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How to Blow up a Pipeline

Emmet Penny

Monday, May 8, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

What's up everybody? Welcome back to oh nine


Welcome back to decouple 321 All that stuff. I usually do Emmet. It is wonderful having you back. It's been far too long. Thank you for making the digital pilgrimage.


Emmet Penney  0:16  

Yeah, I feel like I should be introducing you ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Chris Keefer, the maple leaf kid, the Canadian conqueror, the man who is so large and in charge and if you walk in on him with your lights, or with your wife, you shut the lights off and apologize. Who how's it going? Dude, Canada has flipped, it must feel great.


Chris Keefer  0:37  

I need you as my height man. The crazy thing is that we have rumble young man rumble we have never met in the three dimensions, that's gonna change. I think we're both going to the breakthrough dialogues. That's right. So I'm really excited for that. But you know enough of enough of this banter, which is always fun for us, and probably a little boring for the guests. maybe with the exception of the kind of enthusiasm you're bringing here. I love it. But Emmet, you have been on the podcast, but it's been a while you are the host of the nuclear barbarians podcast. You're really prolific writer commentary. I want to just say it, I think you're an intellectual Abro. And in terms of, you know, having this this harkening back like hundreds of years to a classical education where people like read and studied Greek and Latin and you know, the classics. I don't know if you if you've read Greek or Latin, but you certainly have this kind of basic basis in classical history, classical literature. And what I find fascinating about your writing is I think it brings this, these layers to it without it going over anybody's head. So huge props in what you do. Just give us like the Coles notes on the latest things you've been up to. And then we are going to dive into the topic of this podcast. How to blow up a pipeline, we're not talking about Nord Stream. We're not talking Seymour Hersh Sy Hersh here, we got something much more weird and wonderful and wild for you. But first off, yeah, just give us a quick little update on what's new and pennilyn.


Emmet Penney  2:01  

Yeah, I mean, I'm still the editor in chief of grip reef. So if people want curated daily energy news for free, they can go sign up there, grid brief.com. As you said, I'm at the Nuclear barbarian sub to stack that should be easy to find. You can find all the stuff on my website, Emmet penney.com. And, yeah, I'm a contributing editor at compact magazine. And that's where I published this piece that we're about to talk about. So that's pretty much what's going on with me.


Chris Keefer  2:29  

Right on right on. So indeed, this piece, you know, we had talked in the past about doing an episode on this thinker, Andreas mom, who is I'm not sure if he's using the humanities, I would guess, given.


Emmet Penney  2:43  

He's in a very unrigged RIS subfield of geography, which is I think part of what has allowed him to rise to the top and stand out is that there just really aren't a lot of barriers because there's not, at least this is what I heard from a geographer, fret. So


Chris Keefer  3:02  

yeah, yeah. So we talked about covering this guy's thoughts. I think it was an article in which he was saying that the ideal political system to respond to climate change was actually war communism, harkening back to the very early days of the Russian Revolution, extreme rationing, extreme direction of the means of production. Not a not a beautiful time. For my, you know, week grasp of history. And you know, I asked you to come on and talk about it, you're like, listen, like, I don't even want to put any, you know, what, on the fire here, I don't want to light a candle in that dark echo chamber. So let's just let it go. And, you know, I was a bit disappointed because I have a weird fascination with it. We both have a bit of a background on the on the political left, and I'm still intrigued by what's what's happening over there as they watch it distort itself and alienate itself further and further. You know, as I tweeted today about just thinking about, you know, Marx's theories of alienation, alienation from the products, alienation from maybe not liking to work with a machine and the machine imposing itself on how you work, but now it's like the left is just alienated from production entirely. You know, as as jumped ship from the factory floor to, to the academy to the lecture hall. So anyway, I think we are kind of forced to now engage with Andreas mom and his ilk, because inspired by his same title book, How to blow up a pipeline, we now have a major major motion picture. I'm not sure how well it's doing at the box office. But you you watched it and wrote a brilliant, brilliant review of it. I have been trying to stream that thing everywhere, couldn't find it. I've had a lot of stuff going on personally haven't able to go to the movie theater to watch it. So anyway, we're going to talk about your review. And maybe it's a good thing. I haven't watched it because I won't bring such strong opinions to it. But let's, let's jump on in. Maybe just give us an overview of what this movie is about. Not Nordstrom. Yeah, so.


