Trump, Fauci and Ecomodernism

Compared to the lies of Trump and the religious mysticism of Mike Pence, Anthony Fauci seems like a breath of fresh air. He bases himself on science, after all.

Why, then, has he allowed himself to be silenced by Trump? Why hasn’t he simply defied Trump’s orders and spoken out to the US media? After all, with the confidence of 2/3 of the US public, he’s far more popular than not only Trump but almost any other public figure.

Not a working class hero
Fauci, however, is not some working class hero. Writing in the left liberal Nation magazine, Mike Davis recently scrutinized some of Fauci’s pronouncements. This includes actually saying that it is “absolutely not” necessary to wear masks in public. Fauci is also starting to come under indirect criticism for his acceptance of being sidelined by Trump.

But the real problem with Fauci is far, far deeper than this. Basically, Fauci’s entire approach is how to slow the spread of Covid-19. This includes the famous social distancing and use of facemasks. In addition, he is pushing the development of a vaccine, although even he admitted that it might be impossible to develop a vaccine that provides long term immunity. (Note: “might be”!)

Rob Wallace & his book. Fauci diverts attention away from the issues raised in this book.

Diverting attention away from the causes
No, the real harm that Fauci does is in leading the discussion away from the cause of Covid 19 and similar zoonotic diseases. Rob Wallace (Big Farms Make Big Flu) explains that the bases for the rise of new zoonotic diseases (ones which jump the species barrier to human beings) are factory farming and habitat destruction. These are putting humans and domesticated meat animals (like fowl, pigs, etc.) into ever closer contact with wild species (like bats) and also encouraging the evolution of viruses into new forms that can infect humans. (See this article for a fuller explanation.) What Wallace also explains is that once a new virus has been discovered it’s already too late. What’s necessary is to change the conditions that lead to the evolution of these viruses. Anything else is really just closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out.

The approach of Fauci and the majority of scientists fits with that of the less insane politicians like Joe Biden. From global warming to endocrine system disruption to zoonoses, what they advocate is in effect that human society – meaning capitalism – can continue to rape the natural world with impunity and all that’s needed is some technical fixes. This idea is most clearly expressed in the school of thought called ecomodernism. In a way, ecomodernism could be called “scientific capitalism” as opposed to the lies of Trump and the mysticism of the likes of Mike Pence and others like him.

The ecomodernists first announced themselves with their 2015 “Ecomodernist Manifesto”. In it, they celebrated the “personal, economic, and political liberties [that] have spread worldwide.” They also recognized the threat of “human caused” climate disruption. But they also said, “we reject [the idea] that humans societies must harmonize with nature” and advocated a “significant decoupling of human well-being from environmental impacts.” They also denied that species extinction is a problem.

The manifesto recognized that the expansion of human society into wilderness areas is a potential problem. The fix they advocate is more intensive use of that land that is already developed. That more intensive use includes genetically modified crops (GMO’s) and industrial or factory farming. They also advocate developing both solar and nuclear (both fission and fusion) power.

The Pritzker family, including J.B. Pritzker at center. This billionaire family is a major force behind the Breakthrough Institute.

Breakthrough Institute
Today, the ideas of ecomodernism is most strongly represented through the Breakthrough Institute. Located in Oakland, California, the major force behind this nonprofit is the Pritzker family. According to Wikipedia, this family is one of the wealthiest families in the US. Family members own Hyatt hotel corporations as well as Berkshire Hathaway, Superior Bank of Chicago (which collapsed in 2001), and other assets. One member of their family, J.B. Pritzker, is the (Democratic) governor of Illinois.


Defenders of factory farming
They agree that habitat destruction has led to increased contact between humans and wild animals like bats and that this has led to the rise of new zoonotic diseases. However, their solution is to further intensify the exploitation of the land that is occupied by humans. In other words, more factory farming and more GMO’s. “ If anything, intensification [of factory farming] is the solution to reducing the risk of zoonotic disease,” they write. It may be true that SARS-CoV2 evolved purely through that “wet market” in China, although even that is not definite. But the ecomodernists ignore all the other zoonotic diseases that have clearly evolved through factory farming.

