Anonymous asked in EnvironmentGlobal Warming · 1 decade ago

Do you agree with James Hansen that the system of industrial civilization is the problem?

A book by 'environmental writer and activist' Keith Farnish claims that the efforts to reduce Co2 emissions are nowhere near enough to save the earth from global warming as the system of industrial civilisation itself is “fatally flawed and needs to be removed from the face of the earth, before the inevitable ecological collapse brings it down in far more horrible circumstances.”

It advocates a world without the current system of industrial civilisation, with "no cities, no paved roads, no pylons, no offices or factories" .It advises that we all learn "shelter building" rather then build traditional homes.(more details of the book can be found at the "Make Wealth History" website listed below.)

Okay, so far, so what, plenty of nutty books out there on both sides, right? Then i turned to the back cover and was amazed to see this recommendation by James Hansen, of NASA GISS:

"Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the 'system' is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests - they will not look after our and the planet's well-being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort. --Professor James Hansen, GISS, NASA"

Surely this is going too far isn't it? To advocate a return to a pre-industrial civilasation. I can't believe someone like James Hansen believes this is the right solution. Along with most people i'm all in favour of renewable and nuclear energy rather than fossil fuels, but not this. What do you think? Is Keith Farnish 'right'? And is James Hansen right to agree with him?

The book and Hansen's review can be seen at:

For a brief review - and a reply from the author! - see the "Make Wealth History" website here:




Just found out there's a shorter online version available free at:

Chapter 16 is worth reading, here's a quote from the "Sabotaging" section:

"It may be satisfying to burn down a garage full of SUVs if you have a virulent hatred of gas-guzzling road transport; but these places are insured and there are plenty more SUVs where they came from. In the context of reconnecting humanity, such actions are only symbolic. Far better to sabotage the advertisers and marketing media that encourages people to buy SUVs in the first place; far better to sabotage the government agencies and trade bodies that ensure that vehicle sales and production remain a high priority; far better to sabotage the efforts of the oil and motor companies in convincing people that climate change is nothing to do with them, and even if it is, the disappearing ice-caps are not really that much of a problem."

Update 2:

EDIT - to Dawei

I would like to think you're right and that he's simply agreeing that 'time has run out'. But I don't understand why he would say that the system is the problem when the book is very clear that the system is modern civilisation and that it "needs to be removed from the face of the earth".

I think he should have been more careful and simply not have recommended the book.

Update 3:

EDIT: Linlyons and Liberal_60:

With respect, you both seem to wilfully ignore what Hansen says in his review, that "the 'system' is the problem".

The book very clearly states that the 'system' is industrial civilisation and that it needs to be ended. Try reading some of the online version and you will see what i mean. He has agreed with and recommended a book that argues for anarcho-primitivism.

By all means defend Hansen, but don't try and skip past what he actually said, that the 'system' is the problem, and the context in which he said it, a review of book calling for an end to it.

20 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hello. It's very interesting to be the subject of a question, and I don't want to intrude on the discussion because there seems to be some interesting debate going on here - but just to put the quote into context, it was indeed spontaneous from James and surprised me a little at first. I now suspect, though, that he is only tolerated by the US government because he is such a good scientist; and believe me, some really good scientists have been ousted before - think of Bob Watson, who was thrown out of the IPCC by George Bush, under pressure from the oil industry, for being stark in his warnings.

    James Hansen is certainly a radical in the climate science community, but stays within the system because that's where he is most effective. Just like me using a computer - it's the best way of getting information across in a globalised society; I genuinely wish it was just a local problem that could be dealt with by word of mouth and community action :-(

    Feel free to take on, and challenge my ideas in as forceful a way as you wish; change can happen in the most surprising ways...