Emmet Penney  4:52  

So the movie is called how to blow up a pipeline. It is premised on a A sort of apology for eco terrorism that Andreas mom wrote a couple years ago of the same title. For some reason, he seems to think in the book that if there's enough like stochastic sabotage against the fossil fuel industry, that it will make the price of oil, untenable high, and also dissuade people from investing in it. And so that should be sort of like the excuse me, the terroristic Vanguard for eco Leninism, I guess. And the so the main woman who plays a character is Oh, Sheetal. And this, read the book with I think, the director, whose last name was gold Haber, like in deep in the quarantine parts of COVID. And they decided to write this movie about a sort of motley crew of people that all get together to blow up a pipeline in the Permian Basin, for their own reasons, to sort of like literalized, what mom was gesturing towards, and just a sort of, like, give people people might be wondering, like, oh, how was this book by mom received? And I mean, he got, I think, a very flattering interview in the New Yorker with it, I think, as recline even spoke highly of this book. So it ended up getting way more do than I expected. I think part of that also has to do with the fact that this discussion was happening around 2020, the summer of 2020, in America, where NPR was also favorably reviewing books called in defensive looting. And there seemed to be like an overall agreement that the rule of law didn't really matter if you had the right feelings inside your heart. And so I think, you know, maybe people have some like, buyer's remorse. Now, having come out of that, like fever dream of a year or a couple of years, but I haven't seen it if that's true based on the other reviews I've read, which seem to be like both aesthetically, and morally, very on board with what the film has to offer. And so the premise of the film sort of works like this, right, you have a bunch of different characters from all different walks of life. You have XO, Cheetos, or the ringleader, and her best friend Theo, both of them grew up in a refinery town in Southern California. And Theo has a rare form of leukemia that can be like contracted, I guess, living near a refinery town. So she goes mother dies in a freak heatwave in California, which is brought on by climate change. You have like the white noise of the news pop in and out and sort of Stoke environmental catastrophism like all weather is climate change, right is basically sort of the premise of the film, at least in the background. And then you have these other characters like Sean who is a in college was though Cheadle when she gets back from her mother's funeral. And they have they're doing like a divest campaign on campus. And both she and Sean are like, this is stupid. And this air very arrogant white guy is like, well, it's a big system, like it's gonna take a while to change. And they're basically like, fuck that, like, we need to, like, take this into our own hands. And so they make a plot to find people to help them do the sabotage in Texas. And that means bringing in Theo, so she can get revenge for the Leukemia that she's had. Which by the way, she can't afford the meds too. So one of the things that sort of like unclear is like why fossil fuels are the real villain and not like the healthcare system, considering there does seem to be like some course of treatment that she could ostensibly have access to. But that's never really brought up. One of the only critical voices of what they're about to do with this act of terrorism they're about to commit is Theo's girlfriend, Alicia, who is a working class black woman from LA that cleans houses. And then you have Logan and his girlfriend, Rohan, and they're sort of like the punk white kids. And Rohan is something of a double agent. Spoiler alert. She is sort of the person that you're not sure if she's working for the FBI or not throughout the film, and then you have who I think is the most interesting character, which is forced Good luck character of Michael, whose indigenous lives in the Dakotas gets in fistfights with have guys that are fracking there. And it's just really, really angry and has like this unapologetic nihilistic violent streak, I should say that like, forest good Lux performance is like head and shoulders above his peers. And the film only been about that character, I probably wouldn't have written this review, because it would have been an actually interesting film. But the emotional conceit of the film is that these people have been wounded in some way. And so now they get to do whatever they want, and you're supposed to cheer them on. And one of those things is Blokhin pipeline. And the thing that's been so great for most film reviewers about this film is that it reviews its ethical conundrums. Like for you, they have like incredibly stilted dorm room bong rip debates about the merits of nonviolent or violent action, which are all like quickly, like dismissed, it's sort of like those are just there for show so that you can sort of say you did them, and they don't bring up any real enduring tensions in the group. You know, nobody's made really uncomfortable like Alicia, who vote voices, the most criticism, and seems to be copped on is only there because she loves to do so much. And who gets her leg shattered. As they're trying to like, tie a bomb to part of the pipeline, it seems to bring up like literally no tension between these people. So like, emotionally, the movie doesn't make sense. It's really like the fossil fuel industry is evil. We need to get revenge laws don't matter because we're morally right. And we're going to do that. And we're going to do that because it's an act of self defense, against and character say this without irony. And without any criticism in the film. Billions will die if we don't start doing stuff like this. And then, after it's all said and done, Theo Anza Sheetal successfully use Rohan to confuse the FBI, in that it was just them and none of their friends so all their friends get away, and they inspire we find out a bunch of other young people to start, I don't know, the first course of action for these people seems to be blowing up a yacht somewhere.


Chris Keefer  12:11  

It sounds like it sounds like maybe it ends and kind of like a fight club, you know? pastiche.


Emmet Penney  12:17  

Right. Yeah. So it's sort of you know, and then the thing is, they leave this flyer behind that says, you know, it's like, Why have destroyed your property? And it's basically like, you know, you're a climate criminal and the law won't punish you. So I have to


Chris Keefer  12:30  

Desperados would you call it again? Yeah. That's not the right. So


Emmet Penney  12:34  

that's, that's the film. That's how to blow up a pipe.


Chris Keefer  12:37  

Okay. Okay. It's, I mean, this is like a, it's interesting that the these ideas are proliferating, they're being endorsed by mainstream outlets. I mean, an intellectual contagious may be the wrong way to put it. But, you know, I'm just a few things are coming to mind. I'm thinking of like the Anarchist Cookbook, which was maybe an FBI publication to help anarchists blow themselves up as they learn how to make bombs. I'm thinking of, you know, maybe this is drawing on on the historical tradition of, you know, the Baader Meinhof gang in Germany, the Red Army Faction or in America, the Weather Underground. Yeah, the Weather Underground. Yeah. Can you help me like tie it into those those those movements? And maybe some of the similarities and differences?


Emmet Penney  13:17  

Well, the similarities to the Weather Underground seemed like pretty clear, like except for your soul.


