Michael Shellenberger is the founder of Environmental Progress and the author of the best-selling book Apocalypse Never: How Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. In his second appearance on the podcast, Shellenberger talks with Robert about the remarkable success of Apocalypse Never, his next book, San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, which will be out in October, sobriety, his return to his Christian faith, environmentalism as religion, “Chinese genocide solar panels,” and why the decline of our cities reflects the decline of our civilization.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. We talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And my guest is Michael Shellenberger making his second appearance. Woohoo on the power hungry podcast. Michael, welcome to the power hungry podcast with the second time. Thanks for having me. Great to see you again, Robert. You know, I’m going to go through this formality even though I’ve done it before. And if you’ve been on the podcast, people are probably familiar with you introduce yourself if you don’t mind.
Michael Shellenberger 0:31
Sure. I am Michael Shellenberger. I’m founder and president of environmental progress, and I am the author of Apocalypse never. And the forthcoming San Francisco. Okay. Well, I
Robert Bryce 0:43
want to ask about San Francisco. San Francisco. Definitely. But let’s talk about apocalypse. Never. I looked at the calendar. You were on the podcast, January 29. It was right about the time the book was released. And it’s blown up here with more than 3000 reviews on Amazon. Are you surprised by the popularity of the book?
Michael Shellenberger 1:03
I am surprised I am surprised by it. And I’m surprised by how it occurred. I had hoped that it would be a more bipartisan book and that progressives would be dealing with it and debating within I’m a little disappointed that that hasn’t really happened. But obviously, I’m thrilled that it’s a best seller and it’s now translated into 15 languages.
Robert Bryce 1:24
15 languages what and what of those would be the the most obscure? Well, that would surprise me or was there one? Lithuania, Lithuania, in Poland yet in Polish Lithuanian ones in there? Yeah, Poland, Lithuania, Korea, Japanese, Chinese? Not Chinese. Okay, well, which we should talk about? We should definitely talk about that. So do you know how many numbers? Look, I’ve published a few books. I’m just curious. What are the numbers? Do you know that how many users have sold?
Unknown Speaker 1:59
Well over 100,000, but probably below 200?
Robert Bryce 2:03
Uh huh. That’s fantastic. So what’s changed for you personally, and I asked this is we’ve been friends for a long time. I think we my first interview with you is maybe 13 or 14 years ago, something like that. What’s changed for you? Because you know, you’ve kind of blown up but we were talking about this before we started recording. And, and I say that with no flattery coming, but you have your profiles dramatically increased? I mean, did you five years ago, do you ever think you’d be on Tucker Carlson? I mean, you know, you and and and how does that? How does it affected you?
Michael Shellenberger 2:34
Wow. Okay, that’s a great question. Um, I mean, I’ve definitely changed a lot over the last few years in some important ways. I am now a political independence. I have. Um, you know, I testified six times before Congress over the last year and a half. I’ve got, I’ve been attacked now. Twice by the Los Angeles Times, and once by he and he, as kind of, you know, helping Republicans. And so it’s been very, there’s definitely a lot of questions in our country right now about identity and political identity. And it seems like people have been trying to figure out what I am. And I felt like, what I wanted to do in apocalypse never ended was to say, what I believe and what my truths are. And I’m doing that again, in my next book, San Francisco. But I also do that in my testimony, but I’m getting a lot of I’m having to articulate. I think, I think the big issue for me is Who am I? What do I believe? Everybody wants to know where you sit on left right spectrum, and I really hate left right spectrum. I just think it’s really wrong on a lot of issues. I mean, I think on some things, I can place myself there in some more obvious ways, but I think there’s a bunch of ways in which what’s left and right is no longer so obvious. So. So for me, you know, it’s that and it’s also you know, the big personal issues, I just came back to my faith, really in the process of writing Apocalypse, never, as a Christian. As a Christian, I would have identified as as an existentialist, you know, 10 years ago, and now I would say I’m a Christian existentialist because I still do think that Kierkegaard is probably the most important existentialist thinkers who was a Christian, Danish philosopher. Sure. So that is, you
Robert Bryce 4:20
know, who famously said that I never had a problem that I couldn’t help with a good walk, if I remember. And that’s maybe maybe the only career guard I know, in fact, and
Michael Shellenberger 4:29
maybe all you need to know. I mean, you’re a writer just like me, and I can’t I don’t I can’t figure out anything if I don’t write if I don’t walk.
Robert Bryce 4:35
Oh, that’s where I think of headlines. I try and always think, you know, I think of headlines sometimes before I start the story, right? You know, the article, what is how do I best summarize this, but I interrupted you in terms of that. It’s really interesting that you say that because I’ve had now more than 50 guests on the podcast, and of those one self identified Christian David French, who I quite admire, his work is just as a journalist. I mean, just a really fearless I’m journalists and one of the few that I know of is speaks openly and passionately about being a Christian and in in the public sphere and he’s kind of unendurable around attackable because of his history as a working in serving in the US military and and and a former lawyer, constitutional conservative, but but you’re saying the same in some ways the similar kind of thing, because he’s in many areas on the right. He’s not welcome. Right? Because he co Yeah. Is it ever not Christianity, but I’m interested in that because your family, you grew up in a conservative Christian house. And now this is been just as an I’m so sincerely as, because I’ve been through similar somewhat similar path in my own back and forth to going to being considered a Catholic and Christian. But is that where you found comfort in this? Because I can imagine this change in your life has been somewhat lonely as well, no.
Michael Shellenberger 5:47
Yes, for sure. And by the way, my parents were raised in conservative Mennonite households, but my mother, I was confirmed as a congregationalist, which is a pretty liberal congregation and my father, I don’t even think I’m not sure if my father identifies as Christian anymore. It’s much more, and he has a PhD in divinity. And he’s a PhD divinity degree or philosophy degree and a divinity degree.
Robert Bryce 6:12
Yes, theological roots run deep in your family then. And, you know, it’s something that I wanted to get to. And it’s not one of the first questions I had here. But it’s this religiosity of the debate. And in fact, I’m glad to bring it up now, because I was looking back through your book, and yet, your great chapter, sub chapter title, which is false gods for lost souls. And he said, environmentalism today is the dominant secular religion of the educated, upper middle class elite, in most developed and many nations, provides a new story about our collective and individual purpose. But it also has this story that’s very similar in Christianity in terms of sin and redemption, right? And climate change is our great sin and only redemption has to go back and, you know, live with Bill McKibben in a commune with, you know, three drops of gasoline a day, I mean, but we have to, it’s the sackcloth and ashes, right? We have to use less, do less, and we can only use renewables, because and you allude to that, as well as that. This isn’t the nature worship, which has gotten as far away from the, the faith that I hear you say, you’re coming back to?
Michael Shellenberger 7:10
Yeah, absolutely. You know, and writing a blog post never was part of it. I mean, it was the I couldn’t write I couldn’t finish chapter 12. Until I, I was thinking a lot about the anger and hatred and so much of climate advocacy, the the hatred of human civilization, the hatred of human beings, and for a lot of Malthusian environmentalists,
Robert Bryce 7:31
and the hatred of the EPA states like Roger pilkey, Jr, or anyone who got back Yeah, the you and me. Yeah, are the narratives are, they’re set up to be attacked for this belief in something that is not in the climate, environmental orthodoxy. And that’s what you’re I mean, you really have published a very heterodox book you come from that left, but now you’re homeless. I mean, I don’t mean that. No, you’re gonna we’re gonna talk a lot about homelessness within San Francisco. But I’m so genuinely, I mean, you know, that it’s got to be, it just seems this this your journey is writing a kind of a repudiation book in some ways.