  • Eric c
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    According to the book, what is feeding industrialized civilization? Energy. Reduce energy, you reduce industrialize civilization. Here is a quote that Keith Farnish gave on a blog:


    I don't claim anything I write is other than common sense, so for me to say this comment was inspired by anything I have written would be boastful, although these words are reflected in what I say in my book, which makes it particularly heartening to see someone else writing almost exactly the same - I guess it means I must be onto something:

    "Your place in the system is as a component in a massive food web. Like all food webs, it is driven by energy; physical energy sources like oil, gas, coal and radioactive materials drive the machines that ensure money keeps floating to the top of the vat where the Elites skim it off to add to their wealth. If you are resourceful or in a role that holds some status, you can have some of this wealth too, and the material trappings that come with it. Without the energy that drives the web, though, there is no money, and there is no web. It is not just the oil, gas, coal and various sources of radiation that keep the web operating though – people are equally vital, more so, in fact. Unless people run the machines, staff the shops, build the products, drive the lorries, create the advertisements, read the news and enforce the law, the web will collapse upon itself, bringing the entire hierarchy down with it." Endquote

    I am not going to say that most people on this forum share this view, and that they want the collapse of industrial society. But most of the population is under the impression that if we all changed our light bulbs, drive fuel efficient cars, and put some some solar panels that the world will be saved. Reducing our emissions by 80%, will collapse industrial society, and many elitists leftist think that is a good thing.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    This is not more then an extension of the 1960's population control movement. Once the population hit 3 billion 40+ years ago, there has been a movement against population growth. Many of these activists are part of the man-induced global warming movement. Those who are over 50 - like me- remember how we were told in school that by the year 2000 100's of millions of people would die of starvation, disease and pollution. We were told that oil would be gone by 2000. All because of over population. We were told that the planet was in a new ice age. Lake Erie was dead because of pollution. It would take until the year 2000 to clean it up... yet I fished for perch on that lake in the 1980's.

    My assessment is Hansen is just one of those people who remembers when the planet had less people on it. When he could travel to lakes or rivers and camp pretty much anywhere - now all of that land is private property. Traffic was not quite as bad. People had more land.

    Problem with Hansen and people like him is who gives him the right to regulate how many children a family can have? People like him want to take liberty away from the masses, while not taking liberty away from him or his friends. CO2 emissions is his excuse/tool to realize his forced population control...

  • 1 decade ago

    No, I do not agree the industrial age has brought us many wonderful things and we really cannot return without some kind of destruction that would force us to. It is people like James Hansen who make AGW skeptics even more skeptical. The quote by a NASA scientist is something I would like to see explained further before passing judgment but it seems pretty distressing.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    James Hansen is a nut case. A direct descendant of those that tortured all those poor innocent Salem Witches. First he says ICE AGE, then now he says HOT AIR. He is a tortured demented soul. He would help the earth most by retiring to a cave some where far away.

  • 1 decade ago

    Yes, everyone to the communal farms. That would sure help with lifespan and quality of life. Think the difference between rural and urban China. Granted we have a lot more regulatory control on the environmental issues that plague urban China. I'm sorry, but the idea of moving back to a complete agrarian society is lunacy.

  • 1 decade ago

    Poor Hansen, in his latest ramble, he claims he can't see why his views are considered, err, controversial. Yet he is proud of his 1988 pony show before congress when they shut off the AC for his testimony. I don't like seeing people suffer, and Hansen needs help. Nobody around him cares enough to say "Stop".

  • Moe
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    It's hilarious that those throwing the denier word around continuously deny the truth about everything.

  • David
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Hansen reviewed the entire book, it doesn't mean he necessarily agreed with that particular sentence. Hansen is just generally frustrated by government greenwashing, he doesn't think that watered down climate bills and 10 or 20% reductions will prevent global warming. He believes 350 ppm should be the goal, and obviously nothing that has ever been seriously proposed could accomplish that.

    Whether you think 350 should be the goal or not is another question. But I think few could deny that under the current system, there is no way we could ever achieve that. Limiting to 350 would be a monumental goal, and so would obviously require more than a compromised effort. It doesn't mean industrialized civilization needs to go away, just the fossil fuels that power it.

    Source(s): Edit: Mike I don't know what it would require. Hansen has his own idea of how it could happen, but I don't know how feasible it really is. Personally I do think 350 is an impossible goal and shouldn't even be on the table. On that note I think it's also impossible that civilization would ever be willingly destroyed in the name of 'saving the planet'. It's quite an alarmist fear and I don't think it should have a place in any rational discussion either.
  • 1 decade ago

    the quote by Professor James Hansen, could have been taken out of context. I'm sure a NASA scientist is not advocating that we start living in grass huts and caves.

    The global warming proponents are mostly anti-capitalism, anti-industrialism.

    Source(s): Patrick Moore, founder and former President of Green Peace
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