Having convinced themselves that humanity has made an ecological mess of things, these busy bodies grift money from the government, the rich, and industry.
It is a unique capacity of human intellect that when hearing a word, we are able to imagine an image of that word. Nearly any word will do that. Try it. Potato, angry, mouse, rocket, milkshake, or green thumb- just words but they all create a mental image with most of us.
When I think of ‘farmer,’ an image of my grandfather in coveralls leaning up against a bony cow emerges. Use ‘politician,’ and an image of Lincoln with a top hot delivering his ‘Four Score’ speech, or Clinton squinting his eyes and waving his finger and telling the world, “I did not…,” takes shape in my imagination. But use the word ‘elitist’ with me, and I’ll have to admit to drawing mostly a ‘blank.’
But given enough contemplation, I might imagine a billionaire climbing aboard his shiny private jet and traveling between a dozen or so of his homes, each having a pool capable of being heated or cooled while giving TED talks on the existential threat of climate change. But that’s a simplistic stereotype suggesting hypocrisy as the defining characteristic of the elites. Like in politics, it’s more complicated- Clinton had his good points, and Lincoln was not perfect.
If we go beyond contemplation to something loosely called ‘research,’ I think we’ll eventually develop a more fully formed image. And it is nearly always a good idea to start with a definition. According to Oxford, the usage of ‘elitist’ as an adjective means “relating to or supporting the view that a society or system should be led by an elite” Dig a little deeper, and we get a definition of what an elite is. “A group or class of people seen as having the greatest power and influence within a society, especially because of their wealth or privilege.”
Of course, there is an accompanying theory- it is called ‘elite theory.’ According to those who contribute to Wikipedia, elite theory “posits that a small minority, consisting of members of the economic elite and policy-planning networks, holds the most power—and that this power is independent of democratic elections.” But theories are not the same as facts and, in some ways, no better than opinion. My mental image of an elitist is still fuzzy.
I’ve lived long enough to sense that we, as a culture, go through phases. Fixations, if you will, of intense interest in various theories. For two decades, at the end of the last century, we fixated on diet and, more specifically, cholesterol. The theory was that the cholesterol from eggs and dairy products was killing us by the millions. It was supported by some very shoddy science and eventually debunked. Claiming the science as ‘settled,’ billions of dollars were spent on statin drugs, faux dairy products, and whatever it cost the medical/insurance industry to treat millions of people for ‘high’ cholesterol.
Today, we’re confronted with multiple theories- critical race theory (systemic racism perpetrated by whites), new money monetary theory (the unfettered printing of money), climate change theory (human activity has built a greenhouse resulting in our certain demise), and others. And like nearly every other theory that has consumed us in the past, each new theory becomes a cause for millions. Like any new entity with millions of followers and all potential clients, it soon becomes an industry. BLM was born from critical race theory and raised millions of dollars. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion departments were born, and now nearly every university is spending millions of dollars to staff them. Government and corporations too.
But the largest of the ‘theory’ industries is the climate change theory. Its economic base is huge. It already consumes trillions of dollars with no end in sight. Recently, a Goldman Sachs study found that the world has spent 3.8 trillion dollars to reduce the contribution of fossil fuels from 82% to 81% of our total energy needs. Like the pharmaceutical companies from the 90s earning billions from statin drugs (and they still do) promising to lower your cholesterol by a digit or two. The climate change industry is in full production. Even individuals such as Al Gore and Bill Gates have grown their personal wealth on the backs of what they believe to be an existential threat. Is this a picture of wealthy elites?
Another characteristic of our ‘theory’ fetish is the necessity of a ‘boogie man.’ Like a good story that needs an antagonist, we seem hell-bent on finding someone or something to blame. Humans might never die of cardiovascular disease if we no longer consume eggs or cheese, the scientists claimed just thirty years ago. Rid ourselves of egg producers and dairy farmers, and we’ll live forever. Today, climate change theorists look down at farmers from 30,000 feet. Those black, brown, and white furry specks down there are belching and drinking water and eating grass contributing to the destruction of the earth. So says one of climate change's greatest theorists and high priests, George Monbiot.
Eventually landing, these elites go back to their waterfront condos and write essays and join up with others who belong to the cause. Some, particularly those that smell opportunity, will start non-profits and find some new novel ways to approach individuals, the government, and foundations for some dough. With a little moxie, they’ll earn a mighty fine living. And if you’re an Oxford grad like Mr. Monbiot (from the video above), who advocates for the outlawing of animal farming, you too are enjoying the vegan gravy train.
One such climate change non-profit simply calls itself EAT. According to their website, EAT is a non-profit dedicated to transforming our global food system through sound science, impatient disruption and novel partnerships. Started by a medical doctor in Stockholm, they comb the globe for handouts whom they call ‘strategic financial partners.’ The board is mostly academics, policymakers, dieticians, and relatives. Considering their mission, you might think they’d have a farmer or two on the board- but no such luck.
So they theorize amongst each other, never getting their hands dirty or talking to those who do. They theorize what it would take if enough legumes were grown to feed the world with their idea of the perfect foods. They concoct mostly vegan diets and tell the UN and WEF (World Economic Forum) committees they sit on what utopia might look like if their policies were to be imposed on the world. And if you listened carefully to Mr Monbiot in the above video, the first order of business is to change our economic system.
Look across the digital landscape, and you’ll find thousands of such entities all trying to save the planet by influencing those who craft policy. These elites live in a mostly theoretical world, imagining a utopian existence. They believe, much like the Bolsheviks, that all of life be centrally planned right down to what we eat. And if you are wealthy or run a foundation or even a corporation that supplies the means of production to farmers, they’ll happily take your money and call you ‘partner.’
If you use the word ‘elite,’ my imagination now sees an attractive, well-dressed person stepping off a 65 million dollar private jet having just attended a meeting as a member of the United Nation’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Lead Group. When back at the office, the elite call their wealthy friends or draft an application for a government grant and grovel for a little money. In the truest sense of the word, they are grifters.
There’s a good chance the founder of EAT earns substantially more grifting for climate change dollars (or Euros) than as a medical doctor. It is also possible that fighting to save the planet is much more emotionally rewarding than attending to sick patients. You get to rub shoulders with the rich, sit on tony boards together, and be invited to climb aboard their shiny jets. It’s a wonderful life trying to save the planet.
Have a great week!