Michael Shellenberger 8:07
Yeah, or a reassessment at the very
Robert Bryce 8:10
least better? That’s a better word. Yeah.
Michael Shellenberger 8:11
Yeah. And my next book, as well as also a reassessment, including of work that I did in the 90s, around criminal justice sent drug decriminalization, as well as housing, for sure. I mean, I, you know, I turned 50, next month.
Robert Bryce 8:26
Michael Shellenberger 8:27
Thank you. I quit drinking in the fall of 2018. So I’m entering my third year, having recovered from a drinking problem, and you kind of get older and it’s just the stereotype, you know, you start to rethink what do you think and what I love about these, by the process of writing books, because I do think part of my, the change in my identity is also a change in, in what Who am I in the world? And I always I still think of myself as an activist, I would say that I have my identities are, I consider myself an environmental activist, I consider myself an energy analyst and I consider myself a journalist and book author. And so but it’s, it’s, it’s a little bit of a surprise, I’m a bit of an accidental author, I wrote apocalypse never because it wanted to be in service of my environmental advocacy, including for nuclear. And now I’m writing this and I’ve got this new book coming out. And I’m I figured out that really what I think I can contribute to the world is two things. The first is helping to reconsider assumptions that may not be valid anymore. And then the second is helping to start little movements. You know, there’s a genuine pronuclear movement now in the world that wasn’t there five years ago. And I’m really proud of it. And it’s really, it’s genuinely independent of me. It’s genuinely autonomous. There are leaders who have their own views and we don’t all agree about everything, but there’s I think, everyone He would agree that there is a pro nuclear movement. And I’m excited to do something similar around the addiction crisis in America right now. Because, you know, when you read a book, like Apocalypse, never and you kind of go, Hey, guys, a lot of the environmental trends are going in the right direction. And then people go, so what do you say? What do you think is a big problem? And that was like, I mean, I knew I was like this, this issue of drug overdoses, and rising from 17,000 in the year 2000, to 90,000. Last year, Robert, a 73,000 annual increase of deaths from drug overdoses,
Robert Bryce 10:37
in what time period was that? I’m sorry,
Michael Shellenberger 10:39
from 2000 to 2020? Uh huh. From 17,000 to 90,000. I mean, it’s, it’s it’s such a shocking number. And, you know, I asked people, I’m like, Are people aware of that? Because there’s a way in which I’m like, obviously, you look at the Biden administration, and it’s all climate change. It’s like climate change is the number one issue for the Biden ministration.
Robert Bryce 10:59
The only issue they talk about,
Michael Shellenberger 11:02
and there’s only talk about it, meanwhile, it’s like, it’s like we had 50 deaths from natural disasters,
Robert Bryce 11:06
and their rhetoric on it is as extreme as anything in completely unsupported by any facts or numbers. I mean, it just is the the detachment and I’ve talked about this several times and the closure of Indian Point in April and the cynicism of the Natural Resources Defense Council. I mean, they’re they’re in the top leadership of the White House. And I’m thinking you’re saying all this stuff about climate change? What are you doing in that disconnect is deeply worrying to me, I don’t know if it is to you. But yeah, it’s this it Solon attention on an issue that, yes, it’s a concern, but it’s not the only concern. And it just is very deeply and then they approve the Nord Stream pipeline. That’s just like, what is going on here? Hey, I actually have my Sorry, go ahead. No, you go ahead. I’ve got plenty thing. We got plenty of things to talk about you were you were on a on a on a track there.
Michael Shellenberger 11:58
Yeah, I mean, my next piece I mean, uh, you know, cuz because, you know, products ever. But my next piece I’m publishing is about the financial interests here for Nord Stream two for Chinese solar panels for shutting down nuclear plants for replacing nuclear plants with natural gas. There’s an unholy alliance of greens in Europe and Democrats in the United States that are working with natural gas companies and renewable energy companies and shadow banks like BlackRock to shut down all of our nuclear plants and replace them with some combination of Chinese genocide, solar panels and, and natural gas and, and make Europe dependent on Russian natural gas. And so I think it’s absolutely shocking appalling. The contradictions are piling up. I mean, they’re attacking me right now. I’m getting attacked right now pretty seriously by mainstream folks, because I think they do sense that there’s something really, you may have seen Bill McKibben wrote this terrible piece for New Yorker kind of saying, well, climate change, which, which, which terrible. It was kind of like, it was like, Well, everybody knows. Everybody knows kind of changes, the most important problem in the world, of course, but maybe we should maybe also worry about what’s happening in shinjang. China in terms of like, the genocide and slavery, it’s like you think, I mean, cuz he’s out there on Twitter. He wrote it the day after I went out when after everybody on this, but he’s out there on Twitter promoting solar panels after the, you know, after the oil pipeline. shutdown was
Robert Bryce 13:30
the sun. The sun never goes down, right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Two states have declared state of emergency because their economies have frozen up because they can’t get anywhere. Yeah. The sole attention on it. It is it is it is striking. Well, let’s talk about the that issue, because I know you’ve written a lot about the issue of the polysilicon and jinjiang and I pulled the your cue on from from Twitter, you tweeted about the in broad daylight report, which is really remarkable work by Laura Murphy, and Nairobi, Lima. And they completely understated, right? Oh, well, here are these company that we found them and this is all the data and then you know, very, the language is very neutral. But but their their their numbers 2.6 million weekers. And in Kazakhstan, in forced labor or in turned in some way. I mean, this is an astounding story. And to me, it’s one of the things that says, oh, clean energy will what exactly is that? So slave labor doesn’t count. This was prison labor here. And you know, it’s us, I could imagine might be a little bit bigger story. I mean, but but I, I’ve been on the wind industry have been a critic for a long time. But this is a whole new game, it seems to turn to solar and to if you’re getting 30 45% of your solar panels, it’s probably silicon from shinjang and another 30% from the rest of China. Well, that’s 75%. I mean, that’s a staggering number for Go ahead. I mean, you’ve written more passionate more about this way. Chinese genocide panels pretty strong term.
Michael Shellenberger 14:53
And now we’ve seen both the Biden ministration and Trump administration have said that what is occurring is genocide. We saw a member of Congress question climate envoy, john kerry last week. And he said, this is slavery and john kerry acknowledged that forced labor is being used. He didn’t quite use the word slavery, the wounded dog, which is the German parliament, their researchers came out and said that indeed, what’s happening in shinjang, is genocide. And it should be labeled that and that the labeling of that, of course, is you know, has serious consequences genocide. And Germany is important for two reasons, right? It’s the biggest economy in Europe. And it’s also Germany, which had a genocide very recently in human memory. So there’s no chance that governments
Robert Bryce 15:38
and they’re the bankers for all the EU, Yes, right. They have all the money, right. And the Swiss, the Swiss, of course, biggest economy, and a great need for labor and energy, and they’re facing an energy crisis with their own.
