that it was good for health to stay home, be personally isolated, avoid exercise, and eat only takeout food. Surely such preposterous advice would be revealed soon as the nonsense it was.

How in the world could they be so stupid? How did they gain so much influence, not just nationally but all over the world? Did the whole of humanity suddenly forget about all known science in every field from virology to economics to psychology?

As time went on, more and more anomalies appeared that made that judgment seem naïve. As it turns out, what was actually taking place had something to do with a move on the part of security and intelligence services. It was they who were given rule-making authority on March 13, 2020, and that’s why so much of what we needed to know was and is considered classified.

There were early initial reports that the virus itself might have been leaked from a US-backed lab in Wuhan, which introduces the entire subject of the US bioweapons program. This is a very deep rabbit hole itself, thoroughly exposed in Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s The Wuhan Cover-Up. There was a reason that topic was censored: it was all true. And as it turns out, the vaccine itself was able to bypass the normal approval process by slipping through under the cover of emergency. In effect, it came pre-approved by the military.

As the evidence continues to roll in, more and more rabbit holes appear, thousands of them. Each has a name: Pharma, CCP, WHO, Big Tech, Big Media, CBDCs, WEF, Deep State, Great Reset, Censorship, FTX, CISA, EVs, Climate Change, DEI, BlackRock, and many more besides. Each of these subject areas has threads or thousands of them, each connecting to more and to each other. At this point, it is simply not possible for a single person to follow it all.

To those of us who have been steeped in following the revelations day by day, and trying to keep up with putting them together into a coherent model of what happened to us, and what is still going on, the ominous reality is that the traditional understanding of rights, liberties, law, business, media, and science were dramatically overthrown in the course of just a few months and years.

Nothing operates today as it did in 2019. It’s not just that functioning broke. It was broken and then replaced. And the surreptitious coup d’état with no shots fired is still ongoing, even if that is not the headline.

Of this fact, many of us today are certain. But how common is this knowledge? Is it a vague intuition held by many members of the public or is it known in more detail? There are no reliable polls. We are left to guess. If any of us in 2019 believed we had our finger on the pulse of the national mood or public opinion generally, we certainly do not anymore.

Nor do we have access to the inner workings of government at the highest levels, much less the conversations going on among the winners of our age, the well-connected ruling elites who seemed to have gamed the entire system for their own benefit.

It’s so much easier to regard the whole thing as a giant confusion or accident on grounds that only cranks and crazies believe in conspiracy theories. The trouble with that outlook is that it posits something even more implausible; that something this gigantic, far-reaching, and dramatic could have happened with no real intentionality or purpose or that it all fell together as a huge accident.

Brownstone Institute has published more than 2,000 articles and 10 books exploring all over the above topics. Other venues and friends are out there helping us with this research and discovery, issue by issue. Even so, a great deal of responsibility falls on this one institution, the main work of which is providing support for dissident and displaced voices, which is implausible since it was only founded three years ago. We are deeply grateful for our supporters and would welcome you to join them.

As for the intellectuals we once revered for their curiosity and wisdom, most seem to have gone into hiding, either unable to adapt to the new realities or just unwilling to risk their careers by exploring hard topics. It’s understandable but still tragic. Most are happy to pretend like nothing happened or celebrate the change as nothing but progress. As for journalists, the New York Times publishes daily commentaries dismissing the Constitution as a dated anachronism that has to go and no one thinks much about it.

There is a lot to sort out. So much has changed so quickly. No sooner than the dust seems to be settling from one upheaval, there is another and then another. Keeping up with it all causes a level of psychological brain scramble on a scale we’ve never previously experienced.

It’s easier to wait for the historians to tell the next generation what happened. But maybe, just maybe, by stepping up and telling the story as we see it in real time, we can make a difference in stopping this madness and restoring some sane and normal freedom back to the world.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

Is the Overton Window Real, Imagined, or Constructed?

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

Ideas move from Unthinkable to Radical to Acceptable to Sensible to Popular to become Policy.

The concept of the Overton window caught on in professional culture, particularly those seeking to nudge public opinion, because it taps into a certain sense that we all know is there. There are things you can say and things you cannot say, not because there are speech controls (though there are) but because holding certain views makes you anathema and dismissable. This leads to less influence and effectiveness.

The Overton window is a way of mapping sayable opinions. The goal of advocacy is to stay within the window while moving it just ever so much. For example, if you are writing about monetary policy, you should say that the Fed should not immediately reduce rates for fear of igniting inflation. You can really think that the Fed should be abolished but saying that is inconsistent with the demands of polite society.

That’s only one example of a million.

To notice and comply with the Overton window is not the same as merely favoring incremental change over dramatic reform. There is not and should never be an issue with marginal change. That’s not what is at stake.

To be aware of the Overton window, and fit within it, means to curate your own advocacy. You should do so in a way that is designed to comply with a structure of opinion that is pre-existing as a kind of template we are all given. It means to craft a strategy specifically designed to game the system, which is said to operate according to acceptable and unacceptable opinionizing.

In every area of social, economic, and political life, we find a form of compliance with strategic considerations seemingly dictated by this Window. There is no sense in spouting off opinions that offend or trigger people because they will just dismiss you as not credible. But if you keep your eye on the Window – as if you can know it, see it, manage it – you might succeed in expanding it a bit here and there and thereby achieve your goals eventually.

The mission here is always to let considerations of strategy run alongside – perhaps even ultimately prevail in the short run – over issues of principle and truth, all in the interest of being not merely right but also effective. Everyone in the business of affecting public opinion does this, all in compliance with the perception of the existence of this Window.