Chris Keefer  13:22  

What is the Weather Underground for those who aren't aware? So the Weather Underground was


Emmet Penney  13:25  

like, basically a cadre of radical white, wealthy, highly educated lefties who blew up a bunch of stuff in the 60s. I think one of them also put themselves up.


Chris Keefer  13:43  

And that this was in response to the the Vietnam War, the Vietnam War. I mean, like, there's a, there's a movie about them. I watched it a number of years ago and thought it was amazing. It was kind of inspired. And I was like, I want to be in the Weather Underground. I mean, there was some interesting stuff like they did reveal the COINTELPRO counter insurgency kind of monitoring that was happening by by like, rating, an FBI office right in the middle of the night, and like, stealing all this papers, and like, it was it was some kind of romantic adventurism type stuff. They caused a lot of property damage, I think, Department of Defense infrastructure. The only person I think, who died in a bombing, as you mentioned, was someone trying to make a bomb and themselves up in like the Village in New York. That bomb was intended to be placed at a dance of officers. So that one was going to be like the big violent one that was going to kill a bunch of people. Anyway, I'm not I'm not like swinging to the defense of the Weather Underground. But I do remember. And I'm trying to put myself like if I watched how to how to Obama pipeline, how to block the pipeline as a 18 year old if that you know if I can transport myself in time from when I was 18 into the present moment. I'm not sure how I would have responded to it again, given how it responded to the Weather Underground film. Yeah,


Emmet Penney  14:54  

well, I mean, it also helps it for Ghazi does the soundtrack for that Weather Underground film so it sounds great. Um, I mean, I'm so I'm very disenchanted by the Weather Underground for various reasons. I think they were also involved in the drafting of the Port Huron statement, which is sort of like the manifesto for the new left and the pivot away from like a more typical class politics. And, you know, like, what's his name Mark Rudd, who flunked on them to the FBI or was a double agent lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he would come to Talks at the bookstore I worked at in Santa Fe. And like, That dude was a diluted ego test, who screwed over his friends, even if I don't like his friends. Like, I think he's basically the guy who got highly rewarded for having zero morals. And that's how I feel about most of these people. Except for the COINTELPRO thing, like blowing up a dance of officers is pretty disgusting, as an act to do. And for some reason, they've just been given this free pass and after, you know, however, many years came back from living underground after all this stuff happened and walked into professorships at places like universities. Yeah,


Chris Keefer  16:06  

yeah, almost all of them. It's extraordinary, because I think they basically were outlaws some of them for, you know, 1520 years at a time, I think, when was much easier to have fake identities. You know, like, I have no idea how this would work in our modern, you know, surveillance society. But I did actually I've met David Gilbert, who was he kind of stayed underground and ended up being a getaway driver for a botched armed robbery. And now he's serving a life prison sentence in a in a US prison. I met him I guess it's interesting to interact with some of the people but Berta, I think it's Bernadette Thorin and some of the other ones.


Emmet Penney  16:40  

They ended in Doran and Bill Ayers, who I grew up around as a kid. Yeah,


Chris Keefer  16:44  

they turned themselves in just before September 11. And basically got amnesty, I think.


Emmet Penney  16:49  

Yeah. And so And interestingly, Bill Ayers, his sister in law ran a daycare where she's a butene worked, that I went to as a kid. And she's a butene. Again, is the he was the DA in San Francisco that got thrown out for basically not doing his job.


Chris Keefer  17:06  

Right. Yeah, like making it essentially on punishable to steal like under $800 or something.


Emmet Penney  17:13  

Yeah, exactly. Something like that. I don't know if that was exactly him. But or however, that whole situation worked. But yes, he was thrown out by his own constituents for having a very soft on crime policy, in part because he spent his whole life with his parents in prison, because they like killed a cop during a coke deal, gone wrong. And tried to throw their black friend under the bus for it. And for some reason, that's like this pitiable story that we're supposed to be like, Oh, poor che is uh,


Chris Keefer  17:42  

okay. You know, so put put it putting it this way. The underground thing? Is that like there is there's a kind of context for what is the kind of terrorist terrorism that is being? I guess, yeah.


