Moloch's Children: Do Climate Skeptics and Climate Change Activists Need to Agree?

Sharon November 30th, 2009

I’ve gottten literally dozens of emails begging me to weigh in on the East Anglia climate scandal, and for a while, I was reluctant to do so, because ultimately, paying attention to something so inane just gives it credibility.  We’re back, again, to the old battles over climate change - attention to trivialities in the absence of the central issue.

Anyone who made any effort at all knows that no, they didn’t lose or hide the data - it is still out there to be gathered by anyone doing the work.  Yes, they should have kept the raw data, but given that they had a tiny budget, limited storage space and were writing their own code, maybe cut them some slack - maybe some discredit is due the climate skeptics who have kept this subject so wildly underfunded?  Yes, we can still find raw temperature data at both the collection sites and at the several other compilers. 

Yes, the scientists said some stupid and imprudent things - but saying that they were responsible for politicizing the discussion ignores the tens of millions of dollars spent by climate skeptic lobbyists over the last decades to create dissension and attack the scientists.  Is there a religious-like orthodoxy of science that has exerted pressure on poor, hapless political leaders?   Sure…30+ years of not accomplishing jack-shit - wow, those mean and powerful scientists - where do they get their power?  Does an attack on four guys in England undermine all climate data?  Ummm…four guys.  Compared to tens of thousands of peer reviewed papers. 

What’s annoying about this nonsense is that it has overshadowed in the media the much more important news that the IPCC scientists did make mistakes about climate change - and some of that almost certainly due to the enormous pressure to *understate* the climate science.  Accusations of government pressures to soften the conclusion were rife after the IPCC report came out - reported by the scientists themselves.  The idea that political pressure exists only on one side is simply ignorant.  Now the Copenhagen update confirms what has been reported on this blog since before the last IPCC report came out - that in fact, the error has tended to be to understating the dangers of climate change.  We are facing much more serious and rapid climate change than was reported, and we have to respond more quickly.

That said, however, I know that I have quite a number of blog readers who will disagree with the above statements, and I’m fine with that.  I also know that disagreement on this subject makes a lot of people really, really angry.  I can understand their perspective - that is, I understand both why people who are worried about the cost of dealing with climate change are angry at those who understate that cost, and I understand why people who believe sincerely in climate change get angry when people resist their attempts to save lives.  I get the anger.  But I try really hard not to get invested or focused in the battle - for two reasons. 

Now I should be clear here - when  I speak of climate skeptics in this post, I am not speaking of the paid shills and the professionals whose job it is to throw up dust in the eyes of science - there are plenty of them, and I think that they deserve excoriation.  People talk about conspiracy in terms of climate change - ignoring that the track of money goes back to Exxon and Shell and a whole host of companies that have had an enormous interest in making extremely clear science unclear.  I am speaking, instead, of the vast majority of people who for good reasons and bad, disagree with me on the importance of dealing with climate change.

The first is simply that I’ve watched the battles of left and right, the old enlightenment political battles go on my whole life, quite literally, and mostly, I’ve watched scorched earth that left no one happy or satisfied.  Both sides have had their victories and defeats, some good and some bad has come out of this.  But the fixation on means here, rather than ends - that is, the fixation on alliances with political parties and traditional battles has done more harm than good, and cost us many good ends.  

And in fixating on the scorched earth battles, we’ve built up barriers of  anger and contempt to the radical loss of both common ground and perspective about what matters the most.   The perception that the old categories and divisions don’t work anymore seems to cross all political lines.  Evangelical theologian Dr. David Gushee said that we would be ashamed of ourselves later on for the issues that we have allowed to consume our lives while the world burns. 

But more importantly, I don’t believe that people can be easily and accurately divided into enlightment categories - I think they are mostly a distraction.  Nor do I think that the climate change debate exists in the terms that most climate activists frame it, between skeptics and activists/scientists.  There are certainly some people on both sides who come to this with a single, all-encompassing worldview that could be described that way, but mostly, I don’t think that’s accurate.  Instead, I would frame the distinction differently - that the populace is roughly divided into two groups - but not the ones you think they are.

The first, I’m going to call “Moloch’s Children” - which isn’t a very nice name, but it is, I think,  accurate.   By this I mean that like Moloch, they devour their own young.  I do not claim that the Children of Moloch do so intentionally - at worst, their seeming god is Mammon.  But the reality is that the worship of consumption leads to the cannibalizing of our future and our children.  

Who are these people?  The children of Moloch consist of the great mass of Americans and other rich world denizens whose central ideology is technological progress and consumption - Moloch is their god, the overarching center of their world is the urge for more and more comfort, more and more possessions, more and more wealth, more and more technology in complete disregard of the fact that these things are not possible.   They do not realize that they devour their own future as they consume.  I realize that most of the people I am describing would fervently deny that this is true of them - but they would mostly be wrong.  At the center of their value system is something empty and deeply wrong, and that emptiness stretches out and empties their world.  They do not know what is missing from their lives, so they seek out more to fill the empty space.