Michael Shellenberger 15:50
Yeah, so there you go. I mean, so so governments cannot label what’s occurring and shinjang genocide and continue to import solar panels produced under those conditions. So that’s, I think there’s some good like, Well, it looks like sanctions might come you can’t, those two things don’t go together. Because we’re not going to buy products made in genocidal conditions or by forced labor. It’s simply not going to occur. The solar industry says that they’re going to be able to move those factories out of shinjang. And of course, even if even if you assume they could, and the Chinese are really good at doing things quickly moving all the equipment and the factories out of shinjang. Well, what about the workforce? I mean, those panels are being made by by somebody, Izabella kaminska, at Financial Times, a couple of days ago, pointed out that, you know, solar panel manufacturing is still very labor intensive. There is some amount of automation but they have continued to need human workers.
Robert Bryce 16:43
I thought that was really interesting. And something and I didn’t know and I say this is someone that with eight and a half kilowatts of solar panels on the roof of my house. Right. And I’m wondering, okay, well, they’re from Korea, the Korean made, but that the Koreans gonna poly silicon from China, you know? Yeah, of course. Yeah, absolutely. But the point there about the fragility of the panels and that they have there is a lot of hand labor, because they’re so fragile, which I didn’t realize. So, I mean, the way you’re describing it, and I haven’t really thought about it in these terms until you just bring it up. But this seems to be a pretty bright dividing line in what we used to think about solar and what we think about it now, thermal solar doesn’t work. It just doesn’t big reflecting solar panels, Ivanpah a terrible experiment didn’t work. And now PV doesn’t work at scale. If we’re talking about the kind of scale that the IAEA is talking about with hundreds of gigawatts per year, where are we going to get the polysilicon with the supply chain is the story.
Michael Shellenberger 17:34
You got it? How about this? The other detail that came out of the report you mentioned was that their manual labor, they’re using manual labor to crush the courts to make the polysilicon for scientific
Robert Bryce 17:45
business hit for $6.50 a ton. Right? Right. Yeah, that was you. You cited that number on Twitter. Well, I mean, that is just incredible. I mean, I just I’m still kind of even stones were talking about it, because it just seems so otherworldly that the the industry that everyone’s come to love and support 80% of people want more solar. Okay, well, is this really what you want? Is this really the intent here?
Michael Shellenberger 18:08
If I point out that it’s like, Here, we have been through a decade of propaganda, Robert, that only a few people, including you have criticized and me following you, and really both of us chasing Jessie ossible, where you sort of say, look, low power densities, has consequences. And the consequences are you have to save money in other ways. The land is expensive. with low power densities, if you require 300, or 400 times more land than a match, I got some new equipment that’s expensive. That’s why the Biden ministration is giving so much public land to renewables companies, so they don’t have to pay for the cost of land. So that’s a huge part of it. And then they have to use the worst form of energy to make them in the form of coal. So we know according to IPCC estimates that solar is already four times more carbon intensive than wind or nuclear. I don’t I mean, I’m we’re checking those numbers again, now to see what IPCC was using, but you kind of go they’re using coal to
Robert Bryce 19:06
play the labor produced the polysilicon
Michael Shellenberger 19:08
Yeah, so the story? Yeah, the story that we represent is efficiency. It’s ridiculous. It’s been a 3% improvement in efficiency over the last decade, in the most successful commercial solar panels. So obviously, you don’t get a 75% reduction in price from a 3% improvement in the efficiency of solar panels. So then, obviously, so you kind of go into the coal, it’s the forced labor, and it’s these massive Chinese government subsidies to the solar industry, which allowed them to dump these panels. So really, this whole propaganda
Robert Bryce 19:42
being cheap, right, and therefore control the market, as you say that 3% efficiency improvement I mean, they’re reaching their theoretical physical limit right in terms of their conversion capability. But compare that 3% efficiency gain to what’s happening in the oil and gas industry in the United States. This the fracking process while the footprint of renewables has to increase dramatically in order to increase power flow, the service footprint of the oil and gas industry has been shrinking because they make more money drilling off smaller land footprints, because they can come tech, more, more shale with less moving around. I mean, it is incredible. But the way I’d put it on the power density side is what I’ve written before the lower the power density, the higher the resource intensity of all kinds, copper, steel manpower, you know, fertilizer, etc. So we’re in complete agreement, and I’ve been watching what your you’ve been writing on, it’s been great stuff. So you mentioned and what’s what’s happening now in Congress is interesting, the the Uyghur forced labor Prevention Act, could this not be the shutdown of the US solar sector?
Michael Shellenberger 20:43
I mean, it’ll definitely slow it down. Or it’s hard to predict sales
Robert Bryce 20:47
are gonna go way up, because the supplies immediately going to take an enormous hit.
Michael Shellenberger 20:52
I mean, the prices have to go up, I mean, and they should go up. I mean, you know, you kind of go like I had someone that was like, Well, what about iPhones? Well, first of all, iPhones are not made in slave conditions. Now, we might say everybody in China is a slave, because it’s autometer. And society, fine. But that’s a little bit of a minute. That’s a way to minimize the difference of what’s happened in shinjang, which is that people are being put, as you said, two and a half million people put in concentration camps, and offered a chance to work in a solar panel factory in those conditions. That’s, that’s forced labor. But even in terms of the iPhone, and people are like, well, would you pay more for the iPhone? Yeah, of course, we should, of course, we should pay more for solar panels that are made under fair labor conditions, of course, we should pay more for iPhones to be made in fair labor conditions. I know, it’s very hard. I’m not suggesting that we should just simply reassure all of it, you know, we’ve lost all of our solar manufacturing firms, as you know, a decade ago because of the Chinese dumping. But nonetheless, like, I think there is a broader issue outside of energy. And outside of this essential point that you make, I’m going to steal this by the way, the lower the power density, the higher the resource is the perfect it’s a perfect
Robert Bryce 22:01
because that’s it’s a rule I mean, anything it has to be, and you see it going from photosynthesis with ethanol to a 10th of a watt or something like that per square meter to a wind energy, one watt per square meter solar, maybe 10. But then you go up to to coal and coal mine I went to in Kentucky, 800 watts per square meter per surface, or per surface area disturb in the Indian Point, 2000 watts per square meter. I like your numbers. But if you say three or 400, it’s actually 2000 times more power dense nuclear is then wind. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. Yeah. Anyway, I interrupt. I’m counting
Michael Shellenberger 22:33
just because we’re counting. We’re counting the whole plant site. But anyway,
Unknown Speaker 22:37
no, and yeah. But yeah, no,
Michael Shellenberger 22:40
I surd. It’s absurd. So I mean, I think there’s sort of this issue, which is that it really exposes the fraudulence of renewables that exposes the physical basis for why renewables are terrible energy. You know, at least weather dependent renewables like solar and wind, obviously, I think that there’s a role for hydro, big hydroelectric dams. But I think there’s a larger issue, Robert, which is just kind of like, Hey, guys, like, what are we doing? Like? Like, is there really a question that if you think there’s genocide going on and making solar panels that there should be sanctions? Like how much thinking time do you need before we as Americans go? No, we’re not actually, it’s like, well, I don’t know guys, the Volkswagens coming out of Germany are really cheap. You know, it’s like, no, like, actually, you decide if you decide there’s genocide going on, then you don’t import those products, full stop. And that needs to be our view. And I think it does raise some bigger questions. I mean, I’ve got a piece I’m working on.
Robert Bryce 23:38
It’s like the Blood Diamond trade, then.
