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The Deep Green ‘Climate Cult’: Flannery & Avatar

Two things today prompt me to weigh in, again, on this insidious threat to free and rational societies. First, I heard Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery’s pantheistic/animist sermon delivered so earnestly and mystically to the Guardian Online – about our future, where all of us will be one composite mind and give ‘direction to the earth’ – and I finally got Avatar out on DVD.

The most striking parallel in the Flannery speech and the Avatar movie is the attempt to modernise a primitive pantheistic/animist impulse as something “scientific” – and therefore worthy of serious comtemplation by a 21st century mind.

On the alien planet of Pandora, evil mining barons and US-type ‘shock and awe’ mercenaries are set to murder the native Na’vi creatures to obtain a rare mineral, ‘Unobtainium’. Hmmm… A sympathetic scientist in the expedition tries to enlighten her brute-beast colleagues – her name being Grace, no less – about the profound interconnectedness of all things in this exquisitely beautiful rainforest. She speaks gentle words to these thuggish caricatures of how the humanoid creatures, the trees, and all living things are linked together by some sort of mind-energy within what the Na’vi call Eywa, the ‘All Mother’ spirit of the planet. Lest we think this is all a tad overripe the scientist dismisses with contempt any suggestion that this is just like Earth-bound native superstition. “This is no pagan voodoo” she avers; no, this is something real, some biochemical network that we don’t understand. And if chemistry-lab jargon is not enough, she throws in computer analogies of a massive network of synapses – to be specific, each tree has 10 to the 4 connections with its neighbour, and there are 10 to the 12 trees… don’t you know that’s more connections than our brain? And so on… We are to be bowled over by the high-tech babble and thereby willing to cloak this good old fashioned animism/pantheism with 21st century ‘science’.

Back on Earth, the Australian of the Year from 2007 and now the man in charge of travelling the country persuading the public about the ever present dangers of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), speaks pure Pandoran to an interviewer on the UK Guardian Online.

Pandora got one first, but Flannery tells us our little planet is not far behind, “Today we are on the edge of creating a global super-organism. We will form a global community with a common set of beliefs, shared beliefs that are now spreading, as we see, throughout the Internet.” He even gives us a definition of this ‘super-organism’:

A superorganism: it’s really a group of individuals that are knit so tightly together they as a whole resemble in some ways an organism. Ants do this… but the most astonishing thing really about us is that we have formed a superorganism as well. For us the glue is the division of labour as well as this civilisation of ideas, common beliefs that people share. We started off 10,000 years ago as little villages, the first settlements in the growth of this super-organism; today we are on the edge of creating a global super-organism. And that will mean there will be no ‘outside’, there is no ‘other’; we will form a global community with a common set of beliefs, shared beliefs that are now spreading, as we see, throughout the Internet.

Here are highlights and then the full interview:

These are the key passages from Flannery.

It’s tremendously important, this development, for the future of life on earth, becausefor the first time  I think this global super-organism, this global intelligence, will be able to send a single strong and clear signal to the Earth. And what that means, in a sense, is that we will be a regulating intelligence for the planet, I’m sure in future, and we will do what our brain does for our body which is to help create stability, cooridination between the parts, and lead to a stronger Gaia, if you want, a stronger earth-system.

Hmmm… If you detect more than a whiff of group think, of social collectivism, and you recall the President of the EU looking forward to Copenhagen as “a great step forward in global governance” – fear not! Flannery reassures us:

This rise of a global intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean the rise of a global government. Ant colonies coordinate themselves without a ruling caste… There are ways we can organise ourselves without establishing a top-down government. But having said that, there are real implications for individuals living in a super-organism… One of the golden rules, really, of super-organisms, is that as the super-organism gets ever more competent as a whole, the individuals within it become less competent. And that’s something we need to watch as we go forward.

The priority of the collective over the individual: this is the hallmark of a totalitarian system. In Flannery’s vision, where the collective ‘superorganism’ gets more competent, you betcha the individuals within it become less…. (put whatever word you want here; perhaps read a little history of the 20th century first). This is truly chilling – and in our handsomely paid government Climate Commissioner, a scandal.

Flannery puts on display what has been long suspected: that the worldwide Save Gaia campaign draws deeply from the ancient wells of mystical, powerful, good old-fashioned pantheism. Ecopantheism with a pseudo-scientific veneer, to be sure, but nevertheless an ancient superstition with its own dehumanising tendencies. Putting aside the most vigorous manifestation of ancient animism / pantheism –  the widespread practice of human sacrifice to appease the weather gods – we should still be wary of the dehumanising effect of its collectivist mindset, the conformity of ideas which was deemed essential for survival. So it is again: Flannery’s “strong Gaia” requires that we be of one mind, a civilisation of shared beliefs, sending “a single strong and clear message to the Earth”.

What then of the climate skeptic? What place has he in Flannery’s super-organism? This is a disturbing fantasy, but then all totalitarian systems start off as mere disturbing fantasies.

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