Six years ago today, I was harvesting spinach from my little urban farm in unheated poly low tunnels, wearing a t-shirt during the day time and there was barely any snow on the ground. In recent years, our winters have definitely been getting colder, but the first four years of my farming career were an anomaly compared to the seasonal averages here in the Okanagan Valley. Back then everyone I knew, myself included was crying Global Warming and demanding action from our governments. Now, many, not me this time, are crying for the same thing because it’s now kind of how it used to be before those four odd years. The most recent years, we’ve been seeing a trend to much colder winters, kind of like how it used to be twenty years ago. I remember skating on the lake when I was in elementary school. Is this the dreaded Climate Change that the mainstream media and government reminds us about every single day? Are we all doomed if we don’t change our wasteful human behaviour?
After being caught up in the environmentalist frenzy from the time I was twelve until just a few years ago, I am beginning to doubt it. Look, I don’t doubt the climate is changing, it’s obvious that it is and always has. And, I don’t doubt that humans might have something to do with it either. What I doubt is that the government, despite the billions of dollars they spend every year, is going to do a damn thing about it. Personally, I think Climate Change has become just another religion to fill a vacuum of morality for the secular west and it’s a fantastic way for politicians to get elected by virtue signalling about saving the world while moving around billions of dollars of funding from one company boondoggle to the next. It’s also great marketing. Just look at the amount of products and services being offered that claim to “save the environment”.
I really care about the environment of the planet and local ecology, it’s the main reason why I got into organic farming in the first place, but I also value the truth at the upmost of my being, this is why I start to feel sick when I see people virtue signalling about saving the world, because frankly, I just don’t think it’s entirely honest to say that. It’s really about advancing careers and political campaigns. I just wish people would be more honest about that. Let me be clear though, I am not saying that everyone who cares about climate change is just shallowly trying to advance their careers. There a lot of good people out there just doing the best they can and they truly believe that. However, I see so much dogma in this space and it’s turned into a tribe mentality where if one tribe or person hears some evidence that may contradict their core beliefs, they fall into a deep state of cognitive dissonance. I experienced that myself the first time I started to hear evidence that was compelling. The biggest one for myself are the climate models that have been predicting catastrophe for thirty years or more now. None of these events have come true, at least none of the ones I’ve read about. If someone can show me an accurate climate model from years ago that successfully predicted where we are now, I would happily look and would be willing to change my mind. Even the infamous Al Gore who ten years ago, predicted that the ice caps would be melted by now never happened. A total nothing burger. If you go back in history, even thousands of years back, you’ll notice that humans have always made predictions about catastrophe, it’s a bit of a racket actually. People make huge money and occupy powerful positions by jumping on this gravy train.
I also want to make it perfectly clear again that I am not implying that industry should keep going the way that it’s going. I am deeply concerned about ocean acidification, topsoil runoff, clean air and many other issues. I want my daughter to live in a clean environment. I don’t want us to end up like China. I also probably do far more than the average virtue signalling politician when it comes to these things. I live in a solar powered home. I grow most of the vegetables that my family eats as well as buy most of our food locally, we ride bikes everywhere in the warm months and I have taught tens of thousands of people to do the same.
I don’t need to validate myself here anymore, but I want to illustrate three things that I see as far more dangerous and devastating to the well being of myself, family and community at large than supposed Climate Change. They are, as follows.
1. Dogma and social ostracism
Many people in the environmentalist space, of course not all, have become absolutely dogmatic about Climate Change and in my opinion it has turned into an orthodox religion for atheists. I have endured outright harassment and slander because I have changed my views slightly on the issue and I have seen friendships fall apart and vitriolic hatred directed towards me from online trolls for a video I posted once titled “Trump, Climate Change and Why I No Longer Care”. Even one person, who used to be a close friend of mine, went so far as to campaign customers of my farm to boycott me because I was an alleged “Trump supporting Climate Change Denier”. So, I’ve seen this first hand in my life, but also witnessed it in all over the world. All you have to do is tune into social media on any given day to see people calling each other nasty things over a disagreement of opinion. It’s insanity. I see it greatly affecting the mental health of many people. I’m not looking for pity here or claiming any level of victimhood status. I mention this to illustrate my point.
2. Policy and funding
The amount of policy that is being changed in governments around the world is absolutely astonishing. I travel around the world for my work as a teacher and consultant and I often work with not for profit groups who are the beneficiaries of some kind of Climate Change funding. There is a unified effort to change the laws of countries and even the constitutions of them in the name of climate change. That’s not even really the part that I see as the most damaging to individuals and business, it’s the amount of grants and funding being offered that will create an environment of regulatory capture in the market place, i.e. government sponsored corporate monopolies. One local example that has the potential to do this is the Buy BC program here in British Columbia, that grants sales contracts and money to producers who can sell to state run institutions like hospitals and other public services. This may sound good and I would certainly like to see these places buying local, but what it will do is create monopolies because the barrier to entry to sell these markets is extremely high. You’re not going to see nurses at the hospitals running around the farmers market to buy produce for their patients. One; that would be totally impractical and two; would not be cost effective, they need it streamlined, and from a free market perspective that totally makes sense. But that’s not how it will pay out, the government will act as a gatekeeper and only certain players will be able to get in that game. Thus, a few big farms may benefit and the rest of us, being small farmers, will now have way bigger competition.