Michael Shellenberger 23:40
Yeah, it’s worse. In some ways. I was thinking about this, because everyone always talks about coltan and cobalt from the Congo, right. And the differences is that, I mean, it’s terrible. I’m not minimizing it. But there is a way in which it’s like, you’ve got a lot of young kids, they have kids that work in those mines. Those are kids that were working on the farm, before they went and worked on the mind in China. these are these are people that have been in prisons. And Congo is brutal. Like I write about it, it’s like war and terrible, but it’s like it is somewhat different to have a state organizing the destruction of an entire people. And that’s what’s happening. And that’s why they’re sterilizations going on and shinjang. So I think there’s something that there’s a bigger in my new book I talked about, we have to affirm what we are for as Americans. And obviously we say one thing that’s huge for us is freedom. But the book ends and says that that’s incomplete and that to complete it, you have to add responsibility. So I look at the situation I go, we’re dealing with a situation that is absolute deprivation of human freedom in another country. Yeah, there are kinds of deprivation of freedom that goes on when making iPhones. But obviously we all agree that when it’s genocide, it crosses the line. And so if we’re going to be responsible Americans responsible adults we’re not we’re just simply not going to buy solar. panels from those guys anymore. And if we want to have our own soul, I mean, part of me goes, you know, we have solar panels in our backyard to Robert, like us solar panels to you kind of go if it means that we need to pay more money for them. It’s a niche product. Neither you nor I think that solar panels are anything more than a niche product nor should be anything more than a niche product than it should be made in the United States. Like I mean, we don’t need to, I mean, or at least made under non slave conditions. But it doesn’t seem to me there should be any question about what should be done in terms of this in terms of the solar.
Robert Bryce 25:34
Sorry, I’m making a note here because I’m going to steal that line. Where you’re setting the bar pretty low here, at least the non slave conditions. I am set is low, but is ridiculous. Right? I want to stop. But I have let me stop you. Because I have to say that when you get going, it’s almost and I’m saying this in light of what we talked about her almost like you’re at the pulpit, right that you’re now you become a well, right. I mean, yeah. dangerous place to stand between me and a microphone, you know that. But But no, I mean, you really are. you’re passionate about these issues. And it’s because it’s a cause it’s a purpose for you now, I mean, that that it was a purpose before, but it seems like the book, and they’re changing your profile, the fact that you say well, now it’s best seller and your translator and all these languages that you are become one of the biggest influencers or the biggest influencers kind of tired term but but a voice of conscience in the broader debate about who we are. No, I’m not appreciate that. Well, I’m not as I said, blow smoke up your skirt here. But yeah, well, what is the conscience of having solar panels on the roof of my house? Well, they’re really a luxury good.
Michael Shellenberger 26:44
They’re really I’m glad yours were made in Korea, by the way. Okay. Which is remaining Korea?
Robert Bryce 26:48
Yeah. So but even so I don’t know, how could I know there’s the polysilicon didn’t come from shinjang. Well, I don’t how can I possibly know I can’t go back and find out. Right, what, but the let’s talk about California, because you’re I think your next book is really interesting. That seems like it’s a direct outgrowth of what you wrote in this book. Is that fair? And that’s what I found in my head. One thing led to the next one that just seemed natural to me. So how is that follow then in terms of what the message of Apocalypse never to homelessness in the in the crisis in California cities?
Michael Shellenberger 27:20
Yeah, well, I just sent it the the final proofs we just sent off to the publisher, we’re going to get galleys back in a week. Awesome. Really excited about Robert. The book is released date, October 12.
Robert Bryce 27:33
Wow, that’s coming right up here on lightning speed and book book world.
Michael Shellenberger 27:37
It was exhausting book, it was a very dark topic. I’m happy to say the book is equal to apocalypse never. It’s, it is similar in many ways, there’s sort of a debunking of common myths, there’s also a discussion of what we should do and what works. And then there’s a discussion of why we’re not doing that and why they’re why progressives in the case of California have made the situation worse. So in some ways, the books do go together in a really interesting way. And that I think apocalypse never is a book that says there’s a lot more to be optimistic about than people realize. many, if not most, if not all of the major environmental trends are going in the right direction, including carbon emissions, certainly including adaptation, but also land use. There’s some trends, obviously, that we worry about, like renewables. But apocalypse never is in some ways, a fundamentally optimistic book. San Francisco is a less optimistic book, I promised my wife that it would be constructive. And it is. And it proposes basically, that we just do what every developed country has done to deal with its addiction crisis, and psychiatric illnesses. And and but we haven’t done in the United States. And so it’s it offers a proposal, but it’s also a it is it’s you know, it’s what’s happening here, and you just had a big vote on it in Austin, of course, but what’s happening here is we’re dealing with the end result of decades of basically not enforcing laws against dangerous activities, you know, including, you know, breaking the laws and various variety of ways. And the justification given is that is that the people that are breaking them are victims. And I think in many cases, they are victims, but I also don’t think the best reason to have people allow people to break the law. So the books are, you know, I think that it kind of is I think, if you read Apocalypse, never and you say, okay, Michael, so you’re not as worried about environmental problems as other environmentalist. So what are you worried about? And this is sort of my response. I think that the addiction crisis should have been Biden’s number one issue. It is I think it’s a scandal that he hasn’t done really anything of significance on it. He hasn’t given a speech on it. There haven’t been events on it. He hasn’t used the bully pulpit on there’s certainly no legislation to speak of To deal with this, even though 90,000 of our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters, our children, our parents are literally killing themselves in the street with fentanyl and meth and the hardest drugs known to humankind. There’s no sight. There’s no psychiatrist in the world that thinks that that’s good medical treatment for psychiatric illnesses. And there’s literally no ethical or religious tradition that suggests that the way that we’re treating people by letting them basically live in squalor and violence, and their own waste, on the highways in the parks, on the sidewalks, it’s it’s immoral. I mean, it’s a word that nobody wants to use. But I think the situation is completely immoral. It’s creating chaos. It’s destroying human dignity, and it’s destroying the fabric of our cities and our civilization. So in some ways, this book is sort of trying to get at what is it that is driving this destruction, these destructive impulses towards civilization. And there is, you know, these are different people, obviously, that are responsible for the addiction and untreated mental illness crisis on the streets. But there is something similar in a sense that there’s a real anti civilization attitude here. There’s this idea that somehow civilization, it’s Rousseau, you know, the idea that civilization is basically immoral, and we should radically change it. Because if because it’s the source of all suffering and inequality
Robert Bryce 31:26
that we’ve seen, we use too much, we live too much, we’re having too much fun. We need to repent, again, we’re using you know, we need less, right that instead of accepting the reality that so many people are living in squalor around the way here in our streets and around the world. And that was one of the things that I had Steve coonan, on the episode he had talking about his new book. And he talked about this very issue about emissions reductions. And he said, for 20 years, and in fact, I just was looking at the quote just a moment ago, he said, for 20 years, I’ve been asking the question, well, who’s going to pay the the developing countries not to emit carbon? What’s the How is that going to happen? Who’s going to do that? And he said, I’ve in 20 years, I’ve never had a good answer to that. And so I think that’s really, but again, what I’m hearing from you is that you’re seeing this and you have to testify about it, you have to use six times already. You have to, you have to get that message out because you’re compelled with it. But I again, I hear I appreciate your you’re talking about in some ways, your own conversion process here and how you’re seeing the world and how you have their feedback, right with this mirror. But it is pretty gruesome. And we had the big proposition B vote here in Austin. And I’m saying I don’t want 10 people and homeless people. Right on the living in the park. They’ve taken over the parks What? What’s going on here that but that’s simply this idea of Oh, well, they’re victims, I think, is it written at the root of a lot of this? And that takes the racial politics, the sexual politics, all of that is the word no, our group deserves more better, whatever, because we’re oppressed. So tell me, let me ask this question. This is what I have. Is California screwed? Because it seems like a lot of people are moving from California to Texas, right. You know, the your, your book title suggests that it is what is the what is California have to do to change course on the energy on the housing on the on the public? sphere? What do they need to do next? And who’s going to do it?