Their entire approach is wrong because the natural world is just too complex for humans to understand every aspect of it. Disrupt one part and there will be inevitable unpredicted consequences, and factory farming is a perfect example. From depletion of topsoil to pollution of waterways and the creation of dead zones off the coast of the United States, factory farming is a growing disaster.

Technical fixes not enough
To return to Fauci and zoonoses: There may be some technical fixes that can lessen the impact of Covid-19. And a long-term effective vaccine might be possible. But so long as factory farming and habitat destruction continue unchecked, the rise of new and even more deadly zoonotic diseases are inevitable. That’s what Fauci and the “scientific capitalism” that he represents divert attention away from.

Once again we are reminded of the fact that understanding science is too important to be left to the capitalist class. We workers have to understand it also.

5 replies »

  1. As a matter of record:
    *As late as 26 January, 2020 Dr. Fauci did not understand the risks associated with the Covid 19 virus. During an interview that month, Dr. Fauci articulated that in the US “It’s a very, very low risk”.
    *Amid screams of “racist” Mr. Trump banned flights from China on 28 January. Within days of this ban, New York City Mayor De Blasio and his city health commissioner, Oxiris Barbot, both told New Yorker’s in a press conference to “go about your daily lives normally.” “Ride the subway, go to restaurants and Broadway plays.”

  2. A few things, when Fauci stated one didn’t need to wear masks, that was in February or late January, not March. He was only reflecting concensus medical mis-undestanding at the time.

    There is zero evidence that factory farming initiated C-19. Wallace is correct that most of these fauna based flus and viruses stem from this, but they have existed well before factory farming became a think. Factory farming really only goes back, at most, in China 15 years. Before that? Yes, “wet markets” have caused they believe…not 100% certainty…from viruses traveling from animals to humans. While factory farming can make this worse, they don’t all even *in their majority* stem from factory farming.

    Factory farming should be opposed for a whole host of reasons. It is of course one the really bad check marks against Ecomodernism, the other being they endorse natural gas deployment in generation. Many Green groups do the same thing but aimed at the worlds large low-carbon generation, nuclear. Both anti-nuclear activist groups and Ecomodernists, from different perspectives, endorse natural gas deployment. That is a BAD thing , not a good thing.

    I think the biggest thing is this whole idea, as John noted above, that they see the divisions between “nature” and “humanity” as a good thing. I reject this but simply *understanding* what this means is important and involves a very long discussion. Who but the most reactionary mystics advocate “going back to nature”…as what? Hunter-gatherers? No, it not about divorcing or wholly integrating our species with nature…it simply… “simply” … about finding what is the correct balance between a tool-making species like us and the soil, fauna and flora of the world.

    • David raises a whole series of questions. On factory farming and Covid-19: The last I saw, Rob Wallace seemed to be saying that there were some genetic traces of animals other than pangolins and that it may be that some of the origins of the virus are from an area outside of that infamous wet market. The whole point is that the evolution of these viruses – the process of zoonosis – can be very complex and involves the virus evolving back and forth between different species numerous times.

      In any case, there are other zoonotic diseases where factory farming is clearly involved. H1N1 virus, the one that causes what used to be called Swine Flu (until the hog industry objected) is an example. According to Wallace, this virus apparently evolved in factory hog farms in Mexico, around Veracruz. The fact that these farms developed as a result of Nafta has led Wallace to call this flu “Nafta flu”. It also seems that the evolution of the virus that causes Ebola may also involve factory farming.

      As far as the major environmental groups and their endorsement of developing natural gas: This is more of a political issue than anything else since at least under Obama that was the position of the Democratic Party and these environmental groups are almost all linked to the Democrats. Oaklandsocialist documents these links in this pamphlet:

      Finally, on nuclear energy: Nearly ten years ago, we had a debate with David Walters over this issue. It forced me to read more in depth on the issue, for which I thank David. It resulted in this article. At the time (2013), David said he would reply to it. He has never done so. I hope he does at some point or another.

      John Reimann

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