Emmet Penney  17:51  

Then there's the Earth Liberation Front in the 90s, which, like, Andreas mom specifically, and folks in his book, like, I know, I'm being hard on these people. But that's because no one else is, like, that's sort of my frustration with this is that this is, like, what's being endorsed in this movie is like, way worse than what happened on January 6 than America. Like, and I don't like what happened on January 6, but if people actually did this, it would be way worse. You know, like, that's what seems like unequivocally true to me. Okay, walk us through that thesis. Yeah. So basically, what they're saying what they do is they're like, We want to jack up the price of oil, they basically want to do the mom plan, like, that's what they're going to do. I think that plan is stupid, and it won't work. Because you can always buy oil from somewhere else that's willing to produce it. Like it, this makes zero sense as a plant. You know, there are almost moments where they might get some workers killed or something like that, and they evade that scenario. But the likelihood that you could really do this without environmental damage, or like all of these other things that they somehow find the solution to in the film seems very, very low. And again, like they bring it up for like a second. They're like, Well, don't don't high oil prices, like hurt poor people. And somebody just goes, revolutions are messy. And that's the end of that conversation. Right? Like, the point I bring up in the review, is that in America, we have a tradition of what's called antinomianism. And I think it's a very, like morally respectable and long tradition that comes out of Protestantism in America, specifically, and it's the idea that there is a divine law of justice that is higher than the law of man. And you may not be freed from the law of man, but you are allowed to violate it in service of that higher good, right? So the two sort of canonical texts that come out of this movement are Henry David Thoreau's on civil disobedience. And Martin Luther King's brilliant letter from Birmingham jail. And the difference between what's happening with these imagine into terrorists. And sort of MLK or Henry David Thoreau is that those guys believed in Christ, they believed in the redemption, they have the sacrifice of Christ. They had a whole horizon of human possibility, and a belief and enduring commitment and the sanctity of the soul, and the importance of Justice and the polity that was informed by the idea of this divine law. What we have in how to blow up a pipeline is what the very strange essayist Nick land called in like 2007, transcendental miserable ism. And it's the idea of that the Neo Marxists on the left have basically given up on the idea of seizing the means of production and freeing them for even greater expansion of our abilities. And more or less resent capitalism for winning capitalism represents everything that they don't like it represents alterations in what they think the timeline of history should be. And they're like, Well, I didn't want growth anyway, I didn't want this anyway, the polar bears are dying, and there's nothing that I can do, which eventually cankers over the years up until the present day, no sort of a soft nihilism, that sort of like, it doesn't really matter if we're breaking the law, it doesn't really matter. Like if this plan isn't really even going to work, because I feel terrible. And this is in self defense, its highest. It's, its main justification is, if we don't stop using fossil fuels right now, billions will die. And we're doing this in self defense. So it is an idea. It's like it's an anti no mechanism that holds bear life, meaning reducing life to its biological facts, like can you eat? Can you sleep like all of these things? Bear life as both its justification and its horizon. I describe it as the political vision of insects. And I would say very, very different from the I think legitimate antinomian claims that men like Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King were making, and I juxtapose this antinomianism with a famous speech from a young Abraham Lincoln his Lyceum address back when he was an Illinois House Rep. And at the time, there were a lot, there was a lot of mob violence, a lot of lynchings, a lot of things like that. And what he said is, when you take the law into your own hands like that, when the mob mob a kradic, as he calls it, sensibility prevails. It reduces people's faith in the law, and demoralizes them, that the government by which we run our society and its constitution will have no friends, or no friends strong enough to make sure that the system exists in perpetuity, in a just way. And that, that the knock on effects of this for society are incredibly high. If you think that maintaining a republic is something worth doing. Now, it's clear that the characters in this book don't really some of are very honest about it. Like I said, the Michael character played by very well. But for us good luck. It's very clear, he doesn't want to rebuild anything, he just wants to destroy things. And he's not like, you can tell that there's something that he's very, like broken inside, it's very actually interesting character. You know, in part because forth, good luck is acting like way beyond his lines, unlike almost every single one of his other peers in that movie. But that's, that's really it in the nutshell. And I'd say at the end of the review, what's disturbing about this, like, I don't think people are going to go out and commit these crimes because of this movie. You don't think so? I really don't like I think, well, I won't be because directly because of this movie, it will be because there's like an atmosphere of other things going on. Right? Like I saw some monkey wrench and go on in the Permian Basin that was not this extreme, after Standing Rock. And, you know, there were a lot of reasons why everybody was there. And it wasn't just because of the memes or the movies or whatever. You know, everybody had their own very highly complex, sort of nuanced reasons, even if it was wrong, to be there. So what does worry me is that, you know, there's this old anarchist idea called the propaganda of the deed, where the terroristic violence will shock the public into a revolutionary state. Right. And this is sort of the propaganda of the propaganda of the deed. And right now in America, we have an uptick of assaults on an energy infrastructure, which are being committed by Neo Nazis and That's disturbing to me. It's disturbing to me that it seems to be like, at least up for debate on the left, that there might be some merits to that kind of strategy, like the Neo Nazis are very clear. They want to demoralize society, they want to bring about a race war, you know, all the horrible things that you imagine they believe they believe. And the left seems to want to demoralize society and bring about some sort of climate revolution or something, it's a little bit less clear. And they also want credit for feeling bad about it the whole time. And that seems to be the major difference, like in their hearts,


Chris Keefer  25:35  

just very quickly, the Neo Nazis, they're the ones behind the like, the grid substation attacks, and yeah, yeah. So


Emmet Penney  25:41  

in Maryland, and I think in a couple of


Chris Keefer  25:44  

and how significant is that as a phenomenon?