Michael Shellenberger 33:19
Well, the first thing is it doesn’t have to be so I think a more interesting question, since I can’t predict the future is just to say, it doesn’t have to be this way. We obviously are not building enough housing. Everybody knows that. But we can solve the street addiction and untreated mental illness crisis without having a significant expansion of housing. We do need some we need homeless shelters. We need psychiatric beds, we need halfway houses. We need adult foster care. You know, we need all sorts of we need drug treatment facilities. But we but for 30 years, progressives in California have been holding you know addicted people and mentally ill people basically hostage to their demands for housing. And that has contributed to the problem. So I have I so I’m, what I say in the book is I say, look, if California wants to be something more than a retirement community for rich old people whose houses are worth ridiculous sums of money because they’re in California, and it’s a spectacular place. If it wants to be more than that, then it’s gonna need to build a lot of housing. But but it needs to solve the street addiction and untreated mental illness problem that we call homelessness, homelessness, I point out as long as I’m on it’s a propaganda word. The word is designed to make you confuse the mom who’s escaping from an abusive husband with her three kids and needs a place to stay at night and might need her own studio apartment but doesn’t have an addiction problem and doesn’t have a mental illness from the word confuses that person situation with the situation of somebody who’s addicted to fentanyl and math. And he was a single guy in his 20s on the street. They’re totally different situations. They’re caused by different factors. They require different services. They require different policies. But the word homelessness was designed to make us think of the addiction and untreated mental illness problem as a problem of not having a home, when those people that are on the street with those problems in many situations that most situations were kicked out of their homes, because of their addictions. And so if we don’t understand this as an addiction problem, we’re not going to be able to solve it. And so we’ve been in denial about what the problem is, we’ve tried to solve it by just giving people housing which has failed spectacularly, which is why we have 116,000 people unsheltered on the streets of California. So it doesn’t have to be and you know, it’s not rocket science to fix it. Robert, I talk about why we need a new agency should be called something like Cal psych, California is we don’t want to go back to mass incarceration, and we don’t want to go back to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we don’t want to just put everybody in hospitals or in prisons. So there is a way to do that. But it does require mandatory drug treatment, and mandatory psychiatric care for people who are seriously mentally ill. It requires building facilities of those people need and requires a sort of case management. What I point out in the book is that basically every developed country that has solved this, which is most developed countries, they’ve all done it the same way. You don’t allow open air drug markets, you don’t you make you don’t allow people to kill themselves on the street, or live on the street, they must go to shelter, or they must be in some rehab or something. And we have some kind of a sort of case management to help people get their lives on track. So what we’re dealing with in California is a left libertarianism, a kind of anarchism. And that’s not using that as a pejorative, like that’s actually what it is. And what it basically says is that if you’re a victim, if we’ve decided that you’re a victim, which is already a terrible thing to decide for somebody else, because victimization is a process towards heroism, candy. But if you declare people a victim, then the logic of left libertarianism is that they should be given more freedoms, not fewer. And so but what addicts need is they need intervention so they don’t die. And so they don’t commit crimes. And so they don’t live on the streets. They’re not racers.
Robert Bryce 37:17
So what you’re painting here is a really big social rescue plan for California. That is the needed salvation of the all the tent cities that you’ve got to start with this. Is that Is that a fair that you can’t solve? The people in the tents on the street and the drug gets all that unless you have law and order or you get you’ve got to have a police presence and aggressive police presence in some cases. But did she in a social program? But are you gonna run for governor? I mean, you I mean, I’m asked that sincerely, you’ve done it before, and I’m not. But if you’re so passionate about this, I mean, what you’re talking about is a massive reform project.
Michael Shellenberger 37:54
It is and it requires leadership from the governor, it can’t be done at the county level, because 30 to 50%,
Robert Bryce 38:01
they don’t have the money,
Michael Shellenberger 38:02
they will they they’re wasting the money. And a part of the problem is that the high level of transients among the people that we call homeless, 30 to 50% of the homeless, were homeless before they came into town. And so there’s a lot of transients, so people will move around. And so you have to have it centralized at the state level, there may need to be a ballot initiative, there almost certainly has to be legislation to create calcite. So that needs to happen. I’ve committed to being a constructive presence in advocating for the things that need to occur in California. I’m not running for governor. In this recall election, I don’t know if I’ll run for governor ever again, I genuinely don’t know that it’s not I’m not being coy or anything, I just don’t know. There’s a lot of reasons not to do it. And the only reason to do it is because our civilization is being destroyed. And California has been destroyed. That’s the only reason to do it. And wait, but it’s a big job.
Robert Bryce 38:58
I mean, I have to stop you. It’s pretty big. Our civilization is being destroyed.
Unknown Speaker 39:04
I mean, it is destroyed. I mean, I you can’t
Robert Bryce 39:08
I mean, what, in what way I mean define that a little bit because I mean, I can see the degradation I’ll say our society is being degraded. I see it with you know, relaxing and police presence here in Austin crime rates gone way up a lot more shootings and it’s in a town that used to be pretty sleepy. I mean, you see that across the country where police presence has gone down murder rates are up crime, you know, crime rates are up generally. So well, so help me then where does where does this go? What what’s the way to really affect this but you’re saying that that civilization is being destroyed, in what specific ways?
Michael Shellenberger 39:39
Well, in ways that are the fabric of our cities, the public spaces, the common spaces, the sidewalks, the parks, which are supposed to be for all of us, the ways that they’re being turned over to some of the most sick people, mentally ill, but also drug addicted people is is a destruction of our of our common space. In our cities, which are the basis of civilization, and there’s another part of it. It is dehumanizing both to the people in the street who are allowed to live absolutely to self destructive lives and to die at extraordinary rates. It’s dehumanizing for them, but it’s dehumanizing for all of us. I mean, I think we are our brothers and sisters keepers. To some extent, I love freedom. I mean, I really love freedom. I mean, I really am an American. I really am a California and in that sense, but the idea that you have the freedom to to ruin cities and to destroy yourself in front of other people in those ways. It’s just there is no, like I said, there’s no ethical tradition that suggests that any of that is okay. And so we are when I buy, you know, I picked you know, a guy a couple days ago, who was passed out on the sidewalk. I don’t walk past anybody I made sure he was alive. You know, but but but i don’t i think a lot of people don’t know what to do. They see someone passed out on the sidewalk, and they don’t know what to do the right thing to do is to make sure that they’re alive. And then it’s time to wake them up, see if they need to be revived. Bodnar can if they’re overdosed, see if you can get them into help. But the fact that a lot of people don’t know what to do, and are not bad people, but walk past, absolute human degradation, you know, the absolute loss of human dignity is degrading to them as bystanders, because we are allowing our own people to be so grossly mistreated in this way. So in that sense, I think it is civilization survives, because we care about each other in some way we understand we have some self interest, yes, of course, their self interest. But we have society, like sidewalks and parks are not part of the market economy, like those are not private, those are public, those are shared spaces. And similarly, I think, after hundreds of years of just gross mistreatment of people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, like super bipolar disorder, we have decided like that folks need treatment often when they don’t know that they need it, and that we’re going to provide that treatment for them because families can’t provide it. families with people with serious mental illness are incapable of providing treatment to their family members. So that’s a society’s burden.
