In the spotlight. Photo: iStockphoto

Maybe some of you are not going to believe this, but a trend seems to be developing wherein some progressives seem to think that the issue of global warming is grabbing the “spotlight.” For instance, in “Why is peak oil politically incorrect?” Ugo Bardi compares the number of online searches that global warming receives versus peak oil, using Google’s admittedly new “Trends” system. The number of searches for global warming is rising rapidly, while peak oil lists along. But as an editor comments at the end of the article,”But if you think that’s all very depressing — do the comparison with ‘Paris Hilton’ and then cry.”

Exactly. If the civil rights movement had enjoyed the “publicity” and public passion that global warming currently does, we’d still have segregated bathrooms in the South. Which brings us to the second, admittedly amorphous problem, best exemplified currently by that fascinating phenomenon, left-wing climate deniers.

David F. Noble, a historian of technology (his book Forces of Production is a classic), does a good job in “ The Corporate Climate Coup” of showing the history of how large corporations are trying to use the global warming issue for marketing purposes, but somehow global warming activists seem to have accumulated some collective guilt as a result — am I missing some billboards or something?

Digression — I found Noble’s article on the Activist Teacher blog, a climate denier blog which I found in the middle of Alexander Cockburn’s latest rant on Counterpunch.com against global warming theory. For those of you who don’t know, Cockburn has been entertaining readers (including me) for decades with his acerbic and articulate wit, and he is mostly concerned with the injustices inflicted by the world’s elites. Once in awhile he uses his critical facilities in a, well, off-beat way, such as when he defended Stalin back in the 1980s. In fact, the most interesting aspect of his anti-global warming polemics is that he criticized Stalin. He’s also on record as stating that oil comes from nonbiological sources — the theory of abiotic oil, which has less scientific standing than the claims of the global warming skeptics. His co-editor at Counterpunch, Jeff St. Clair, wrote an article there saying for the record that he believes that humans are warming the planet. If there is a silver lining to be found in Cockburn’s writing on the global warming subject, it is his attention to corporate attempts to hijack the global warming problem for their own nefarious ends. End of digression.

This to me is the most cogent part of Noble’s argument:

If the corporate climate change campaign has fuelled [sic] a fevered popular preoccupation with global warming, it has also accomplished much more. Having arisen in the midst of the world-wide global justice movement, it has restored confidence in those very faiths and forces which that movement had worked so hard to expose and challenge: globe-straddling profit-maximizing corporations end their myriad agencies and agendas; the unquestioned authority of science and the corollary belief in deliverance through technology, and the beneficence of the self-regulating market with its panacea of prosperity through free trade, and its magical powers which transforms into commodities all that it touches, even life. All the glaring truths revealed by that movement about the injustices, injuries, and inequalities sowed and sustained by these powers and beliefs have now been buried, brushed aside in the apocalyptic rush to fight global warming. Explicitly likened to a war, this epic challenge requires single-minded attention and total commitment, without any such distractions.

Except that I don’t see all of the other social justice movements being brushed aside (much less a “fevered popular preoccupation”). In fact, as Paul Hawken has shown in his new book, Blessed Unrest, it would be virtually impossible for these myriad, diverse movements to be swept aside by anything, except brutal repression. Noble doth protest too much, methinks.

If there is a positive message to be taken from all of this, it is that these rumblings are the birth pangs of a global movement that will tackle all of these problems at the same time — global warming, peak oil, and social justice.