Environmentalist Michael Shellenberger is a rabble rouser. It's a label he freely accepts - he wants to upset the status quo. But anyone who dismisses him as an attention-seeking charlatan maybe isn't aware he's been awarded Time Magazine's "Environmentalist of the Year"; he's been invited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be an expert reviewer of the organization's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6); as a teenager, he traveled to the Congo to help in preservation efforts to save Silverback Gorillas threatened by encroachment.
And that's just for starters. His recent book, Apocalypse Never (Harper Collins), denies politics a place in deciding the fate of the world. Sure, it's about preventing climate change, but it's also about viewing the world through the eyes of others - and somehow, in 2020, that's become a subject of controversy.
The 2020 documentary Juiced: How Electricity Explains the World features an interview with Shellenberger. "The only people who say that there are too many people in the world, that we all have to reduce our energy consumption, are rich people," he says with a smile. "I go around the world, I interview small farmers everywhere. India, Africa, Latin America, Asia. I've never had a small farmer tell me there's too many people, that we consume too much." That has become his overarching theme: until we afford those in developing countries access to the energy we take for granted - clean energy, that's available night or day, windy or calm - fighting climate change is a lost cause.
That radical outlook has apparently become dangerous in the halls of Congress. As he was in January, he was recently invited to testify before a House subcommittee on climate change. This time, however, his credentials and motives were attacked mercilessly - then, he was denied an opportunity to defend himself. Why? Helping people who can't afford to be at the mercy of nature for energy apparently wasn't a priority. That's a shame, because with climate change, like COVID-19, we're all in this together.
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