Robert Bryce 42:21
So let me interrupt here because yeah, and you’re going good, I’m getting you get that you got to interrupt a lot of setting. Well, and, and I appreciate it. And I think, you know, the passion that you bring to it is obvious. But I think I just wanted to comment this, that the degradation of our public spaces was what you’re talking about is the degradation of our civilization, that we can’t, is that and that’s what I’m, I’m translating back what I’m hearing from you, because I think that that I felt that myself, I mean, as I pass the tent cities that are right near my home, on a regular basis, and I think, man, can we do better than this? And you know, I feel I feel bad, I look at it, I think, Oh, my God, lucky. but for the grace of God, there go I right, you know, but I do feel this kind of degradation in some ways, but it’s, but what you’re talking about is going to be expensive. It’s going to require some really public soul searching about what the hell’s going on here, right in terms of this, but it’s a left right battle. But I think it’s right is in some ways, this spiritual identification about who the US is and what we’re going to do. And it is interesting that Biden will talk about all these other things, but it hasn’t, I haven’t heard him talking about addiction or homeless homelessness issue or any of those issues. It doesn’t seem like the democrats of the left really care about him in some way. And that’s too broad. It doesn’t seem like it’s not getting the attention from the broader Democratic Party. Would that be a fair, fair way to put it?
Michael Shellenberger 43:43
progressives are really very defensive about this issue. Right now, in my book, I document how there is no plan to reverse the rising deaths from drug overdoses in the United States does not exist at the federal level does not exist at the state level does not exist at the local level.
Robert Bryce 44:00
Why? Now? Let me just cracking down on fentanyl. Why are they cracking down on the production of it? I mean, they produced last what $800 million settlements, something like that. I mean, this is rampaging in Oklahoma, my home state my brother’s on, I mean, one of the worst addiction problems of any state in the country. I’m familiar with this, but why don’t they can it wasn’t just that be part of it as well better control over these, these these addictive painkillers?
Michael Shellenberger 44:24
You know, it’s interesting, Robert. So the short answer, unfortunately, is that interdiction is at a mass level and addiction doesn’t work, and all the evidence you need for it. And there’s a power density issue here. Actually, by the way, it’s like an it’s like I was thinking about a lot. So what’s happened with drugs, both the uppers and downers to simplify is that they’ve become synthetic. So we’ve gone from cocaine, which has to be grown in the field to meth. You can you can get very high on a lot of meth for $2.50 right now five And you’re set for the day on math that’s like cheaper
Robert Bryce 45:03
than like a cup of coffee, right? Because the psychotic density of the pill is so
Michael Shellenberger 45:07
intoxication dense. Yeah. It’s a it’s a drug density issue. And then of course, the same thing with heroin and fentanyl, with fentanyl being somewhere like 50 to 100% 100 times more intoxication dense than heroin. Plus, fentanyl was made in a lab. So you know what? So like, literally like, like, I mean, so basically, you know, we cracked down on the meth labs in California, they went right down to the Mexico and now they and they became cheaper. And they’re shipped up on the I five right through Central Valley.
Robert Bryce 45:39
And they’re, and they’re easier to smuggle, because they’re there, they’re more power dense.
Michael Shellenberger 45:44
You got it. One, drug dealers, the drug, the drug cartel can send 100 cars full of fentanyl, you know, all stuck in the dashboards and in the all 90 not 99 of them can be apprehended 99. Have you ever had one gets through and you’ve supplied San Francisco for months? I mean, really longer. I mean, like like the that amount of fentanyl is enough for an entire city for many weeks, depending on how many people are using the quantity. So so so Okay, so that’s the first thing. But the good news is, we do know how to address this part of my inspiration, right? The book is that when I went to Netherlands, I was giving a talk at another nuclear, the Member of Parliament who invited me goes, Oh, you might be interested talk to my husband, Rene. He works in drug policy for the government. And he’s in his late 50s has been doing since his 20s. I was like, have you guys ever been to San Francisco? And they’re like, Oh, yeah, he’s like, I did rounds at the emergency rooms and homeless shelters in San Francisco. I was like, Dude, why when I walk around the Netherlands, where you can buy marijuana and smoke it and then go to the Van Gogh Museum. You can use mushrooms, mushroom, psychedelic mushrooms are very fashionable. in Netherlands, you can go to the red light district to get a prostitute. The Netherlands is like the most liberal place in the world, but they don’t have homeless, like there’s just not, it just doesn’t exist. Like they don’t let people be homeless. It’s almost just another one of Amsterdam. So my question was sort of, what is it that you guys are doing? And so you I think you said you asked you about money. It’s a common perception that, that what I’m proposing would be expensive. But the fact of the matter is, the places that spend the most have the worst outcomes. San Francisco gives the most money in terms of general assistant cash welfare, it has the most generous spends the most on social services for the homeless. And it spends the most on housing for the homeless, and they have the worst outcomes. So when I asked my Dutch friend, Renee, I was like, What is it and he was like, Look, man, he’s like, you’ve got to have a carrot and a stick in every single interaction with people that are breaking the law and are addicted to hard drugs or suffering a psychiatric condition. And what you’ve done in San Francisco is you got rid of all stick. It’s just carrots.
Robert Bryce 48:00
So So lollipops all rewards all the time. And yeah, no threat of incarceration or
Michael Shellenberger 48:07
nothing. So it’s like the people blame the cops, but it’s not the cops fault, the DA won’t prosecute. And even the law itself has been so reduced that you can have three grams of fentanyl, which is more than you need for a very long time, you know, three grams of that stuff on you and you’re not in you. You can’t be charged under our laws. So, you know, it’s very
Robert Bryce 48:30
friend of your former colleague, Mark Nelson, he moved to Chicago. I’ve talked to him many times about this. I said, Why did you leave San Francisco, he said it was an open air drug market right outside my apartment building. It was terrible. There was waste there people living everywhere. He said I couldn’t stay there was down eight a week. My wife is afraid to go outside when we you know, it’s just yeah, that that that fear of that’s a degradation. So maybe you didn’t overstate it then and just this is the decline of our society. Sorry, the human civilization of civilization, the destruction? Well, because I mean, it’s, it’s undermining the fabric of our, if you’re degrade that it starts in the parks, if you lose the parks, then you know, where is that public sphere? Where’s that sense of? It’s an interesting idea, because I think of libraries. I love libraries as those public spaces, right, that they’re important that we maintain them as part of our kind of common identity. But you’re so well, you’re clearly excited about San Francisco. Well, I’m gonna ask you, it’s not even out yet. So you got another book already. You’re thinking about? Is this already started you thinking on the next project? Or is it the next project for you is, I think you’re you’re going to spend a lot of time selling, selling these books. And not that you don’t want to sell a book, but you’re an evangelist for a couple of really key messages in terms of how we think about the as Jesse osobowe. The program for the human environment, that that’s you’re following in his steps, but you’re talking about both the physical environment and the human investment. What are we going to do to Yeah, you’re saying we need to save ourselves, and I’m really getting ahead of myself, maybe, but it’s what you see. To be saying in both both these books that these are your, your messages to the world, we got to see the world clearly genocide, solar genocide panels, holy crap. I mean, it’s that it’s a reflection that you’re showing on on the society in which you live, which is your job. So that’s cool. How you think about yourself is what do you say environmental activist, energy analyst analyst? Yeah. Yeah. Don’t call yourself an expert experts from out of town. You don’t want to do that?