The Children of Moloch cross political, religious, cultural and ethnic lines.  That is, there are plenty of climate skeptics who believe that the climate probably isn’t changing and even if it is, we can just fix it with more free enterprise.  But there are equally many people in the same camp who believe that yes, climate change is a big problem, and someone really should do something about it, but not me, and nothing that impacts my mutual fund statement.   It is possible to be a devout Christian and still hold prosperity, comfort and your game cube at the center of your world in practice, while going to Church on Sundays.  It is possible to be a radical leftist athiest and still hold those same values at the center of your world.  Every shade of middle ground runs through the center.  Moloch knows no political bounds.

The truth is that if you could meaningfully divide the world up into climate skeptics and climate believers and use that information politically, then we’d already be acting on climate change.  The fact is that you can’t - the vast majority of people who believe we should do something about climate change believe that we shouldn’t do anything very difficult, expensive or inconvenient - pretty much what the skeptics believe.  They are different in that if it doesn’t cost them anything substantive, they’d be happy if the problem went away.

The second group I’ve called several things over the years - anti-modernists, sustainability folk (before that term came to mean “people who buy green prada”)…  For this purpose, though, I call them “People of the Center” - that is, anyone who has something other than Moloch at the center of their world: a hope for the future, an investment in the past, the love of a G-d, the love of humanity in general, an ethical paradigm that actually trumps the desire for more -  and thus perceives, sometimes instinctively, sometimes after long study, that we cannot go on this way, and must find something else. 

And this category too crosses all political, cultural and religious lines.   There are devout Christian homesteaders in this group, and indigenous native farmers, radical leftists and radical rightists.  There are aging hippies and crunchy cons.  There are Quakers and Amish, Hasidic and Liberal Jews, Moslems, Buddhist Nuns and Catholic Nuns, Neo-Pagans and Athiests.  There are people who believe that climate change is no problem at all, or not their problem, but who deeply and profoundly believe they are called by their faith or taste or commitment to another principle to live ethically.  There are people who believe that climate change is everything and come to the same conclusions.  And in the end, what matters here are the ends- the conclusions and the life that follows them.

Here, then, I see the people who are already beginning to live the life necessary.  They may think I’m a complete raving loon on the subject of climate change - but they recognize the need to grow their own food.  They may not care at all about peak oil, but they know they need to cut their energy use and energy budget.  They could be, on the right political grounds, supportive of far more radical political changes than most of the moderate people who accept climate change, because their basic premise is that the future is worth preserving.

The truth is that even without acceptance of climate change, tens of thousands of people recognize the essential emptiness of our center and are looking for a better way.  The truth is that even if we disagree on peak oil, or on the face of the financial collapse, we have things to speak about.   Even if we fight over important (I do not claim they are not important, just perhaps not as important as preventing the worst outcomes of our future) issues that are simply secondary - the traditional battleground issues of left and right, for example, we can recognize their secondariness. 

Even if we have nothing in common except our commitment to creating a future for human beings in the world, we can work together at least in some measure - and I would argue that the People of the Center have more in common with one another than they do with the Children of Moloch, regardless of  their opinions on gay marriage and health care funding.  All of us in the center in some measure know, that wherever the disaster comes from, it is coming.  We know that if we do not change, change will be thrust upon us, and will be more terrible than if we step forward and claim our future.

There are a lot more of Moloch’s Children than there are People of the Center, and the odds are good that there will be until the things at the center of their world fall away - until poverty and a changing world unseat their center and leave them seeking something else.  But the truth is that there are converts every single day away from Moloch - not just a few, but thousands of them. I meet them every time I speak, I get emails from them every day and others get even more - “I just realized what we were facing” “My family and I only just became aware” “We’ve been doing this for a year or two…”  The stories overflow - and the paths they take are not all the same.

There are two ways to look at this steady and growing stream of converts - the first is that we are too few.  The second is that it is astounding, given the power of the other side, the place of advertising and wealth and luxury and technology in our world, that so many fall away, and go looking for a new center. 

 They find their place, their center in different ways - some turn back to an old faith, some cast their faith away.  Some place the emphasis in different places, some return to the old ways of their people, or go seeking a new set of old ways.  They agree on remarkably little.  But they are finding their way to something, a place, a center, through a remarkable number of portals - and their commitment to some of the same ends is sufficient to build something upon.  The edifice of our creating is fragile, tenuous, and sometimes the ground yaws forth when a new chasm between us arises.  But there is something there.

