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Climate Activism, Captured in One Instagram Post

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Tags The EnvironmentMedia and Culture

01/07/2021

The other day, during my daily dose of immersion in the cesspool of leftist propaganda that is Instagram, I came across a post that perfectly captures the essence of climate activism. The post comes from Bill Nye, the man who was once a well-liked and entertaining television personality and children's science educator. Many younger Americans during their primary schooling watched episodes of his PBS show, Bill Nye the Science Guy. From his glory days of acting as a twenty-minute substitute for our exhausted middle school science teachers, he has now entered into the endless abyss of what I like to call “scientific absolutism,” a tactic that the climate fanatics, and the administrative left in general, hold near and dear.

In the post, Nye stands in front of a thermometer reading 108 degrees. Underneath is the caption, “108 Fahrenheit, 30 September. Not really a forest management issue…is it? It’s climate change. There is work to do. #VoteforScience.”  A closer examination of the image and the accompanying language used by Nye will illustrate the political and academic landscapes we currently face.

First, for those unaware of the intricacies of the Instagram dialect, “#VoteforScience” may be translated to “Vote for Joe Biden.” Second, it should be noted that the post responds to the (at that point) recent widespread forest fires in California. Nye claims that the violent fires are a result not of forest poor management, but of allegedly increasing global temperature. However, this alone is not enough to satisfy him, for if the temperature of the Earth were a variable out of our control, there would be no need to emphasize its effects. Rather, by noting “there is work to do,” he implies that the alleged global rise in temperature, which is also allegedly responsible for the forest fires, is a product of, and can be reversed through, human action.

In connecting this to his previous point, he is making a normative statement in his hashtag, asserting that we ought to vote for Joe Biden. In doing so, he makes two assumptions. Nye assumes that we ought to submit ourselves wholly to his scientific hypotheses about forest fires, rising global temperatures, and human influence on these variables. He then assumes that once we do this, we must necessarily also value his presumed end, namely, the preservation of forests, over other goals, which must be given up in the pursuit of lowering the rate of global temperature increase.

Yet, one must be willfully ignorant to deny that many sacrifices must be made in order to adopt Nye's peculiar mixture of means and ends. Thirdly, by writing “There is work to do,” he also demands that the government coerce you and all others into following his plan. This can be deduced from the fact that the “work” he demands be done is of a collective nature; he believes that the increase in global temperature can be curbed only when everyone follows his plan.

Science vs. Propaganda

Nye’s post shows that his ideas do not differ from those to which we have now been exposed for many years. The climate cultists have been pushing such an agenda for a long time. Instead, what is striking about this post is its propagandistic nature. The fact that the temperature exceeds 100 degrees during one day just after the end of summer in California—a place not alien to unseasonable heat waves—does not at all necessarily lead us to Nye's conclusions. But by assuming this one data point “proves” his point, Nye makes it clear this is little more than sloganeering.

However, much more concerning than the lack of rigorous proof of his hypotheses is Nye’s misunderstanding of the fundamental purpose of science. Science is an empirical tool for gaining knowledge of natural phenomena. It may only issue positive statements, never normative ones. It can never tell one what he ought to do. To use an example from Mises, science may tell a man that drinking alcohol will increase his susceptibility to various diseases. But in no way does science tell him that he ought to stop drinking; if he values the enjoyment of drinking more than he does his good health, he will continue drinking. This choice is not “anti-scientific”; it is simply the result of his subjective scale of preferences. Once science escapes the sphere of purely positive statements, it loses credibility, and no longer can convey universal knowledge regarding natural phenomena. As Jörg Guido Hülsmann pointed out in his recent article “Toward a Political Economy of Climate Change,” when climate researchers recommend policy action, they swiftly move out of the realm of climate science and into the realm of political philosophy, an area in which they lack expertise. While Nye presents to us one clear example, such misuse and abuse of science characterizes the behavior of the climate activists. The public, eagerly seeking the comfort of trusting those with “a plan,” i.e., the elites and the bureaucracy, while fearing deeper philosophical and economic debates, is quick to overlook this leap across fields on behalf of the scientists. Hence, we see such polemical propaganda as Nye’s reaching millions of young impressionable minds on social media under the guise of objective science. Despite relinquishing the source from which science derives credibility, such academic elites pretend as though their statements remain objective and use their perverted form of science to further their specific plans, those which should rightly be examined through the political and economic lenses.

Author:

Nick Stiles

Nick Stiles is an eighteen-year-old college student who enjoys studying and advocating the principles of liberty and the free market.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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