Michael Shellenberger 50:31
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think I’m trying to defend civilization. And I’m trying to defend the basis of civilization because because, like I said, I love human freedom. I love flourishing. I want I want to have more freedom, more flourishing. But that requires civilization, you don’t get this level of freedom and prosperity without having a civilization and that means that you need electricity that’s cheap and reliable. You need transportation systems that work, you need Publix, you need public places that are safe, it needs to be safe to be in cities, when you know, apocalypse never is gonna last kind of what is the connection? cities are absolutely essential to human progress and environmental progress. So if you don’t have functioning cities, if people do not feel safe in cities, if it feels like
Robert Bryce 51:24
you are no longer for you, and if you don’t have civilization, you don’t have human flourishing.
Michael Shellenberger 51:28
Yeah, forget about it. Forget about it, you have to have that it’s not a negotiable thing. And so it says
Robert Bryce 51:34
that are clean and functioning. Yeah. And that, that have that. I mean, it’s one of the one of the things we are, you know, in juice that I’ve talked about when we you know, went to New York and interviewed Jesse also, Bill, you make the point about that very thing and cities that that, you know, the done was just unbelievable how messy it was, if we wanted to get the shit out of our streets. Hell, yeah. Well, but now you’re saying it’s not. It’s not a horse dung anymore. It’s human human waste. That I mean,
Michael Shellenberger 51:58
it’s such a manipulation of our sympathies. I mean, I think part of it was part of what’s occurred is that some progressives have suggested that it’s wrong for us to be concerned about the loss of our parks and sidewalks, because the people that are taking them over are suffering. And it’s true, they are suffering and they are sick. But the best treatment of them is not to leave them in the parks and sidewalks, they need to get into drug treatment, they need to get psychiatric care, they need to be how they need to be helped to get a job to live independent lives, those that can those that are seriously mentally ill may need lifelong care. But either way, this this demand that we sacrifice our civilization, to it out of sympathy for sick people is completely inappropriate. It’s a total manipulation of our genuine compassion and care and concern which we all have for sick people, for sick, desperate people, you know, isn’t this is not a poverty problem. You know, this is not caused by poverty. Yes, once you become homeless and addicted, you’re poor, but it’s not caused by poverty. It’s actually caused by wealth. It’s caused by the changes in us by becoming wealthy, becoming soft, becoming so it’s so exaggeratedly compassionate that we will give up on all the other things that matter to our civilization, including our public spaces. So we need to rebalance you know, those
Robert Bryce 53:33
the wealth has led us to agree to sacrifice these other what would be the common goods and the common spaces.
Michael Shellenberger 53:39
And to redefine I borrow from the great psychologist Jonathan Hite. He argues that that we have a we have multiple things that we value, one of them is care but also loyalty, sanctity authority. And so what’s occurred is that we’ve become more loyal. We become loyal to continuing addiction and sickness rather than loyal to the potential of the people that we’re leaving on the streets, and loyal to our cities. So, you know, I think cities are sacred. I think people are sacred, you know, I think I think we should we do not, you do not let people that are mentally ill die on the street from lack of treatment or and treatment and many of the situations includes mandatory care. So what’s been it’s been a manipulation? I think it’s very destructive. It’s ideologically driven. You know, it’s, it’s a manipulation of our feelings. I think we can overcome it, but it’s hard. You know, America is such a disaffiliated country compared to the Netherlands or compared to Japan, which have a much more intact culture.
Robert Bryce 54:51
Let me let me let me follow on that because that was something I was talking about. In fact, on a call this morning about this. I hesitate to use the culture war. It’s not the exact right phrase, but there’s these divisions that you’re talking about this in the United States that seem like they’re only getting deeper. It’s left, right. It’s urban, rural. It’s it’s, you know, obviously the George Floyd issue and divisions on racial grounds on. But I think you’re talking to what is a broader idea about what is American identity and trying to find a uniting? Is that a fair way to think about it, because you say he can’t leave it to the counties, the state has to have a stronger hand because of the the the mobility of the people that are that are in in in that need to be touched by government to get to recover the civilization. Is that is that fair? I mean, yeah. There’s divisions and how, how we need some kind of common, common vision of what we want to be. That’s right.
Michael Shellenberger 55:49
Yeah, I mean, it sort of goes, you have to have in order to have freedom, you have to have civilization to have freedom and flourishing. To have order and civilization, you need to take responsibility. And so at a more basic level, what I document in the book is a breakdown of civilization. at every level, I’m sorry, I have a breakdown of responsibility or rejection of responsibility at every level, individual social, different levels of government, basically an abdication of responsibility. So we need to take responsibility. And then just in terms of institutions and sort of real estate theology, we need to move beyond what is a neoliberal I’m sorry to use so much jargon, but a neoliberal social services provision model, which is the way that counties subcontract with nonprofit service providers. I don’t think that I think what happens in that is it’s a breakdown of accountability. So you’re a nonprofit applying for a grant from the county to serve people with schizophrenia, but you don’t have the authority or the accountability to actually get people off the streets. It needs to come back. So we need we do need so this is a I interview a lot of conservatives and libertarians to the end because this is the part that will be more difficult for I think libertarians and and folks that don’t want to see government. They don’t want to see new government agency for understandable reasons. But the case I make is that this sub the neoliberal model of subcontracting out essential Human Services, essential health service, psychiatric care, addiction, subcontracted out is doomed to failure, because nobody’s taking responsibility, this guy on
Robert Bryce 57:26
it has to be a government service as the fire department of the police department, it has to be something that the government owns and controls and manages itself.
Michael Shellenberger 57:34
You that You said it perfectly calcite would be like the police department,
Robert Bryce 57:39
right? That doesn’t mean you never it’d be back. But let me Yeah. So that’s it. I’m looking forward to seeing the book and congratulations on getting to the proofs. But I want to bring it back to one other thing because you’re talking about the destruction of civilization. I want to bring it back to that we’ve got a little more time before we at an hour. But the grid the electric grid is the commons, the electric grid as a common space and the fragile. Dr. Chris Kiefer. In his decoupled podcasts, he calls it the fragile zation of the grid, which I think is a really good term. And Meredith, England talks about the fatal trifecta too much dependence on renewables, natural gas and, and imports, right, we’re going to get it from somewhere else, that this abdication of the grid is also I think that’s something that worries me in terms of the civilization, because again, it’s a situation where the grid itself is not being owned by anyone. We saw this now in California and Texas. And so I mean, it’s a point that you talk about an apocalypse never is, let me ask you about California and the grid there, are they going to wake up and understand what the importance of the monkeying around that’s happening with the electric grid there? Were you hopeful on that site and that side of things?
Michael Shellenberger 58:44
Well, yeah, let me let me address the first issue. Okay. You really, you made a very profound connection. So I haven’t even really started only dealing with you really, that I haven’t started to fully theorize the ways in which a pocket is never in San Francisco, what they have in common, but you just nailed one of it, which is that the electrical grid is the basis of civilization. It is not an option anymore. You have to have it
Robert Bryce 59:09
and we’re monkeying with it willy nilly. Oh, let’s do a battery here. And another thing and we’ll shut down the nuclear plants and and without any understanding, I have to interrupt myself here. You ran mf pinnies you distributed emit pinnies fantastic article, I thought, Oh, damn, I wish I’d written that one. That is fantastic. That idea of nuclear power is our industrial cathedrals. I mean, I chills I was thinking about it, because me too. Yes, true. And he just nailed this concept of understanding the grid and the nuclear power as the ultimate, the apogee of civilization what we’re trying to do together, and yet they’re being shuttered willy nilly, which just makes me crazy.