In political terms, I imagine there will be shouts of protest at this post - if we give up the battle for the hearts and minds of people on climate change, we’ll fail, I suspect they will say.  Well, the truth is, we’re failing now.  Yes, 57% of the world takes climate change seriously - seriously enough to want some kind of low-grade agreement, maybe, if it isn’t inconvenient.  But the truth is that we’ve failed miserably to explain what exactly would be involved in dealing with climate change - we’ve pandered to Moloch so long, told people that they’d be driving around in electric cars and just as rich as before so long that we’ve lost the battle.  Because people know that it isn’t true - look at the Copenhagen update to the IPCC - even if we dropped emissions to zero by 2030, unless we make radical cuts in the next decade, we’re still past the 2 degree mark.  Anyone think that’s going to happen?  Seriously?

The political reality is that going at this on enlightenment terms has failed miserably - and will continue to fail.  As long as we fixate on what we believe, rather than on the common sense that things are coming down around us, on means rather than ends, there’s no chance that our response will do what it needs to - give the best possible results we can get now *and* simultaneously serve us as well as possible if, as seems likely, we fail.  That is, we’ve been shooting all along for the wrong goals with the wrong allies, painful as that is to admit, and now we need new allies, and new goals - goals that operate to soften the blow as well as try and prevent it as best we can.  Maybe we would have failed had we started with the right allies - but no worse than we have failed now.

I don’t know if the only or rightest way to do this is to concentrate on creating more people of the center, in wooing people away from Moloch.  I know only that the old way, and the old divisions have not worked - that the casualties of those battles are stacked up for miles, and that a new way is needed.  I don’t suggest that this is easy, or that the other battles, the old enlightenment ones I seem to abandon so easily are actually easy to step away from.  But the truth is that we will have little territory for fighting those battles left if we allow the worst outcomes of all our troubles to come to pass - what we need now is a place to stand and build.  I get angry when I see someone believe passionately in something I think is deeply wrong - but I am adult enough to know that what matters is not that you believe as I do, but that we find a way to live and go forward into our common center.


49 Responses to “Moloch's Children: Do Climate Skeptics and Climate Change Activists Need to Agree?”

  1. Greenpa says:

    Moloch, forsooth!

    Might be overkill there- just a little too hard, in that it can make the targets quit listening.

    Not that you’re wrong!

    How about Children of Mammon, instead? Not a god with quite the same track record… but, the point still comes across.

    What’s really going on here is that the public has suddenly been allowed a glimpse into the sausage factory that is academic “science” - and it’s quite ugly.

    PhD’s go to considerable lengths to keep it hidden in fact. I got OUT when I reached the point where the start letting potential professors see it.

    It still makes sausage, though. Some good, some less, and some great.

    Climate science is mostly good sausage.

  2. Sharon says:

    Moloch is kind of mean, but I like him better than Mammon for this, simply because of the “eating your own young” elements of this.

  3. Fern says:

    I’ve been approaching this from my ‘marketing’ side. ‘We’ - those who believe that global warming is human caused and thataction has to be taken on it - have to market to people where they are now. Not aim to where we want them to be, but to move them to where we want them to be.

    Thus, I feel that the e-mail scandal has to be taken back from the deniers (not skeptics) who are using it now. “Our” (I just HATE dividing people into groups, what can I say?) path here has to start with damage control in the sense of the Tylenol-poisonings model. Acknowledge what was in the e-mails released. Release ALL e-mails to show that the published ones were taken out of context. Point out where ALL the data is. Etc.

    Transparency, to me, is the best approach. THEN it’s okay to point out the spin in what was deliberately released.

    Politicians aren’t going to move unless they feel they will get re-elected, that climate change is a priority issue among voters. They might, if we’re lucky, use concensus among scientists to help decide WHAT to do, but deciding TO DO is all about elections. I wish that wasn’t the truth, but that is where we are now.

    Frondly, Fern

  4. Anon says:

    Whether the planet is warming, cooling, or otherwise, and whether it’s caused by humans, sunspots, or farting cows, can’t we all agree as a species that continuing to trash the planet is a BAD thing?

    Does the toxic damage to our only home have to result in climate change for the world to decide it’s worth remedying? Aren’t soil toxicity, ocean acidity (accompanied by dead fish and algae overgrowth), coral death, arsenic in wells, polluted rivers, trash in the ocean (and in the bellies of fish and seagulls), and brown hazes over our cities enough motivation to clean up our act?

    The climate change debate is just a distraction - a convenient shadow on the cave wall that we can argue about without having to actually stand up and look at reality. It’s irrelevant whether our pollution is warming the planet; we’re doing a horrendous amount of damage to everything else, and that should be enough to spur us to action.