Emmet Penney  25:48  

It's been increasing every year for the last couple years impact on more frequent impact on the grid. I mean, there were a lot of, I don't know what it there was a substation in the southeast, I think in like Kentucky, or Virginia or something like that. And I believe it was attacked, but I don't know by who. And it did leave people without their lights for a few days. And now there are all these debates about like, and especially in terms of cybersecurity as well. Like, what FERC is gonna guarantee utilities get back for investing in grid security and stuff like that. So it's something people are talking about in the industry, right? Like, it's, that's how often it's happening. And so it's not like these things won't happen from the left, they could I mean, I just don't like the sort of mono causal. It's to me, it would be sort of like saying that, like, the reason we don't build nuclear in America is because of the movie The China Syndrome. Yeah. Right. That's, that would be my and I'm like, that's like,


Chris Keefer  26:44  

building nuclear and building nuclear. building nuclear is a lot harder than sabotage. And I just think it's such a, it's such a direct kind of call to action. There are a lot of people like, you know, I was in New York, with my girlfriend a couple of months ago. And, you know, this is the land where we actually were there to visit Indian Point power station, which have been shut down the year before. And you know, there was this group of well intentioned young children with their Friday's for future placards chanting, hey, hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go right. And the kind of naivety of political theory that's betrayed by that it'd be these are children. So I don't hold that against them, although they're being accomplished in sort of martial than shepherded along by these gray haired, you know, Boomer environment. chaperones, the chaperones? Yeah, but I mean, you can see why people are driven to more extreme action by just seeing the utter futility. I mean, that chant in and of itself, hey, hey, ho, ho, climate change is gotta go. Like, obviously, that's futile. And I think they're not being inspired by I think the messages that, you know, frankly, folks, like you and I, and others in the nuclear advocacy community are after which is this more constructive, pro human, you know, decoupling vision, however, we want to put it out there, right. They're not hearing those or that's not it doesn't fit into the sort of zeitgeist of their generation. I don't know, I can see this becoming a more significant source of particularly as we kind of had more to this nihilistic youth culture moment.


Emmet Penney  28:05  

It could be I just don't think I think that there will be larger forces of which things like this movie in this book are apart. You know, it is true. I know Janet Twenge has a book. I think that's her name coming out called generations, which does sort of like she's very good at sort of breaking down the data about how different generations feel. And so she goes through all the way from the Baby Boomers to Zoomers about, I think that book comes out next month about how they feel. And I've only looked at some press material and some early like snippets from it. But I mean, it is true that the generation right after me the Zoomers, more or less does not believe that the American project is worth continuing. And I think there are a variety of reasons for that some are the way in which this country has lost its luster to say the least. I do frankly think that like just you know, maybe this will be an unpopular thing to say. decouple but I do think just like letting people ride in the streets for months for like no fucking reason is not a good thing for society to do frequently. You know, like, but that's it's like, if you're, say a middle class family that owns a small business and like a downtown and it gets destroyed and you can't pay like no one comes back to fix that. Right? Like there's no there's no accountability for that. And that's not the only thing that's going on. Like I said like its purchasing power for Zoomers is going to be less than even for millennials. There going to be a lot of outs external forces that massage people into a bleaker view that isn't entirely unjustified. And so what's important about this movie is that it is arrogating a deep sense of despair and a complete lack of principle that seem to be coming more are generalized in American culture. And that's what worries me most, because I think that has spillover effects into every other domain of society. You know, if we want to build things like nuclear these projects take a while, you know, everyone kind of has to agree to them. And you basically have to say, like, I want this future to continue to exist in some sort of similar way for an extended period of time, somebody who's like, I don't really care about this project, it's done nothing for me, it doesn't matter. It's all bullshit, who cares? isn't really going to endorse that type of long term, hopeful strategizing, and execution.


Chris Keefer  30:43  

What do you I mean, again, I've been this morning, just immersing myself listening to Michael mallam interviews. It's very interesting, just the interviewers talking to him, you know, these folks on the on the radical left, so called Climate thinkers, etc. And they have these very fantastical kind of conspiratorial ideas about why we're just not getting off fossil fuels. You know, for instance, you know, the, the Russian invasion provided this great opportunity for for Europe to just keep pursuing wind and solar and replace that last Russian gas. But instead, there's some kind of conspiracy going on, that they're building LNG import facilities and signing contracts will only one contract this long term, etc. Right? Like there's no appreciation or conspiracy


Emmet Penney  31:24  

of keeping the lights on. There's, yeah,


Chris Keefer  31:27  

there's no as you've as I think you've reduced me to this term. There's just absolutely no engineering discipline guiding this, the main characters res on d'etre Here is her mother or grandmother died in a heatwave. And


Emmet Penney  31:39  

in California, by the way, right during the last heat wave, natural gas served 60% of electricity demand,


Chris Keefer  31:46  

air conditioning is kind of important in the heat wave. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But okay, so I don't know if it's worth deep diving further, the kind of psychology behind the naive politics there, maybe they just speak for themselves. I do want to, you know, it's not this isn't a devil's advocacy here. But like, I'm thinking about, you know, act acts of sabotage, which, you know, I'd be more sympathetic towards, I'm thinking about, you know, being in Central America and in like indigenous or rural agricultural communities that are fighting, you know, a goldmine that's going to displace and pollute their territory, their agricultural, their, you know, their means of production, their livelihoods. I'm very sympathetic to that. But you know, particularly with the ways in which, you know, this, often predatory mining companies are coming into jurisdictions with horrible labor and environmental standards and doing nasty things in people's backyards. I think it's very, very justified. You know, there's examples like that. So how are those examples different from from what is being advocated for explored in this movie?


