Media Type: News / Op - Ed
Author(s): Craig Collins
Categories: Independent Publications
Bright Green Lies & Deep Green Deceptions
by Craig Collins
Bright Green Lies (BGL) is a Trojan horse. Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert offer their readers a valuable critique of renewable energy in order to ambush the environmental movement. But before I say more about BGL, let me state my own values and biases. Like many Greens, I’m an eco-humanist. My deepest political and philosophical loyalty is to the long-range survival of our species. Unfortunately, humanism is still quite radical in a world where race, religion, nationality, wealth, and power remain the dominant concerns. I’m an ECO-humanist because our species will go from invasive to endangered if we allow malignant industrialism to continue trashing Mother Earth. This existential threat compels us to question every cultural contrivance that overrides our common biological identity.
Should our loyalties remain confined to our nation, class, culture, race, ideology, or religion? Or are we, first and foremost, members of one human family, struggling to raise our children, strengthen our communities, and coexist with the other inhabitants of Earth? Will blind patriotism and corporate power reduce us to carbon-addicted consumers fighting over the remains of a toxic planet? Or can we abolish this system that puts profit and power over people and the planet?
As a species, we have yet to achieve the wisdom, awareness, and agency necessary to abolish industrial capitalism. Our conflicting loyalties and immediate concerns keep us perilously unaware and ill-equipped to replace our profit-driven economy with a society that cares for people and the planet. Yet how we respond to ecocidal industrialism will determine whether humanity perishes with it or learns to thrive without it. These are the values and questions I bring to my assessment of Bright Green Lies (BGL).
Jensen, Keith, and Wilbert (JK&W) have marshaled their brainpower to fire a well-researched, but poorly aimed broadside at the environmental movement. Their research reveals the serious downsides of renewable energy by demonstrating how much of what passes for “green” is neither sustainable nor Earth-friendly. They do a thorough job of exposing the ways biomass, solar, wind, recycling, hydropower, energy efficiency, electric cars, eco-cities, mechanized agriculture, and geo-engineering are all ecologically damaging, fossil fuel dependent, and unable to sustain industrial civilization or protect the Earth. In short, Bright Green Lies debunks the notion that modern civilization can be “greened.” It obliges readers to face two vexing truths: industrialism is unsustainable and ecocidal—even if it embraces “renewable” energy.
Many environmentalists find these truths hard to swallow for varying reasons. Of course, those with economic ties to solar, wind, and other alternative energy technologies adamantly reject them. Then there’s politics. To win public support and counter fossil fuel industry propaganda, influential Green groups often exaggerate renewable energy’s potential and ignore its drawbacks. Unfortunately, this strategy leaves many sincere environmentalists unaware that powering global civilization on renewables has drastic downsides. Of course, this ignorance prompts denial by fostering the fantasy that somehow green technology can rescue civilization AND save the planet.
Unfortunately, the authors bundle profit, politics, ignorance, and denial into one big “Bright Green” target. Anyone who supports renewable energy is a Bright Green traitor to Mother Nature. JK&W’s broadside even blasts the thousands of dedicated Earth defenders who realize green energy’s drawbacks but consider small-scale, community-operated renewables necessary to transition toward an Earth-friendly society. The authors insist that even these committed eco-activists are Bright Green liars because “not one bright green technology helps the planet. All of them destroy what’s left of the living.” Thus, “one could easily be forgiven for concluding that much environmentalism has become a de facto lobbying arm of the solar industry.”
Jensen, Keith & Wilbert are not eco-humanists. Our survival is not their priority. They embrace a Deep Green perspective called ecocentrism or biocentrism. Derrick Jensen declares that he fights, not for human survival, but to defend the living planet and nonhuman life by any means necessary. His co-authors agree: “Ultimately this book is about values. We value something different than do bright greens. And our loyalty is to something different. We are fighting for the living planet.”
The authors use their critique of green energy to spin a deceptive Deep Green narrative of their own. If you didn’t know better, this book would lead you to believe that there are just two types of environmentalism battling for the soul of the movement: the heroic Deep Green “Earth savers” and the nefarious Bright Green “civilization savers.” According to JK&W, most environmentalists have turned their backs on the movement’s fundamental mission—saving the Earth. They’ve been seduced by false Bright Green prophets who’ve conned them into believing that both industrial civilization and the planet can be saved with green energy and ethical consumerism.
According to JK&W, Bright Greens are heretics. Civilization is the enemy because any society with agriculture and cities is “at war against the living world.” The only alternative is a return to the fundamentalist crusade of defending Mother Earth “by any means necessary.” Their goal is to denounce these false Bright Green prophets and reclaim Deep Green leadership over the movement by convincing readers that if you want to save the Earth—cities, civilizations, and renewables must go. The book makes no mention of an eco-humanist alternative to Deep and Bright Greens. Eco-humanists are simply dubbed Bright Green because they fight industrialism for humanity’s sake and support some forms of renewable energy to downscale civilization.
Download the complete review by clicking download at the top of this page to continue reading.
 BGL is not the first or best treatment of this subject. See: Trainer, Ted. (Alexander & Rutherford eds.)The Simpler Way: Collected Writings of Ted Trainer. (Simplicity Institute, 2020); Heinberg, Richard & David Fridley. Our Renewable Future. (Island Press, 2016).
 BGL, 152-3.
 BGL, p.435-6.
 BGL, p.30.
 BGL, pgs. 26, 472-73.
 BGL, p. 265. Also pg. 360.
 BGL, pgs. 3-7; 433.
 BGL, pgs. 26, 472-73.
 BGL. p. 22
 BGL begins with a strange chart—a weirdly warped “Spectrum of Environmentalism.” The spectrum includes six kinds of environmentalism. There are “Deep Green” Earth-firsters like the authors and their “Bright Green” rivals who promote ethical consumerism and green industrialism. These are the only 2 types ever mentioned in the rest of the book. But the chart also includes “Lifestylists” living off the industrial grid but avoiding any struggle to change it and “Wise Use Environmental Managers” who favor regulating pollution & resources. The spectrum even includes “Cornucopians” who think resources are infinite and “Technocratic Transhumanists” who want to transcend biology and leave planet Earth behind! The authors never explain why these two groups remotely qualify as environmentalists. Stranger still, the spectrum omits eco-humanists even though thousands of environmentalists oppose ecocidal industrialism primarily for humanity’s sake.