This is pretty typical when you see the state messing around with the marketplace. Having widely available produce is a good thing, but if it’s only provided by a few huge monopolies, that doesn’t help the small farmer or family business, quite the opposite. Another example in the US was the Obama funded boondoggle of the solar company Solyndra. Billions of dollars were dumped in, only to have the company go totally bust shortly after. Similar as to when the US government bailed out the banks in 2008. All the top CEO’s immediately took out massive bonuses. The message here is, how can you trust anyone who is being fed a massive amount of government money? It skews the natural incentive of the marketplace. By that base principle, this is why I have a hard time believing most of the climate scientists today. They are all getting huge funding to support the narrative that climate change is going to lead to global catastrophe. If someone can find a climate scientist that has government funding and still has their grant or job after presenting data that may contradict that narrative, I’ll happily adjust my thinking on this. Now, you might say, well ya Curtis, look at all the oil companies that are funding the other narrative! Yes, you’re correct, those exist. If you can see that, then you are not blind to see how market incentives can alter a company or persons behaviour. But ask yourself this question, who has more money, the government or the oil companies? Who prints the money, controls interest rates and sets the rules of the game? Government does. Certainly with the help of the big banks, but it’s obvious who is out gunned here and I am in no way sticking up for the big oil companies, I’m just trying to point out something that is painfully obvious to those who can understand how incentive works.
We already have a provincial carbon tax here in BC and potentially one coming in Canada. Increased taxes only hurt small business. Big business and people who are wealthy, always have options. They can afford to move shop or diversify their options, whereas the small business or middle class families don’t have those options. I’m not saying that the carbon tax is going to immediately put people out of business, but it is clear that it is affecting people lives. It costs us money and it moves that money to the state, who then take a big cut for administrative costs and then deal out the crumbs to some programs that may circle back to funding monopolies in industry like I illustrated in point 2.
Let me be clear, I am not saying these three things are going to cause armageddon in our political systems, I am just saying that they’re going to affect our lives a hell of a lot more than a slightly colder winter than the last or maybe a warmer summer. Last summer here in the Okanagan Valley, we saw the lake flood higher than it has in recent history, but we also saw less wild fires than previous years. People were screaming climate change about that too. It seems that there is nothing that can happen in the weather today that would make people not scream about climate change. Frankly, as someone who works and spends most of his time outside, the weather over the past four years has more less returned to how it’s been for most of my life. We have always had wild fires here, we live in a high desert climate. The lake has also fluctuated it’s height. Sure, last year was a record, but records are always made in something, then we return to the mean.
Maybe with point one, I’m aiming at a wider issue that goes far beyond just the conversation about climate change, but to the polarization of the political space that has gone fully ideological and all about what team you’re on, but perhaps that’s another can of worms for another time.
You might be saying, “Ok Curtis, now that you’ve pointed out a bunch of problems, what’s your solution?”. Well, many solutions are unfolding right now and very quickly. The market place is demanding local and organic food more than ever. If you look at the demand for organic, it’s growing faster than ever. Most of the farmers I know around the world, their biggest problem is scaling up fast enough to meet the demand. Solar power, electric cars and green tech in general are getting better, cheaper and more available every year. Are these things happening as a result of government intervention? Maybe, it’s kind of hard to say because the government has been tinkering with the market for most of our lives. For most of us alive today, we have never really had a free market. In the US, ever since the inception of the federal reserve system in 1913 and in Canada in 1974 when Trudeau changed the role of the bank of Canada. They can manipulate interest rates and control the flow of money and the amount, thereby controlling incentives in business to move one way or the other. Government can also raise or decrease tax on certain industries at will or even make somethings outright illegal.
Though, we still do have remnants of a free market and you can see it playing out in the sectors that have the least amount of regulation, particularly technology. Products in technology continually get better, cheaper and faster. Just look at the affordability of any technological product today, then what it was even ten years ago. This is what happens in free markets. Now, compare that to sectors that are highly regulated. The opposite occurs. Take health care for example, in Canada and the US, it’s a similar market situation even despite the fact that our two health care models are very different, they are both highly regulated. Nothing gets better, cheaper and faster in these kind of markets. It might appear to be cheap in Canada because we have universal health care, but service can be painfully slow and outdated. And, that cheapness is only what we as the end user see. The cost to the government and tax payer is absolutely absurd. This happens because there is no incentive in the marketplace to make things cheaper, because there are few to no options available to the consumer, thus a lack of competition. Another local example of this is ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of BC. It’s an absolute boondoggle. A government sponsored monopoly that has no competition, guaranteed customers, yet still has taken over a billion dollars in losses last year.
Prices are high because the government has an allocation of money to spend and the companies and people that supply the government know this and they have a market incentive to make sure they get as much of that money as possible. Also, they don’t really have to worry about pissing off customers, because they have zero competition. If you’re American, just spend an afternoon waiting at the DMV or as a Canadian living in BC, try to settle an injury claim with ICBC and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
In a free market, the customer is king and he/she has options and feels the pain of increased prices, they want to spend less while getting better quality. It’s exactly that point that drives innovation, reduces costs and waste. In a real free market, there’s a massive incentive to reduce waste, because waste costs money. Now, I am not claiming that all industries aren’t wasteful, there are many that certainly are, but what I am saying is that the demand for cleaner and more efficient products is driving demand.
At the end of the day, I would far rather live in a world that values civil liberties and personal freedom that is on a path to making the world better and cleaner, then a green utopia with high regulation, taxes and limited freedom. The western world was founded on the values of the first example.
My approach is to never let the fear messages from the government and media of the end of the world, scare me into demanding for more help from the government. Like the three points I made, more help from the government is going to continually strip the last remaining freedoms we have. In our “somewhat free market”, each of us our free to make consumer and life decisions to best support the world we want to live in, whether that’s putting solar on our homes, riding bike to work each day, growing our own food and supporting the companies and groups that share our values. The power is in our hands to make the world a better place and I would encourage everyone to put their money where there mouths are by being the change, instead of “mailing it in” by asking government to fix the problem.