Emmet Penney  32:43  

Yeah, so I think like, there. First of all, I would say that the most like, important thing that's happening in the those countries is that there is like, the political contest is like, very, very clear. And it's trying to answer a question of who benefits. Right. And it's about people trying to defend their livelihoods and things like this, it is not a self selected few who decide that they have the moral right, based on bad science to commit terrorism, in quote, unquote, self defense. Right. So I think their argument doesn't really make sense. On its face, if somebody if some major business, here's a great example, if some major business rolls into your farm community and says, we want to put down seven square miles of solar panels on good farmland, and steamrolls your town into it, which is happening, by the way, Robert Bryce just posted about this on LinkedIn. It's happened to a small community out in the Midwest, you get why people would want to commit sabotage or something like that. They are fighting for something that exists and is real, and helps them put food on the table. These people are fighting for an abstraction That's incorrect. Like that, I think that that's like, that's the biggest difference to me. Like somebody's like, I'm defending my job, I'm defending my community, I'm doing this, these people are like we're defending the world. As I've said on here, anytime somebody says they're defending the world immediately lower your estimation of their moral credibility. Immediately, whoever they are, they're going to be an insane person.


Chris Keefer  34:43  

Is this like this, this faction of the left and I think it's actually quite a large one, as you say. I mean, in terms of the responses to this film, coming from mainstream outlets like New York Times, I'm not sure about the Ezra Klein situation that would surprise me, but who knows?


Excuse me, you know, how do we We as a society, or we, as a group of thinkers respond to this phenomenon? Do we try and speak to and win over this fringe environmental left? Do we try and sort of prevent that contagion working into a broader group of people, particularly, you know, young people, you know, who are often ones who will will fight for social causes, often in a very positive way? How do we how do we deal with these kinds of ideas and cultural manifestations of ideas? Do you think? Because previous previously, that previously we said, okay, let's let's not even talk about my address, mom, because he's irrelevant. And he's an idiot, you know, so clearly, we are responding now. But how, what's the what's the best way? In your opinion?


Emmet Penney  35:39  

Yeah, I think this is what keeps me up at night. This is literally what I journal about almost every other night before I go to bed, is what to do about this sort of like morale crisis. And I was just on a podcast, the realignment where towards the end of it, we talked about this. And I mean, first of all, I think one of the things that isn't necessarily helpful is to go around all the time and say like, wow, the Zoomers struggled to have a lot of faith in the future, or not all of them, but you know, like a significant portion of them to the extent that it's like troubling us, okay. And so don't ask me on Twitter on this. But we go around all day seeing like, Oh, what do we do? What do we do look at all the data and that's fine. But it's like who like, what are we communicating to these kids about their country, like, I'm a patriot, but that doesn't keep me from recognizing defects in American history, crimes problems. You know, it seems like there's this zero sum game, where you're either an insane jingoist or you despise the place that you're from, I don't really think a polity can continue to survive. If no one believes in its core premises. That doesn't seem likely to me over an extended period of time. So I think there needs to be some sort of meaningful engagement and dialogue with kids as they're coming up about America and why they should want to be here. And I also think that from those of us who are older and are empowered, there needs to be more fight for a future worth living in. You know, it's not like there's just this brain disease of people feeling sad and not liking the way things are, that's going from carrier to carrier, you know, it's also that people are responding to things that they see every day. You know, and that's really important to address. So, but I don't know, like, right, like, I don't talk to these kids, my wife does, because she works with them, but not in a capacity where she's just like, and this is why civics is important. You know, like, that's not that's not our job. So, I don't totally No, I'm actually really at a loss because I've experienced such radical changes in my own internal life in regards to some of these questions over my 20s and now into my 30s. That, it's almost like, I don't have an account of what happened for me. I don't even know how to communicate that story. And so how would I know how to encourage these kids to change their minds? And certainly, some of them might already agree with me. Some of them might be like, yeah, that stuff's weird. I don't like it, it bums me out. You know, I want to do a totally different positive thing. And that's great. I'm sure there are plenty of kids like that out there. That's fantastic. So I also think that part of it should be like finding those kids and empowering them because I think peer influence is really, really important. I think the more that they see themselves as helpless victims, who are granted special status, by their own sense of victimhood, the less likely they are to do anything salutory or productive for themselves or


Chris Keefer  39:08  

society. Amen, brother.


Emmet Penney  39:11  

It will reduce it will reduce politics to competitive fear mongering in a war over the treasure box of the state for different identitarian interest groups


Chris Keefer  39:22  

done away with words. Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. I've talked about this a fair number of times I won't go on at length about it because my listeners will beat me over the head but you know, this preoccupation as as a father now the four and a half year old who still lives in like an incredibly non toxic environments, you know, where he doesn't, you know, watches a little bit of cartoons and stuff, but like he's not plugged into, you know, Jonathan Hades book, The coddling of the American mind is absolutely terrifying. Talking about this, I Gen you know, the generation that grew up with an iPhone in their pocket access to the internet and social media, you know, from the age of puberty onwards and what it's done, particularly to girls mental health, etc. the cruelty of social media The engineering attention spans etc. I mean, it's it's a pretty terrifying world we're entering into and when that's grafted on to, you know, the Greta Thun, Thun Berg inspired climate Doomer ism and nihilism and anxiety. You know, I've said many times that the the antidote to anxiety is empowerment. You know, I had an interesting interview with Ted Nordhaus, which was back in the, in the, in the archives, we were actually talking about the Cold War and that sort of Sputnik induced anxiety in America, which led to all these science clubs and rocketry clubs and this massive investment in education, like, you know, if I ran the world, you know, and I was dealing with this kind of situation of, you know, youth this engagement, like we do need that return to a sense of civics and civic duty banded together around a common cause. And yeah, let's flood the education system with with great educators and money to empower these kids to learn stuff to say, Hey, you're worried about the climate, well become an engineer become, you know, become a scientist become this becomes,


Emmet Penney  40:55  

I think, part of the problem there.