Tellingly, the whole idea grows out of think tank culture, which puts a premium on effectiveness and metrics as a means of institutional funding. The concept was named for Joseph Overton, who worked at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. He found that it was useless in his work to advocate for positions that he could not recruit politicians to say from the legislative floor or on the campaign trail. By crafting policy ideas that fit within the prevailing media and political culture, however, he saw some successes about which he and his team could brag to the donor base.

This experience led him to a more general theory that was later codified by his colleague Joseph Lehman, and then elaborated upon by Joshua Treviño, who postulated degrees of acceptability. Ideas move from Unthinkable to Radical to Acceptable to Sensible to Popular to become Policy. A wise intellectual shepherd will manage this transition carefully from one stage to the next until victory and then take on a new issue.

The core intuition here is rather obvious. It probably achieves little in life to go around screaming some radical slogan about what all politicians should do if there is no practical means to achieve it and zero chance of it happening. But writing well-thought-out position papers with citations backed by large books by Ivy League authors and pushing for changes on the margin that keep politicians out of trouble with the media might move the Window slightly and eventually enough to make a difference.

Beyond that example, which surely does tap into some evidence in this or that case, how true is this analysis?

First, the theory of the Overton window presumes a smooth connection between public opinion and political outcomes. During most of my life, that seemed to be the case or, at least, we imagined it to be the case. Today this is gravely in question. Politicians do things daily and hourly that are opposed by their constituents – fund foreign aid and wars for example – but they do it anyway due to well-organized pressure groups that operate outside public awareness. That’s true many times over with the administrative and deep layers of the state.

In most countries, states and elites that run them operate without the consent of the governed. No one likes the surveillance and censorial state but they are growing regardless, and nothing about shifts in public opinion seem to make any difference. It’s surely true that there comes a point when state managers pull back on their schemes for fear of public backlash but when that happens or where, or when and how, wholly depends on the circumstances of time and place.

Second, the Overton window presumes there is something organic about the way the Window is shaped and moves. That is probably not entirely true either. Revelations of our own time show just how involved are major state actors in media and tech, even to the point of dictating the structure and parameters of opinions held in the public, all in the interest of controlling the culture of belief in the population.

I had read Manufacturing Consent (Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman; full text here) when it came out in 1988 and found it compelling. It was entirely believable that deep ruling class interests were more involved than we know about what we are supposed to think about foreign-policy matters and national emergencies, and, further, entirely plausible that major media outlets would reflect these views as a matter of seeking to fit in and ride the wave of change.

What I had not understood was just how far-reaching this effort to manufacture consent is in real life. What illustrates this perfectly has been media and censorship over the pandemic years in which nearly all official channels of opinion have very strictly reflected and enforced the cranky views of a tiny elite. Honestly, how many actual people in the US were behind the lockdowns policy in terms of theory and action? Probably fewer than 1,000. Probably closer to 100.

But thanks to the work of the Censorship Industrial Complex, an industry built of dozens of agencies and thousands of third-party cutouts including universities, we were led to believe that lockdowns and closures were just the way things are done. Vast amounts of the propaganda we endured was top down and wholly manufactured.

Third, the lockdown experience demonstrates that there is nothing necessarily slow and evolutionary about the movement of the Window. In February 2020, mainstream public health was warning against travel restrictions, quarantines, business closures, and the stigmatization of the sick. A mere 30 days later, all these policies became acceptable and even mandatory belief. Not even Orwell imagined such a dramatic and sudden shift was possible!

The Window didn’t just move. It dramatically shifted from one side of the room to the other, with all the top players against saying the right thing at the right time, and then finding themselves in the awkward position of having to publicly contradict what they had said only weeks earlier. The excuse was that “the science changed” but that is completely untrue and an obvious cover for what was really just a craven attempt to chase what the powerful were saying and doing.

It was the same with the vaccine, which major media voices opposed so long as Trump was president and then favored once the election was declared for Biden. Are we really supposed to believe that this massive switch came about because of some mystical window shift or does the change have a more direct explanation?

Fourth, the entire model is wildly presumptuous. It is built by intuition, not data, of course. And it presumes that we can know the parameters of its existence and manage how it is gradually manipulated over time. None of this is true. In the end, an agenda based on acting on this supposed Window involves deferring to the intuitions of some manager who decides that this or that statement or agenda is “good optics” or “bad optics,” to deploy the fashionable language of our time.

The right response to all such claims is: you don’t know that. You are only pretending to know but you don’t actually know. What your seemingly perfect discernment of strategy is really about concerns your own personal taste for the fight, for controversy, for argument, and your willingness to stand up publicly for a principle you believe will very likely run counter to elite priorities. That’s perfectly fine, but don’t mask your taste for public engagement in the garb of fake management theory.

It’s precisely for this reason that so many intellectuals and institutions stayed completely silent during lockdowns when everyone was being treated so brutally by public health. Many people knew the truth – that everyone would get this bug, most would shake it off just fine, and then it would become endemic – but were simply afraid to say it. Cite the Overton window all you want but what is really at issue is one’s willingness to exercise moral courage.

The relationship between public opinion, cultural feeling, and state policy has always been complex, opaque, and beyond the capacity of empirical methods to model. It’s for this reason that there is such a vast literature on social change.

We live in times in which most of what we thought we knew about the strategies for social and political change have been blown up. That’s simply because the normal world we knew only five years ago – or thought we knew – no longer exists. Everything is broken, including whatever imaginings we had about the existence of this Overton window.

What to do about it? I would suggest a simple answer. Forget the model, which might be completely misconstrued in any case. Just say what is true, with sincerity, without malice, without convoluted hopes of manipulating others. It’s a time for truth, which earns trust. Only that will blow the window wide open and finally demolish it forever.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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