I was reading Harper's magazine and Christopher's story was on the cover: Inside the mind of an “ecoterrorist”! It begins In the summer of 2016, a fifty-seven-year-old Texan named Stephen McRae drove east out of the rainforests of Oregon and into the vast expanse of the Great Basin. His plan was to commit sabotage. First up was a coal-burning power plant near Carlin, Nevada, a 242-megawatt facility owned by the Newmont Corporation that existed to service two nearby gold mines, also owned by Newmont. McRae hated coal-burning power plants with a passion, but even more he hated gold mines. Gold represented most everything frivolous, wanton, and destructive. Love of gold was for McRae a form of civilizational degeneracy, because of the pollution associated with it, the catastrophic disruption of soil, the poisoning of water and air, and because it set people against one another. Gold mines needed to die, McRae told me years later, around a campfire in the wilderness, when he felt that he could finally share his story. “And the power plant too. I wanted it all to go down. But it was only that summer I got up the balls to finally do it.” We talked about his doing the story, speaking with McRae, developing a relationship with him that involved his girlfriend and other people he knew. What's it like to hear your voice in an FBI file? Also, the media's and public's taste for such stories. Whatever your views on how to respond, if you understand or support people like McRae or consider them counterproductive (he knows he's a criminal), you'll rarely find such inside relationships with such remarkable people elsewhere.
Christopher may be the most direct, accurate reporter on sustainability. Our last conversation treated his helpful and accurate reporting on the book Limits to Growth. Today we start from his (in my opinion) excellent article The Green Growth Delusion, in which he reports on the futility and false promise of chasing growth. It's tempting, alluring, and seductive to believe technology, growth, or economic trickery will save us, but wanting to believe something doesn't make it true, even if you really want to believe it. As before, Christopher doesn't hold back, nor does he speak inaccurately. I recommend reading the article first, though you won't go wrong listening right now. Here's how it starts: In the annals of industrial civilization, the Green New Deal counts as one of the more ambitious projects. Its scale is vast, promising to reform every aspect of how we power our machines, light our homes and fuel our cars. At this late hour of ecological and climate crisis, the Green New Deal is also an act of desperation. Our energy-ravenous culture cannot continue producing carbon without destroying the systems that are the basis of any advanced civilization, not to mention life itself. Something must be done, and quickly, to moderate the pressure on the atmospheric sink while powering the economic machine. The consensus on the need for scaling up renewable energy is rarely disturbed by a disquieting possibility: What if techno-industrial society as currently conceived — based on ever-increasing GDP, global trade and travel, and complex global production and distribution chains designed to satisfy the rich world’s unquenchable appetite for bigger, faster, more of everything — what if that simply cannot function without energy-dense fossil fuels? What if, despite the promises of Green New Deal boosters, it is impossible to make sustainable the current system that provides billions of people sustenance, shelter, goods?
Reading Christopher's story in the Pacific Standard, The Fallacy of Endless Economic Growth What economists around the world get wrong about the future, made me contact him. It was one of the only reviews of criticism of our culture's attempting to grow the economy and population forever that didn't prioritize growth dogma over understanding. The article centered on the book Limits to Growth, its analysis, and the unhinged criticism of it. I had to look up his other work too. I recommend following up at his page, which links to his writing and Denatured, his journalism nonprofit. From the moment he starts talking in this conversation, he lays down basic, common sense understanding of our culture's fundamental tenets, which he calls growthism. To my ears, it sounds like what we see in front of our noses all the time, yet few to no one with prominent voices will say it. He talks about how we got this way, how things could be different, how he came to write for such prominent magazines, and more. He is at times serious, funny, calm, exasperated, and always authentic, genuine, and honest. I hope you know people who understand things as Christopher does and is as outspoken with what they've learned. I believe everyone should hear messages like his periodically. Our culture tries to drown such voices out, but what he says is too clear and makes too much sense to remain silenced.