Gov. Gavin Newson has blamed California’s recent drought on “Mother Nature’s fury,” and this should raise alarm bells for anyone interested in arresting government overreach in the Golden State. We should beware of those who claim to speak for made-up entities like Mother Nature. More often than not, it’s just their own authoritarian desires speaking.
After months of intense drought, California saw some much-needed rainfall in September. Nonetheless, this was the state’s fourth dry year in a row — a stretch that has only happened six times before in recorded history. And meteorologists predict fall will be hot and dry. (RELATED: BASTASCH: The Biden Admin Is Determined To Keep Climate Apocalypse Fears Alive, Science Be Damned)
But is this really anyone’s fault? Newsom certainly thinks so. Having read the signs, he attributes the drought to a deity’s wrath. And he’s not the only politician to do so. Such divination is a rhetorical trend in global warming.
The same terminology was used in 2021, when Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, justified an emergency ban on water pumping. “Mother Nature and climate change have brought us the situation that we have,” she said. “And therefore the decisions that you have to make have very real impacts on people.”
Just this July, Atlantic columnist Ronald Brownstein, writing about a heatwave that followed the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon in the power industry, said that, “Mother Nature is entering a dissenting opinion on [the decision] that weakened the federal government’s ability to combat climate change.”
It should come as no surprise to skeptics that, evidently, there’s only one cure to Mother Nature’s ire: emergency powers for the government that circumvent normal democratic procedures and immobilize the market economy. In that sense, all the talk about Mother Nature is just a rephrasing of the tired “climate emergency” line adopted by the UN and EU, amongst others.
Manufactured states of emergency are a weak spot for liberalism and democracy, as both defenders and enemies of liberty have known for a long time. German political philosopher and prominent member of the Nazi Party Carl Schmitt once observed, “Whoever controls the state of exception is the sovereign.”
Schmitt believed power never actually resides with parliament or the public, but with strong leaders — the people who take control when things go sideways. In his mind, this proved that authoritarianism was the ideal system of government.
At the other end of the political spectrum, American economist Thomas Sowell, an outspoken defender of liberty, made similar observations about states of emergency. In his book “The Vision of the Anointed,” he highlighted that establishing a crisis, normally on bad data, was the first step of a standard pattern of intellectual power grabs. Unlike Schmitt, however, Sowell does not think this is ideal. He believes the pattern can and ought to be stopped and freedom saved.
Let’s hope he’s right.
Today, power-hungry politicians are going way beyond using biased interpretations of data to justify taking control. Justifying emergency powers with “Mother Nature” is worse. Data can be questioned by independent experts and media, but who can scientifically question the will of Mother Nature as expressed by her self-proclaimed high priests?
States of emergency should be a rare exception, reserved for when people’s lives are acutely threatened and when there is no time for normal political decisions or market-based solutions to take shape. Global warming does not constitute such an acute event.
It takes decades, which is more than enough time for normal political and economic processes to take place. And in the end, these normal processes are always more efficient than emergency decisions by any elite because they take the knowledge and interests of many people into account.
There’s no power in the world, emergency or otherwise, that can stop droughts. Of the six previous instances of four consecutive dry years in California, two happened in the past 35 years, i.e. before global warming rhetoric reached the fever pitch it’s at today.
There have always been multi-year droughts, and there always will be. Nature is neither malevolent nor benevolent. “Mother Nature” rightly understood is simply a function of random processes that by and large are hostile to life, and humans have evolved to fight these odds through technology and capitalism.
Somehow along the way, we got the ludicrous notion that nature is nurturing if only we can avoid provoking its ire with global trade, technology and capitalism. But these are the very things that save us from nature’s deadly hap.
Sowell gives us a good idea of what will happen next: Expect the high priests of Mother Nature to come up with “solutions” that reduce our wealth and liberty while doing nothing to reduce droughts. Eventually, confronted with data that show that their “solutions” only caused harm, they’ll say it’s simplistic to blame these problems on their solutions and turn instead to blame those negative effects on other factors. They’ll label them emergencies, of course, and move to grab even more power.
We shouldn’t fall for that. Instead we should put our trust in liberty and capitalism.
Torben Halbe is a contributor for Young Voices, non-fiction author, and liberty activist based in Berlin, Germany. He holds an MSc in Biology from ETH Zurich. Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TorbenHalbe.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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