Chris Keefer  40:56  

It's like this, like Timothy Leary, like, tune in drop out like that I'm seeing reverberate modern moment, and soon again, and dropping out is, you know, or blowing up pipeline or not ways that we're going to make make a better world a better country, a better society.


Emmet Penney  41:10  

I mean, I think we also have some very gnarly selection effects in America that are happening to like the people who end up a lot of them becoming teachers are not the type of people that think that climate change is a technical problem that solvable, and that we're not standing on the brink of the apocalypse. Right? Like, that's, that's a problem. That's a problem. You know, like that is, and I know that because the Chicago Teachers Union, when we were fighting to keep Iran and Dresden around, through in with the Sierra Club and the NRDC against those nuclear plants. So the CTU is fine with destroying union jobs as long as they're not in Chicago. Right? Yeah. Like, that's, that's part of what's going on here. So we can't be asleep to that, like, that's a real problem. I don't know how to solve it, but you can't ignore it either. You know, the other thing is, like, who ends up in the press? Who ends up like, go look at the reviews for this movie? Almost all of them are positive. You know, or they're at least like, man, like maybe they're talking


Chris Keefer  42:13  

on the progressive side of the political spectrum, obviously, you know, Fox News. Yeah. But


Emmet Penney  42:17  

I mean, like, who's done negative reviews, like me and Kevin kilo from Cowboy State daily, compared to what like the New York Times The Washington Post, like, you know, New Republic or whatever. I mean, Kate Aronoff wisely said that she did not think that mom's methods would work. And I appreciate some of them the left being very straightforward about that. But, you know, like, what's going on here? If if we see this as an information system, that is supposed to deliver people something approximating the truth, right, it's a democracy that's going to be messy, it's pluralistic. They're going to be different ideas of that. But like, there are some serious problems in the media in America, that are highly negative, and sometimes completely untrue. Assumptions About climate and about energy, and they are the x they are the biggest signals, broadcasting those messages. So that's a problem too.


Chris Keefer  43:20  

You know, I think I'm asking myself the honest question and trying to empathize with why these mainstream progressive thinkers are giving this movie positive reviews and endorsing essentially mom's theory of change to some degree or another, you know, whether our lukewarm that is. And it's because I think there's so few alternatives. I mean, and what I find really interesting is this growing phenomenon, we've heard of climate solution, denialists, that's usually leveraged against folks that are pro nuclear, or pro fossil fuels or whatever, or if just very skeptical of renewables from an informed engineering discipline side of things. But now there's, you know, we saw at breakthrough with Planet of the humans, the Jeff Gibbs film, which Michael Moore sort of gave his blessing to, and therefore went Ultra viral. Where there's this real anxiety with, you know, what's being promised by you know, the Jesse Jenkins, the cleantech community is this kind of utopia of you know, clean tech, which is going to just you know, not really have any backdoor issues are, you know, stuff behind the on the kill floor behind the grocery shelves going on. And there's a growing awareness, we've had Simon Michelle on the podcast several times, not in love with his sort of thinking about the solutions, but a very, you know, I think informed person about the challenges of, you know, transition to what people are calling for, and there's this growing disillusion with that as well, which I think just feels further and I was like, what are the options on the table? If, you know, it's either kind of degrowth or it's this bullshit clean tech Utopia that's being offered, which is just you know, inconsistent with, you know, material resources, availability and physics. In some degree I can I can empathize, I guess with the kind of floundering and progressive communities and maybe falling into this as there's, you know, is it the worst of three choices of have, you know, Matthew Xion? Nihilism? You know, utopian thinking or I don't know, I'm just trying to say so


Emmet Penney  45:07  

I think yeah. So I think part of what's happening is that like, there's a profound sense of meaninglessness about life and thinking the world is going to end solve that problem. I think that it's about that simple. Right? If there are existential stakes, you feel like empowered, you know, which you need to do. And that's what I think is going on there. You know, and there are a lot of complex reasons why it is ended up being this sort of message, some of its ideological path dependency, you know, all sorts of things. But I think that that's what's going on. And that's a at scale problem, it's very difficult to solve. I would also say that, like, sort of the problem with a lot of people like me, if I can be self critical, is that we're fucking nerds. And, you know, there's a public image problem, right? Like, I'm not a nice guy. Like, that's a big problem for this, right? Like, I think so. Like, that's a limitation that I have as a person, right. So we need better ambassadors for ideas. And another thing that I think all of us need to stop doing is bitching about hypocrisy. That is like the worst thing you can do if you're an opposition. I used to not think that now I do. And let me tell you why. All you do when you say, Oh, well, this person doesn't abide by their own rules. The implicit message there is I'm weak, and they're powerful. And that's the story.