  5. Grandma Misi says:

    Wow, Moloch indeed! This is why I follow your blog Sharon, and have for a long, long time. Partly because of the intelligence and strong/straight speech of the Moloch (shoot, lost my word… where is it? um, not anthology which is floating around in my old-timers brain… dagnabit!) let’s say “theme” - but the important part I cherish is the coinage of “People of the Center” (I’m assuming you came up with this as I haven’t heard it before). I admire this entire article for it’s facing reality, for not seeing everything in black and white, for acknowledging the commonality of what appears to be such diverse beliefs and positions, and for lack of a better way to say it… the “get ‘er done” attitude.

    I wish I could be even remotely erudite (weird that this word rolls off my brain but the other one is still stuck in the ether) in my response. Can’t. All I can say is WOW, and THANK YOU and can I e-mail this article to all my family and friends? (with the wish that they would actually read it which is mostly unlikely which is sad for me, sad for them, and sad for our future) But maybe, just maybe, if we all keep chipping away at our blocks of stone we will find a glimmer of the sensible, liveable, sculpture of the future within.
    Sincerely, Grandma Misi (Pacific Northwest)

  6. The Raven says:

    Thank you so much for not only recognizing but saying outloud that atheists can be good people, can care about humanity and other life now and in the future, can be righteous, and can have lives full of meaning. I speak as someone tottering constantly between observant Judaism and strong atheism.

  7. LdeG says:

    I like Moloch - the metaphor of throwing our children into the fiery furnace works so well on many levels - coal-fired plants and sacrificing our children for the present among others.

    Thank you for expressing this so well. I just recently found your blog, while doing a systematic search for people and places who are doing rather than just talking. The diversity of people and their reasons for simple or sustainable living is huge, as you say. In the end, it is not the laws, the politicians who make them, or the corporations that matter - it is how we choose to live - and as you say, there are many paths to the realization that more and more stuff is not the answer, and many benefits to that realization.

  8. Grandma Misi says:

    LdeG - Would you share some of the results of your research with me/us???? I’m always looking for jewels among the bull****!

  9. dewey says:

    “Moloch whose mind is pure machinery, Moloch whose blood is running money…”

  10. Rick says:

    Nice article. I guess I fit into your “center” group. I am strongly Christian and don’t get “centered up” when it comes to the spiritual but find myself in an interesting mix of company when it comes to energy usage and consumerism. I feel that Al Gore is way deep in left field but get tired of the smoke that is constantly scorching right field.

    It is as you stated that some people that believe strongly in climate change would rather not have to be inconvenienced to any degree. Give’em a hybrid car and skim milk with the latte please but don’t make ‘em have to suffer the thought of giving up the microwave.

    The extreme other side of the coin are the folks that say you are worshiping the Earth if you show any care for it. What?! That is really the same but different attitude of the inconvenience theme. “I don’t want you to make me feel bad about my over-reaching habits.”

    I am not trying to throw myself back a few decades just to be different but rather have found that all the modern toys that abound are not necessarily worthwhile. Living off the grid was a first step for me in recognizing that we have religiously become a society of ‘seekers of convenience’.

  11. Don says:

    Sharon, what really gets me about the University of East Anglia story is that we’re being told that we’re supposed somehow to believe the climate scientists are less trustworthy as a group than these burglars and thieves who hacked into the computer and stole the e-mails.

    Since they were so willing to break one of the Ten Commandments (Thou shalt not steal), I have to assume they’re equally willing to disregard the other ones (especially, Thou shalt not bear false witness) and that they have selectively edited the purloined e-mails’ contents (e.g., decontextualized them) to make them say what they want to say in order to discredit them.

    The notion that criminals should be held in higher regard than researchers (some of whom have risked their lives while gathering data from remote and inaccessible corners of the world so they could try and determine what’s happening to our earth’s climates) is to me a clear sign that the center (William Butler Yeats’ center, not yours) indeed is not holding. The rough beasts are on the horizon.

    Now we can add this indignity to another one: that nobody on the GW denial side has been able satisfactorily to explain to me what could motivate climate scientists to conspire to rig the data on climate change, while it’s patently clear, as you point out here, what’s in it for the fossil fuel extraction industry and its allies to conspire to discredit the data-not to mention how to fund the conspiracy.

  12. Mia @ agoodhuman says:

    Anon….You’ve said it exactly.

  13. siegfried says:

    Well, I think that whole global warming case is a kind of distraction. Don’t get me wrong - I know that climat is changing, but I dont think it’s caused by CO2.

    What I believe is that goverments are trying to use global warming as an weapon against peak oil. I think there is no chance of high politicians telling us “we are sorry, we are in serious troubles, you children can forget about flying on the planes, actually, you should prepare for hunger and riots”. Can you imagine what would happen?
    But when we hear about CO2, it’s different - we can fight it, together! We can cut down our fuel usage, we can invest in home improvements, we can make our carbon footprints as small as we can. It will give us some time (not much).