Michael Shellenberger 59:48
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s a parallel so we so I, now it’s really clear. We shut down all of our mental hospitals. Then we subcontracted out To nonprofit service providers, we shut down our nuclear plants we subcontract out to renewable energy. So who’s responsible for keeping the electricity going in Texas and California?
Robert Bryce 1:00:12
Well, they know what the buck doesn’t stop anywhere. And that’s what’s happening. And that’s what’s clear. Now in the wake of the market meltdown, in which the grid here came within that much, I mean, eight minutes of total shutdown, where we would have had a mass casualty event with hundreds of 1000s of people potentially freezing to death. And yet, there’s no the buck doesn’t stop anywhere. And it’s the same in California as well, because it’s a misunderstanding of the mother network. And it’s important to the civilization. And I think it’s almost criminal, how it’s happening. And it it makes me crazy, because it’s deeply worrying that in this, oh, we’re gonna make it all private, and we’re gonna sell electricity as a commodity. Well, no. It’s like what you’re saying the government has to own that somehow, some way and have some accountability. It’s not happening. Yeah, that’s right. So I think that what’s happening globally, I took you off the puppet there. I just got on No, no, no, no, I
Michael Shellenberger 1:01:05
mean, it’s like I think we are I mean, I don’t mean to sound I don’t want to sound too grandiose. But I do think that the neoliberal era is coming to an end, because the contradictions in it are so severe, that we are going to go into a new era of more limited and direct government where there’s direct provision, but there’s fewer middlemen, and there’s fewer rent seekers, there’s fewer parasites that what is common to both what’s happening literacy groups to God’s ears,
Robert Bryce 1:01:31
right. That’s because that’s what we’ve seen is the rent seeking particularly on the energy front is rampant. I mean, just ramp it look at the last bill that went through Congress, longest bill legislation ever passed by Congress, almost 6000 pages, who read it, nobody little nibbles in there for every kind of rent seeking of all kinds from carbon capture to wind to solar to you name it. Ethanol, biomass, you know, you know, it craziness that does nothing to increase our resilience, reliability, affordability, fuel, diversity, all the things that should matter if we really understand the importance of this fuel for the civilization. So I run on board with you about this undermining the degrading of the human civilization. It’s the network that’s getting degraded at the same time, which worries me.
Michael Shellenberger 1:02:17
Yeah, you got it. Yeah, I mean, that’s, it’s, it’s sort of a podcast. Yeah, I mean, it’s a similar sort of parasitical nature of this model. But yeah, it’s like an irresponsible model. It’s a model that’s aimed at divesting different actors in the system from responsibility. You know, I mean, the regulated utility model. I mean, I’m sorry, I just kind of go I don’t know what, we haven’t gotten better than that, like the regulator utility model. Look, do the regulator’s get captured. Yeah. But at least they keep the electricity on, you know, it’s like, I would rather have that level of corruption. Because you know, like, every p you see in the country is sort of corrupt. But there’s a capability, but there’s like, yeah, you use these job to make sure that they have bought enough power, whereas in California and Texas, it was like, Well, I don’t know. I mean, maybe
Robert Bryce 1:03:12
you ask them, and then the gas guys blame the electric guys and the wind. Oh, well, it’s, oh, gee, well, he spent $66 billion on wind and solar in Texas before the blackouts. But don’t blame us. We it’s not our fault. You know, it’s a bunch of one else. And meanwhile, going back to your point about California, and you’ve documented this, you and Mark Nelson documenting the increase in electricity prices in California, which is fundamental to the economy and is most regressive to the low and middle income consumers, particularly in areas that aren’t on the coast in California. So you set up this incredibly regressive system on energy and housing. And that’s why I asked that question about the future of California because it from where I sit, you know, looking at all the people moving here from California for Tim Austin in particular. I mean, the structural problems the state is facing is really a really daunting, I’ll use that word. Absolutely. So Well, anyway, that’s that’s a long comment. Let me let me we’ve been talking about an hour Mike on I don’t want to keep him on much longer. But
Michael Shellenberger 1:04:11
I have to unfortunately, I have another I was able to put off my next call for 10 minutes, but I should probably jump on a few.
Robert Bryce 1:04:17
Last thing. Her last two things. What are you reading?
Michael Shellenberger 1:04:20
Oh, I am reading. I’ve never I had never read the rise and fall of the third. Right. So that’s my fun reading. Twist. That’s interesting stuff right there. Yeah, I’m reading that. And honestly, I’m reading a lot about UFOs right now because it’s in the news. And I think it’s a really fascinating subject I’ve always been interested in and I’m, I’m trying to make sense of it. So that’s what I’m doing for fun. I mean, literally, it’s those are my escape books. After spending, you know, a couple of years on some really dark questions of addiction and mental illness and, and homelessness.
Robert Bryce 1:04:56
The UFO stuff is it’s pretty amazing. And these, you know, These Navy pilots they’re not you know, they’re they’re pretty yeah you can amazing not not some whack jobs. Okay last night. It’s been it’s been great to catch up what gives you hope?
Michael Shellenberger 1:05:13
I mean, honestly, it’s the fragmentation of the media gives me hope. You know, the rise of podcasts, you know, the fact that you’re a media Producer substack I’m part of the substack revolution now I’m actually able to earn a living on substack
Robert Bryce 1:05:30
Can you tell me just briefly about well, so you’re not really writing for Forbes? you substack your home now?
Michael Shellenberger 1:05:35
I am. I am cross posting still. But I want to I want to I want to be on substack i i think that journalists it’s it’s interesting to me that journalists that mainstream media outlets are the biggest advocates for censorship. And so what I like I am excited about the destruction of old media. I’m excited about the rise of new media. I see a lot of exciting voices that are not easy to classify on left and right people like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi and Barry Weiss and Cole as the podcast the Coleman Hughes and I’m going to do Jordan Peterson. You know, these are people that sometimes are viewed as conservative, but certainly Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, are former socialists or are socialists. And it’s not a thing anymore of like, tell me where you sit on the left right spectrum. It’s more like let’s talk about a real issue together and stop trying to be such tribal lists. And I find that really inspiring.
Robert Bryce 1:06:32
Well, that’s great. Well, let’s stop there. Michael is great to catch up with you. You know, congratulations. Thank you, man. Sincerely on your success. I mean, I you know, you made me a little jelly that I’m in live, it’s okay.
Michael Shellenberger 1:06:43
Oh, well. I appreciate your kind words so much. And I’m really looking forward to getting together again after the panel. I mean, now the pandemics can be that don’t add. Let’s get our person.
Robert Bryce 1:06:51
Yeah, yeah, I’m vaccinated. So anyway, great. And you all know where to find Michael Shellenberger. He’s the author, author of Apocalypse, apocalypse never. He’s the founder president of environmental progress. his new book is going to be a samurai in San Francisco, which will be out in October. Michael, thanks a million for being on the power hungry podcast. great seeing you, Robert. And thanks to all of you in podcast land. Tune in next time for the power hungry podcast. Until then, see ya.