THE CULT OF SELF: $pirituality, climate change, the denialists, & the fun, fun conspiracy theorists

“…the new age which should be addressing the major forms of this crisis is in fact selling Kool-Aid and drugs of stupidity and fake happiness at a time when people really need to be shaken awake”

–  Andrew Harvey, former Religious Studies Professor at Oxford University and mystical scholar

For anyone concerned about climate change, and the environmental and social crises that are now facing the planet, it is helpful to observe which groups and individuals embrace environmental protection and activism, which ones oppose action, and which ones are conspicuously passive. Other than political leaders, celebrities, organisations and grass roots groups, I am particularly interested in the role of the so-called “New Age”.

Although vehemently non-religious, secular, I have a strong universal mindset and respect for authentic spiritual wisdom and mysticism (as you might have guessed if you read my last post). I have for a long time been hugely pissed off by new-agey philosophies and charlatans that encourage and sell a selfish, self-serving form of wish-fulfilment and magical thinking. An irresponsible faux spirituality that is centred entirely on the SELF, on meeting ones own individual desires, and that, in terms of aims and focus, has more in common with the materialism of some Conservative Christian evangelical movements than any authentic desire to, you know, be a good person, and help others. It’s lazy, convenient, and perfect for our consumer culture.

And our consumer culture is one of the main factors that has lead to the environmental crises we now face. And one of the reasons it will continue to be difficult to motivate and inspire real substantive action on climate change. Real action would require a radical change in our lifestyles. It would require us to question the economic system/values that underpin our entire global system.

How many of us are really willing or ready to do that? I must ask myself this question, too – how much would I be willing to sacrifice to ensure the future of us all? Would I be willing to give up all the material comforts we collectively take for granted now in our industrialised society? Change my life/lifestyle?

The question is not an easy one… politicians know this, and seldom ask it of us. Protection of the status quo, jobs, and help with the electricity bills is much easier to sell to a voting public – understandably. Many struggle to make ends meet. I know others who live comfortably but would like to believe that using a calico bag and environmentally-friendly toilet detergent alone constitutes doing your part for the environment. Never mind the massive amounts of CO2 expended by industry to produce our food, our clothing (mostly excess clothing), and virtually everything we use. Then there is the energy expended to transport those goods to us in urban centres. Or indeed, to transport ourselves – air travel produces large amounts of emissions, as do cars and other motor vehicles.

And that food we do buy? We’re wasting alot of it – 7.5 million tonnes of food is dumped every year in Australia. Most of that is from households, and 3.12 million tonnes is from commercial and industrial sources. Setting aside the millions of people who are starving right now… think of how much CO2 would have been expended to produce that food. Food that ended up in the bin.

Everything is pretty fucked up.


The connection between consumer culture, capitalism, industrialisation and the multifaceted environmental crisis we are now facing is one of the reasons the climate change issue is so vigorously opposed by right wingers. Indeed, some of the more extreme opposition to climate change action is rooted not in genuine scepticism about the validity of the science, but in ideological fears about socialism and “redistributing the wealth” through taxes introduced under the guise of environmental protection. Some of the fringier elements of the group I will refer to as climate change denialists genuinely believe that the climate change issue itself is a ploy being used by socialists and commies to attempt to bring down the capitalistic system, and undermine the achievements of the West.

The problem is, there are genuine, substantiated links between a vast array of environment issues and the lifestyles of all of us here in the western world – all of us living in capitalistic societies. I am not a socialist by any stretch of the imagination… In so many ways I believe in individualism. but the fact of the matter is that the lifestyles of Industrialised and industrialising countries are simply unsustainable.

Early last year, Clive Hamilton wrote a provocative 5-part series called Bullying, lies and the rise of right-wing climate denial, published on the ABC’s The Drum website. He covered the following:

Part 1: Climate cyber-bullying

Part 2: Who is orchestrating the cyber-bullying?

Part 3: Think tanks, oil money and black ops

Part 4: Manufacturing a scientific scandal

Part 5: Who’s defending science?

Here is a .pdf compilation of that series:

As someone with no political party or strong ideological affiliation, just a humble layman nobody interested in doing the right thing by the world and others, I find the politicising of the climate change/environmental protection issue incredibly saddening and frustrating (albeit not surprising).


On a lighter note (sort of): remember the Tea Bagger Lawn Party Anti Carbon Price protest in Canberra last month, which made headlines because Opposition Leader Tony Abbott allowed a few offensive placard-holding civilians (aka “fine people”) to stand behind him whilst he delivered a speech on camera?

