(Link to the article “The Paradox of Preservation”)
On the 25th of January, the Sundial published an opinion piece written by Kevin Killerich titled “The Paradox of Preservation” in which the author tried to tie environmental activism to liberalism in a clumsy effort to poke holes at the supposed hypocrisy of the leftist movement. Rather than being a critique that engages with the people that Mr. Killerich criticises, the article is filled with ad hominems, false equivalencies and a plethora of other logical fallacies. The work, as it was published, can be seen as a prime example of what constitutes an incredible amount of ignorance coupled with a dose of flawed logical reasoning. However, a constructive debate on the topic of climate change is not a futile endeavor and rebutting the article’s opinions and falsehoods is something worth pursuing.
Firstly, the piece begins with a misquotation of one of Oscar Wilde’s characters in his 1891 comedy “Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Play About a Good Woman” which the author uses to belittle Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg. It would be advisable for the author to first fact-check his sexist jabs as it doesn’t lend much credibility to the argument that it is, in fact, Ms. Thunberg who is screaming at “people much wiser than herself”. This statement is also basked in a great amount of ignorance as she has stated many times that she is merely calling on leaders to listen to the scientists.
The next paragraph is an ode to misunderstanding and obfuscation where the author considers the fact that liberals and (democratic) socialists agree on certain topics to be “unexpected”. Framing the debate about the climate crisis as something that should attempt to preserve “the beauty of our globe” not only misses the mark but also dismisses the fundamental tone of urgency that underlies the issue of climate change. But alas, we are then treated to some more mental gymnastics by the author.
We are presented with the laughable opinion that “the Left” (an umbrella term for how unexpected the ideological similarities between liberals and democratic socialists are) wants to undo everything positive of the past with no argument to support this very axiom. This trail of thought is riddled with unfounded claims such as the assertion that “humans are fundamentally ruled by […] oikophilia” only to then say that “the Left and its allies are dominated by oikophobia,” which either makes “the Left” and its allies not human or exposes the hasty generalization the author uses to oversimplify arguments which demand much more nuance.
We are then shown how this is supposedly the case in each and every one of our lives. We are reminded of the strawman (or a strawwoman, as the writer eagerly points out) of a liberal who supposedly sees nothing worse in this world than “patriarchy, free enterprise and religion.” Then, however, we veer off to ponder why women work in industries where they are sexually harassed rather than fulfilling their child-rearing duties. While this claim seems to be an attempt to elicit a response by blaming the victim, it should be noted that the author brilliantly highlights the fundamental need for us to address how the patriarchy forces women out of certain industries based on arbitrary attributes.
To add more layers to an already flawed argument, the author thinks that “our little part of the world became the richest of all under the very leadership of men”, essentially disregarding the two world wars which certainly did not produce immense wealth but millions of fatalities along with the fact that men have dominated leadership positions virtually everywhere else in the world as well. On one occasion, the author decries things which “have no basis in universal truth” while maintaining that the core (read: right and true) values should be “a meaningful existence and a basic humility before God,” both of which are hardly universalist or inherently true.
Finally, the author seems to discover, and is shocked by, the fact that the left wants the state to intervene despite previous evidence that non-intervention seems to not produce any results. The paradox the author seems to be fascinated about is also very anticlimactic. If one cares about the fact that the sea level is rising, it doesn’t prohibit them from observing how a patriarchal society leaves half of the population disenfranchised. Similarly, if one is worried about how wildfires are exacerbated by climate change, they still feel the negative impact when one’s religious practices override human rights. The point is, tearing down oppressive societal structures is not the same as tearing down forests.
To end with an allegory, a device that the article seems fond of using: let’s imagine that you’re in your house. The fireplace your father installed some 120 years ago has cracked. Fire starts spreading and soon engulfs the entire building. Do you just go about your daily routines as if nothing had happened? Or do you call the fire brigade you pay for through your taxes?