    But it’s still a deception, and many people will wake up in deep s*.

  14. Lori Scott says:

    I’m so tired of the global warming debate which has reached religous proportions, even to the use of the word “denier” which in context could be replaced with “heretic” without changing the sense of the prose.

    I could cut exhaust emissions by 50% straight away simply by having a culture where both parents do not need to commute to work.

    When will we realize that the real debate is about consumption? The avalanche of consuming is what imperils our ecosystem (and economy) and guess what - it is in the interests of both business and government to keep us consuming.

    Business wants to have a profit. The government wants to have employed people (who pay tax) and also to tax the sale of goods which are consumed.

    While this mindset in the seat of power continues, the climate change debate is merely a distraction from the fact that we have stopped being valued as human beings and now just represent buying power to keep the wheels turning.

    How do we rein in consumption? Aside from personal restrictions, I really don’t have an answer for this. I think that is why we are desperately seeking a crux point like climate change or peak oil to provide the impetus for stopping the seemingly endless expansion.

  15. cecelia says:

    Sharon - as usual - an insiteful post - yes we are eating our young.

    Glad you joined in at Crunchy Con -

  16. Greenpa says:

    # Lori Scotton -

    “I’m so tired of the global warming debate which has reached religous proportions, even to the use of the word “denier” which in context could be replaced with “heretic” without changing the sense of the prose.”

    You are on the nose, there; it’s getting religious.

    This seems to be basic human nature, too.

    Two excellent parables:

    1) In about 1975, I think, 5 separate groups of churchgoers, all calling themselves “Lutheran”, called a great meeting in to which to decide how to re- unify, and become one church again.

    Ten years later (or so) - the meeting broke up. And we now have - SEVEN groups of Lutherans, from this five.

    And please note- the Lutherans are generally considered to be among the more reasonable and forgiving types- just ask Garrison Keillor.

    2) in my own backyard, we have a large Amish community. It’s among the very most conservative- they moved here to get away from inadequately pious relatives back east.

    Since they have been here- some 30 years- this community has split again, on theological (allegedly) schisms- 5 times, to my knowledge, and maybe more. That’s not including individual families leaving; these were whole blocks of families splitting off.

    I think it’s just another way we mortals are foolish- works best for me to just take it with a grain of salt.

    (and, nudge nudge, I seem to recall a few words in a certain book about the Jewish people having “stiff necks”… for those looking for further examples…)

    human, human, human.

  17. Coleen says:

    No matter what is causing the crash (and I believe there are a lot of things adding to it- greed/consumption whatever you want to call it being a big one) we are in for an ADJUSTMENT!

    Unfortunately, taking away personal freedoms will not help us to get there it will only make angry citizens and very nasty social upheaval. This has to be a realization that comes from within. If the government tries to fix it they just become the scape goat.

    Education is the key, one-on-one with people who are receptive, across all lines. Grassroots change is the only way to make this work, though realistically, it will likely be too late. In the end, some sort of drastic correction almost has to come in order for the majority to hurt enough to make the changes necessary. Its a sorry situation we are in. We probably can’t save the world but hopefully we will each try to save our neighbor and by that we will save much of it.

  18. Lindsey says:

    I’m with Lori on this one. I do not like the religious side of all of this.

    You can be one, none, or both.

  19. Kelly R says:

    Hello, my name is Kelly, and I’m a member of Consumers Anonymous.

    Great rant, Sharon. You even made me run for the dictionary for excoriation.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the distraction bit. These people are masters of the red herring. Fighting with them only gives them power.

    I have a friend who says, “when I tell you what I think you should believe, once, it’s information. When I tell you again, and again, it’s an attempt to control”. I think this applies.

    What I admire about you is that you are a living example. You do the work that needs to be done, and you are helping countless people with the work.

    In twelve step, there is a tradition like this, we do our public relations by attraction, not by promotion. People come because they see you have what they need.

  20. tim-10-ber says:

    Hmmm…right now it appears the planet is cooling. There has been next to no sunspot activity for a long time this year and none as of now. Could it be that we are truly in a thirty year cycle and now the cycle turns back to cooling? Sure seems like the global warming gig was all about high money…need to get the science right as many, many scientists said the global warming was wrong but they got pushed to the background until know…I am not saying the weather is not changing as it definitely is. We have (in my part of the south) had the coolest summer and fall I can remember in a long time. I have a feeling we are going to have one of the harshest winters we have had in a decade or two. Yep…this is not caused by global warming…nope…but I have no clue what is causing it — lack of sunspot activity and possible global cooling seems most logical…it could be a normal cycle based upon the sun’s lack of activity…it could be based on where the earth is in it’s rotation…there are countless theories…who knows which one is right…I just want snow like we use to have in the 1970s and 1980s!!