One of the offending protest signs spotted that day said this:

Say no to carbon tax 4 UN/IMF Global Gov = Agenda 21 Genocide

Ah, the ‘ol world government Armageddon conspiracy theory. As old as the Semitic religions, I believe. All this talk of Armageddon over the last week  reminded me of this particular strand of crazy.

As you might know, Agenda 21 was the outcome of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). It is essentially a blueprint for sustainable development into the 21st Century (that’s what the 21 stands for), a wide-ranging plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations and Governments in every area in which humans impact on the environment. Agreed to by over 178 governments, at its core are the ideas that the main driving forces of climate change are social, that poverty needs to be eradicated through sustainable development, and that global cooperation is necessary in order to ensure our future. Agenda 21 apparently articulates, among other things:

  • That population, technology and consumption are the primary driving forces of environmental change;
  • The things that need to be done to change wasteful and inefficient consumption patterns in some parts of the world;
  • How sustainable development should be championed in other parts of the world;
  • Policies and programs that would help get the balance right between consumption, population, and the environment’s capacity to support human  life;
  • What role governments, businesses, groups, and individuals can play in eradicating poverty and greening our economies (governments are called upon to lead the change towards a sustainable future).

But the conspiracy theorists believe that the real Agenda 21 is the control of the world by an elite group, who’s agenda is to impose a new world order and world pagan religion, and to reduce the planets population by 85% by force in the name of environmental protection. They believe many of their freedoms have already been removed from them in the name of environmental protection, and that governments are using it in order to grab their land, do away with private ownership of property and individual rights, corral them into ghettos and turn them into slaves.

This passage is one of many that are cited as proof by the conspiracy theorists that Agenda 21 is really about removing the sanctity of life so that ‘they’ (the people behind the conspiracy) can kill the old, the infirmed, etc.

“All biological life has natural cycles of birth and death, and we should learn to accept these natural cycles and teach people that saving lives at birth or extending life at our times end is non-sustainable”.

People oppose environmentalism and climate change action for many reasons… some economic, some political, some utterly eccentric… 


It’s funny to me that the conspiracy theory above is so suspicious of pagans and the New Age. Particularly as so many new age-y teachers and gurus are teaching and encouraging a selfish use of metaphysical philosophy that focuses entirely on self-fulfilment and self-aggrandisement… and MONEY. Which brings me back to the quote I used to open this post:

“…the new age which should be addressing the major forms of this crisis is in fact selling Kool-Aid and drugs of stupidity and fake happiness at a time when people really need to be shaken awake”

Andrew Harvey, who said this, is a mystic and scholar. I respect the dude for one reason: he extols the concept of Sacred Activism – the idea that mystical awakening is absolutely useless if it does not eventually lead to action.

Unlike many prominent agnostics and atheists (many of whom I totally admire), I think there is a place for some forms of mysticism and spirituality in society. There certainly is in my own life. I celebrate and welcome anyone – atheist, believer, otherwise – who emphasises the common threads that link all humanity together… for better or for worse. Friends of mine who are spiritual are some of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Truly.

But I’m inclined to judge any “teacher” these days on how much of a vested interest they have on things not changing at all, the irresponsible passivity of their followers, and how much they love MONEY.

Faux $pirituality is a big industry, after all.


Here is a clip that still amuses me – from the late George Carlin. Extremely misanthropic (much of his comedy was) and not for sensitive souls. Watch for the golden line: “The planet is fine! The PEOPLE are fucked! Difference.” From then on it’s epic.

“pack your shit folks, we’re going away…” (and yes, I appreciate the irony of me linking this after the post I just wrote 🙂 )


2 Comments on “THE CULT OF SELF: $pirituality, climate change, the denialists, & the fun, fun conspiracy theorists”

  1. deb says:

    thanks P (and always love george carlin!). i for one would be happy to pay from my hip pocket, a higher tax, whatver they decide…ets, or carbon tax or whatever, cos i reckon we dont value the right things the right way. so if money makes people revalue things (and it will if they have to pay) lets do it so that we pay not just the manufacturing cost, or the material cost but the environmental cost of what we consume. and politicians show no leadership for long term decisions when we have short term parliaments. the mayans apparently used to plan, and make decisions in 53 yr cycles…3 or 4 generations hence. we shoulda been thinking and acting about this stuff long before now. yep, people are fucked. hope the planet will be ok for another round!

  2. pjvetuna says:

    That’s the first time I’ve ever heard about that Mayan thing! And I agree: we don’t value the right things…

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