LAST Wednesday, in a blaze of unremittingly fawning publicity and uncritical adulation of which even Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments would have been envious, the good ship Mazilia – or, as I prefer to call it in view of its almost quasi-religious mission, ‘Greta’s Ark’ – set sail from Plymouth bound for New York, carrying no less a personage, if you believe the Green hype, than putative Saviour of the World, diminutive, pigtailed ‘climate activist’ Greta Thunberg, aged 16.
There’s much about this stunt and its main protagonist to mock. But just for the purposes of this article, ignore for a moment both the grotesque cynicism of egregiously exploiting a clearly troubled and vulnerable child to advance an eco-totalitarian political agenda, and the incongruity that few of us can whistle up a $4million, 18-metre (60ft) yacht from Prince Albert of Monaco to cross the Atlantic to assuage our enviro-guilt, and consider just one question.
Precisely how green is the Blessed Greta’s planet-saving maritime odyssey?
Initially, let’s hopefully forestall any potential criticism for mixing up the terminology. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an invisible, colourless, odourless 0.04 per cent trace gas essential to all plant life on Earth – though that, apparently, has not stopped Greta’s mother, a well-known Left-‘Liberal’ activist called Marlena Ernman, from saying her daughter can see it. Truly do the righteous have bestowed upon them gifts denied to the rest of us.
Carbon (C) on the other hand, is the predominant element in coal. Which is why the Green movement always uses the language of ‘carbon’-footprint or ‘carbon’-free, when they actually mean CO2. Because in the public mind, carbon is nasty black stuff, isn’t it, while wanting, on spurious scientific grounds, to reduce the Earth’s capacity for plant and crop growth perhaps isn’t a good look.
First, how did Greta get to Plymouth? On foot? By bike? On a magic carpet borne aloft by unicorns? Or perhaps, more prosaically, not by ‘carbon’-free means at all, but by using the same fossil-fuel powered transport that we’re enjoined to eschew on pain of eternal eco-damnation?
Next, Greta’s Ark required the assistance of other vessels to undock her and tow her out of Plymouth. Oddly, this was not accomplished by several longboats manned by brawny matelots lustily belting out a traditional sea-shanty, but by a couple of RIBs. They may have electric engines, but ‘carbon’-free their production ain’t.
Let’s look at the supposedly ‘zero-emissions’, ‘carbon’-free yacht itself. It’s built of carbon fibre. (Remember, we sceptics aren’t the ones who started the misuse of scientific terminology for political effect.) Now, the production process for building a carbon-fibre yacht is estimated to be around 14 times as energy-intensive, and thus in ‘carbon’, i.e. CO2, emissions, as that for building one of equivalent length in steel. Not only that. The epoxy resins used in the construction of Greta’s Ark are different and are all organic materials made from petroleum and significant amounts of natural gas.
Some intriguing revelations about the crewing arrangements emerged soon after departure. It turns out that the three westbound crossing crew will be flying back from New York to Europe, while the replacement crew of five will be flying from Europe to New York for the return passage.
Greta's boat trip to the US might emit 6x a flight, because the 5 people taking the boat back will fly over to NYC https://t.co/6tiHcEz7It
— Bjorn Lomborg (@BjornLomborg) August 16, 2019
So that’s three transatlantic flights for Greta’s Ark westbound crew to return from New York, plus five more for its replacement eastbound crew to get to New York. I’m guessing those flights won’t be in Economy, either. What’s their ‘carbon’-footprint? Why can’t she just fly to New York with her father? Or even address the United Nations via Skype?
Even though this eco-boondoggle has its own website on which the yacht’s progress can be tracked, some of us prefer to access more independent sources of information. So it was some surprise to see that, last Friday, on the Marine Traffic website, it appeared that the yacht’s position had stopped being reported at 0132 BST on Thursday morning, a mere 9½ hours after leaving Plymouth, and still identifiably in the English Channel Western Approaches.
Which at the time struck me as slightly odd; as did the fact that, as far as I know – and I’ll happily stand corrected if wrong – there were no news broadcasts from the air filming the yacht at sea. Given the obsequious near-24/7 coverage pre-departure, I mused, wouldn’t one have expected at least Sky News and the BBC to have arranged that, when the yacht was still only about 1½ to 2 hours flying time at most from either Cornwall or Brittany?
Fast forward to Saturday, and a possible answer, with a picture transmitted from Greta’s Ark itself. Look closely at the right-hand image.
So yesterday Greta Thunberg shared her boat's position (first pic) and tweeted a photo (second pic). Given the position, what is that in the background? There have been unproven rumours of a powered chase boat. Any thoughts? Seems rather close. pic.twitter.com/sd2cGMy48W
— Tony Roberts (@T_Roberts2019) August 17, 2019
What’s that in the top right-hand corner? Why, yes, it looks for all the world like a chase boat. Is this the way she’s being ‘accompanied by her father Svante Thunberg and filmmaker Nathan Grossman’? If so, that looks distinctly fossil-fuel powered.
Add all these up – the construction, the crew flights, the possibility, though denied, of a chase boat – and suddenly this venture doesn’t look anything like as green as it’s made out to be. But in this inversion of the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes, we aren’t allowed to say so.
This entire eco-stunt, the sacerdotal reverence with which it’s being treated, and the invective heaped on those who dare challenge it, is in many ways an ideal metaphor for how deep-Green ideology has now acquired all the characteristics of a religious cult.
Like other pre-Enlightenment belief systems, it posits a prelapsarian state of grace, a pristine, innocent, nature-harmonious Rousseau-ean past which has been corrupted by modernity, industrialisation and capitalism, notwithstanding their having wrought in just 250 years an improvement in the human condition unprecedented in previous millennia.
It holds that the restoration of environmental equilibrium, the reversal of Man’s Fall from the Garden of Eden, requires above all sacrifice and submission to an elite, who will dispense indulgences – aka ‘carbon’-credits – while intolerantly silencing and excommunicating the heretics.
If the contradictions behind the Odyssey of the Greta’s Ark help more people to see that more clearly, then it may yet prove beneficial. Though mercifully not in the way it intends.