    Just my two cents worth based upon what I read…and experience…

  21. Sharon says:

    Tim-10-ber, my husband is an astrophysicist by profession, and would simply observe that neither is the planet cooling nor is the sunspot cycle the culprit for warming - if it were, we’d see the upper atmosphere getting warmer, along with the lower atmosphere. In fact, the upper atmosphere is cooler, because more of the radiant heat that ordinarily would leave the planet is being trapped by the greenhouse effect.

    As for money - there’s just so much vastly more money in not doing anything about global warming than there is about doing anything about it that I admit, I find that funny.

    Don’t get me wrong - we can still get along on the fundamentals, but just because we get along doesn’t mean that we’re going to agree here. ;-)


  22. Paul R. says:

    This continues to be one of my favorite reads (your blog, not global warming :) . And, not only do I enjoy the blog, but also some of the comments.

    So, what drew me to this site originally was actually a post from a friend of yours called the “The Theory of Anyway” (#2007/01/theory-of-anyway.html). And, as I read your post and all the comments after, I can’t help wonder if we could get more people to understand AND tried to incorporate that philosophy at least a little at a time, how this global warming, peak oil and the rampant consumerism might be not be an issue.


  23. Paul R. says:

    Actually, the right link is to Sharon’s post here:

    Sorry for the misdirection :}

  24. Anonymous says:

    Timely post, Sharon. I don’t do the climate argument any more. Like they say… “don’t feed the trolls…” And it reminds me too much of same old same old “divide and conquer.” Like another person said, let’s agree we are trashing the planet and move on from there. But then… we’d actually have to stop trashing the planet instead of focusing on an intellectual fight….!

  25. vera says:

    That wuz me.

  26. Greenpa says:

    About the Theory of Anyway-

    I’ve been fighting this war (yes it is) longer than any of youse spring chickens here- so I can tell you, the T of A was brought up decades ago.

    I remember discussing it in the late 80′s, in several heavy situations.

    While it’s absolutely true; and reasonable, and sensible- so far no one has managed to make it into an argument with any force.

    It kind of slides into the background so easily that most folks think it’s a new idea when it pops up.

    So my challenge to all is- fine, good- now; how can you make it into a FUNCTIONAL tool- an argument that changes minds, and votes, and opinions?

    Up to now, it’s been just a pointless afterthought in the conversations.

  27. Fern says:

    Ah, Greenpa, so we’re back at …. marketing! How to package what we are selling.

    I’d say that T of A is too amorphous to sell because it runs afoul of WIIFM - what’s in it for me. But, for example, if they have a child with asthma (and almost 10% of US children have been diagnosed with asthma) they know what happens to THEIR child on code yellow, orange, or red air pollution days. They will be a hero if they can make it so their child can play without wheezing in the summer. They can become that hero if they help reduce particulate matter in the air. Particulates come in HUGE amounts from coal power plants (well, probably from wood stoves, too, but one problem at a time). And trees - allowing the ones already growing to continue and planting more - will help ‘trap’ particulates. And reducing individual car usage (by providing help in car pooling and funds for public transportation) will also help them on their Hero path.

    Hero - 3 ‘reasons to believe’ - now add catch phrases and work on dissemination.

    Or to put it a different way, state problem, then agitate problem, then provide relief/solution, followed by a CALL TO ACTION. But it has to be a problem that affects them DIRECTLY as well as a solution they can believe in.

    Great videos doing this might go viral and do some of the work for us.

    For info, mostly in plain English, on how to be effective in selling ideas/behaviors, spend some time on the site, and look at a video now up on youtube on ‘mafia selling’ by John Jaworski.

    Frondly, Fern

  28. Greenpa says:

    Fern- good analysis.

    Actually- I give seminars in marketing- specifically marketing innovative processes. People swoon. :-)

    lol. Anyway- your analysis is fine- but- I want concrete ACTION, and measurable results. Enough palaver and planning!

    Who is going to quell the frat?

    (hey, that worked out nicely!)

  29. Fern says:

    Heck, all we have to do is make the public deals so good and compelling that, in the words of The Godfather, we’re making them an offer they can’t refuse. Or deny. Or avoid.

    So all we need is for everyone in the US to have a horse that they love….

    Frondly, Fern

  30. Jeremy D says:

    For those of you who instinctively know that borrowing to consume is at the heart of our problems, this article by Steve Keen gives a very readable explanation of why we are in our current financial predicament.

    Also, being a data junkie, this article by Tamino gives a very clear demonstration that there is absolutely no let up in global warming in the current decade - you need to go to the end of the article to see the box and whiskers chart that makes it abundantly clear.

    That said, I am completely sold on the need to change the framing of the debate from an arguement over data to an arguement over values. There is an saying about strategy that a company’s strategy is what it actually does, not what it says it will do. Similarly I think the People of the Centre demonstrate their values by what they actually do, not what they say they will do. This may make them quieter, but in the long run they will be more effective.


  31. edde says:

    Great conversation - one of the best! THANKS!

    T of A and WIIFM work for many issues with some people. For others, not so much.

    When economic growth (religion for the consumer crowd) and any other rational action to protect the environment, or for peace, or better health, or whatever, clash, its economic growth that gets the nod time after time.

    Is there a silver bullet? Let me know when you find it;-)


  32. Fern says:

    I’m thinking that for some issues we could use WIIFM. Let’s take ‘trashing the earth’ literally - the issue of trash. Right now for too many there is the perception that trash out of sight is trash out of mind, and no longer in their lives. They threw the trash out - either into the trash stream at their home/work/whatever or on the ground away from home - because they want their ‘personal space’ to be trash-free.

    Trash free personal space is their value.

    So a campaign would be based on reinforcing that trash free personal space makes them a Hero. BUT - there is no “other place” for trash. They can’t get rid of it by getting it out of sight. It’s still there, coming back at them, as the fish they buy has plastic from the ocean in/around it, as the landfill uses the lot next door as THEIR “out of sight”, chemicals come out of their water tap and are in their air.

    Whatever they throw away, in whatever form and in whatever way, keeps coming back. Their beloved child comes in, as tangled in plastic as the fish was.

    Then hit them w/ the ‘reduce, re-use, re-purpose, recycle’. With emphasis on the first, since it reduces the work they’d have to do on the rest.

    Frondly, Fern

  33. Pro Bono ism says:

    Please explain to me again how radical, leftist, atheists are children of Muloch…

    I am not sure how dumpster diving, bicycle riding, squatter, freegans that try earnestly to remove themselves from every wake of domination and oppression that the growth based economic system has levied upon the world meet this definition.

    These are people actually doing something about their convictions through “propaganda by the deed” not “propaganda through copyrighted publications” as do many people who contribute to this site. People who are actually living and breathing the transformation to a world of less consumption, less energy use and freedom from domination of the intellectual sphere by vanguardist literary juggernauts like this author have accomplished far more outreach and opposition to this one way ticket to hell then this author will ever accomplish.

    How much of your day is actually spent doing anything you say is important in the wake of peak oil, climate change, etc.? Or, do you spend most of your day behind a computer antagonizing people with whom would lend you an ear and a helping hand in the first place? What sort of judge are you? And, why should we listen, Sharon??

  34. Debbie says:

    How is this for you? Our city has increased in population the least two years, yet our water consumption has gone down. So in the wisdom our city council is going to raise the price of our water by the year 2011 to twice what we are paying now. They need the $$ for improvements etc. We have been so good with our water conservation and are now being punished. It all just makes me sick.

  35. Sharon says:

    Pro Bono ism, you really didn’t read the post at all, did you? I said precisely that radical leftist atheists who eschewed consumer culture *were not* the children of Moloch - any more than anyone else who did it was. I love dumpster diving freegans and think they are right on. I think you skimmed the post looking for something to argue about.

    As for why you should listen to me - I honestly don’t care one way or another whether you do or not. That said, again, if you actually read what I write you’ll see what I do. My family lives on 1/5th the resources of the average Americans, if that, produces our own food and a good deal for our community and a whole host of other things.

    I really think you didn’t understand what I said.


  36. Pro Bono ism says:


    You state in article:
    “The Children of Moloch cross political, religious, cultural and ethnic lines.”

    “Moloch knows no political bounds.”

    You also mentioned radical, leftist, atheists (these were your words, not mine) as well and for some reason I do not see it in your post this time. I must have been hallucinating when I read it yesterday but for some reason I feel it was removed from your original post. If I was hallucinating, please forgive my earlier rant. I don’t usually come across that way.

    I am not in to visiting blogs and finding just anything to argue about. I came to your blog after having read an article by you that I respect deeply with regard to urban ag laws-which I am deeply entrenched in here in the US in my community where we recently passed a city ordinance allowing residential areas within the city limits to grow food for market in addition to a number of other initiatives related to community resilience in the wake of peak oil and climate change.

    The reason I responded the way I did was not to be abrasive or rude. I don’t particularly like it when people are pigeonholed into one reductionist classification (Manichean philosophy) scheme or another. From what I read, it was obvious, this was your intent with the leftist folks, among others, stating that the children of Muloch cross all political, etc. I feel Western culture does this enough-especially in the fields of criminal justice, psychology and/or psycho analysis to just name a few. I think that we should be acknowledging that we all have our faults and direct or in some cases indirect ties to the behemouth of Western growth-based economies no matter how much we despise and repudiate them. I feel you were singling yourself out for some reason.

    Again, my apologies, if I read into your article what was not there. But, I don’t think I misunderstood what your wrote.

  37. Sharon says:

    Pro Bono ism, I do see why you made the mistake you did, but it is a mistake, and an error of not reading carefully, not my error.

    I did in fact say that there are radical leftist athiests who fall in the category of Children of Moloch, and I stand by that - I know some. There are radical leftist technocrats out there, for example, who believe in the overthrow of existing structures from the left. I did not say “all radical leftists athiests are Children of Moloch” - what I said was that among the Children of Moloch, there are radical leftist athiests.

    I then said that among the People of the Center, there are also “radical leftists” and “athiests” - I didn’t put them together in a sentence, mostly because I’d already done so, and because in that conceptual iteration I was listing political beliefs and religious ones separately. I realize it is a long post, but I do think it is reasonable to expect people to infer that when I say that some of X group belong to category Y, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of X group do - if I’d meant that, I’d have said it.

    Just so you know, I don’t edit my posts in response to other people’s criticism without notifying my readers - I occasionally edit them for editing mistakes or clarity, but I don’t take things out because someone complained, and I do fine the assumption that I edited my content to hide my mistake kind of offensive.


  38. Michael Irving says:

    Pro Bono ism,

    I think you need to reconsider the purpose of your posts which are in fact (contrary to your statement)”abrasive” and “rude.” They are also not very consistent. For example:

    You said, “I don’t particularly like it when people are pigeonholed into one reductionist classification (Manichean philosophy) scheme or another.”

    Then you went right on to do that very thing by saying, “How much of your day is actually spent doing anything you say is important in the wake of peak oil, climate change, etc.? Or, do you spend most of your day behind a computer antagonizing people with whom would lend you an ear and a helping hand in the first place? What sort of judge are you? And, why should we listen, Sharon??”

    Sharon’s response was gentle and only suggested that you read more carefully. Speaking from experience, that approach helps to make one look less foolish too.

    Michael Irving

  39. Pro Bono ism says:

    This is an attempt to not make you look less foolish, Michael. But, you are entirely off base with your take on what I said and whether or not I should reconsider it.

    Pigeonholing is used to describe statements, in this case, that attempt to classify disparate entities into a small number of categories. This is a statement about who or what falls into some kind of scheme or stereotype as Sharon described in her post. I think this is troublesome and shallow, period. A difference in perspective. NO need to discuss anymore.

    By asking questions about what someone actually does to support or validate their proclamations, is simply just that, asking a question-not making a statement in an attempt to categorize someone or groups of people that you may consider to be a type that would without intention “consume their own young” as would be the case in a reductionist classification that I was describing but must have not come across very clearly.

    As far as reading more carefully is concerned, it appears we all can fall victim to that at times.

  40. Sharon says:

    Except, of course, that I didn’t pigeonhole - I said that the group in question *can’t* be pigeonholed. I would say we are not all equally prone to misreading here.


  41. Richard says:

    It is a shame that there is such a debate about what is causing weather change today.
    It was so much more simple back a few thousand years ago when our politicians had all the answers.
    Someone has to suffer.
    All we had to do was cut the hart out of a few of our friends and neighbors as a gift to our gods
    Just throw our children into the volcano and we would be spared the wrath of nature.
    We still have the same snake oil salesmen telling us what to do.
    The only difference is they have found a way to make a profit from our suffering.
    Today we are asked to pay them more taxes so they can buy carbon credits to give to their big business friends who will continue to pollute and everything will be ok!
    As long as someone suffers everything will be ok.
    Sacrificing our friends and children obviously saved the world then.
    Just trust them.
    I think sacrificing our friends, our children or our money will have exactly the same affect on the weather.
    Have they ever to us lied to us before.

  42. Duane says:

    Richard, mind if I send your comments (minus your name) to my Congressional representatives?
    Duane in West Michigan

  43. Ian says:

    So in shorter words it is nature vs morality.

  44. Homemaking and Economics « Lisa deGruyter says:

    [...] I ran across a great post by Sharon Astyk: Moloch’s Children: Do Climate Skeptics and Climate Change Activists Need to Agree?. She is speaking about climate change, but what she says applies to all our ideological battles. [...]

  45. Climate Change Deniers Being Led by…Climate Change Believer? [Casaubon's Book] • The Matrix Data Bank says:

    [...] who believe them are genuinely misled by the claims being made and confused by complext material. As I’ve written, I can sometimes get along better with someone who believes that we can’t go on as we are but [...]

  46. says:

    [...] who believe them are genuinely misled by the claims being made and confused by complext material. As I’ve written, I can sometimes get along better with someone who believes that we can’t go on as we are but [...]

  47. [...] always gotten along with.  As I have argued for some years, particularly in this article “Moloch’s Children” , we are going to have to choose who we concentrate our efforts on, and in some ways, attempting to [...]

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