Chris Keefer  46:38  

What was the concrete example? What about abstraction? Oh, just give us a couple. Give us a cool Al


Emmet Penney  46:43  

Gore wants us to reduce our carbon footprints, but he flies at planes a day, or whatever, you know, I've said this, like, you know, and stuff like that. All that tells me like, what people need to understand is that it's not hypocrisy, it's hierarchy. And so when you say, oh, that's hypocrisy, what you're actually saying, broadcasting everybody is there's a hierarchy and I'm not at the top. It's a waste of time. And all it does is entrench your inferior status, and then make you feel resentful, which is like drinking poison, hoping that the other guy's gonna die. Totally unconstructive. Like that has to stop. Also, it makes you look like a loser. And no one wants to hang out with losers. Like, I'm breaking my own heart here, like people can go back to some stuff I've written and see that I make this plan, right. But I'm actually criticizing myself here. It's something that over the past two years, I've really done some soul searching on. And I think it has to end.


Chris Keefer  47:41  

So I guess the close up I met, what like what's, what's your what's your prescription? And obviously, we're building it right, we're constructing it. We're part of, you know, a movement, I think, however, loosely affiliated, that is, you know, students have a group of thinkers and content creators, if you want to kind of take on that that modern label.


What do you see emerging? What sort of tendencies Do you see growing? I mean, in terms of the alternative to what's being offered up by this film, to, you know, our, our generation and into those generations coming? I know, that's a huge abstract question with tons to unpack there. But I'm just trying to evoke some kind of a positive path forward.


Emmet Penney  48:20  

I mean, so I had a, I just recorded a great conversation with Alex Trembath for nuclear barbarians that I think should be coming out next week. And one of the things that he talked about, which I thought was was kind of inspiring is that one of the things that we might want to pay attention to, and maybe even rely on going forward are the internal contradictions in the environmental ideology. All this renewable stuff began with as a small scale dream. But now that it's trying to be built out at a large scale, it will become clear that it's untenable. That's just going to happen. So being there on deck with a positive message, as that whole thing falls apart is going to be very, very important. You know, Alex also, I think, made a great case sort of breakthrough vn thought that's a little more positive is slowly gaining ground against these environmental orcs. And as you've seen in Canada, it is possible to flip people like I'm glad also in America, that Gavin Newsom wants to run for president. And he's like, I can't shut down Diablo Canyon and San Francisco can't look like a demilitarized zone. You know, like that, like that can't happen for me. You want your politicians selfish ambition. Yeah, to be inline with the public good. And that's what's happening. Could it have happened sooner and better? Yes. Is Gavin rewarding himself for letting a hostage go? Yes. But who cares if it keeps the plant on? Same thing with Jennifer Granholm and Palisades and Michigan. If that plant wasn't in Michigan where she was governor? I don't think the do we would be trying as hard To help Holtec save it, and we should be thankful for that, you know. And so I think focusing on our wins is hugely important. Every time we get a dub, we should be like, you know, strapping 50 megaphones together and screaming to our neighbors about it, you know, like that is really, really important. And so I think that as these things get Messier as their internal contradictions start to split them apart, sort of standing astride the tumult of history, and offering a new way forward, is going to be incredibly inspiring for the people that want to be inspired. And it won't be everyone write it, but it just needs to be enough. It I don't really like that creepy minoritarian stuff that like Paul Ehrlich, you know, we're there, just like, we just need 5% of people, because I think there's something like gross and conspiratorial about that like anti democratic. But you do need just just the critical mass, you know, to change things. And that is really, really important. The other way I look at it is this, if they can win, so can we, the Green Movement is looking at corporate America, and the war machine, and the utility industry in the 60s and 70s. And watching it. And its core premises, and its legitimacy fall apart in front of their very eyes. And they're already there, with their message, they're motivated, and they're going to start changing things. What happened back then is starting to happen to them now. And we can be a part of how that changes. And so I'm not a Doomer. Right, like I am, I am on board for the American project. I love this country, I think that we can change for the better. I think it can even be bipartisan, which is really important. I think we're already getting glimpses that for nuclear, that's already going to happen and will continue to happen. And I hope it does, because that is vital. And that's where I'm at.


Chris Keefer  52:15  

I mean, I have to say, you know, on the Canadian front, it's just amazing watching the anti nuclear lobby fall like a house of cards. It is a, you know, a boomer phenomenon, bereft of of optimism and hope and faith in humanity. I just I just debated sort of the the emblematic leader of the kind of Canada's anti nuclear movement. He's been at this for 48 years. He's an 83 year old man, you know, hats off to him. Incredible stamina. You know, quite an intelligent guy, particularly given his age. But the sun is setting on those folks. And it's been just absolutely incredible. I mean, you know, I confronted Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change a former Greenpeace activist who in a stunt repelled off of the CN Tower at that time, the world's tallest tower, I think it was around a climate change issue, a staunch anti nuclear activist to confront him in Glasgow and at COP 26, two and a half years ago, and he just ate humble pie, and endorsed nuclear just save his job. I mean, this guy's got no principles. But as you say, we got to celebrate Great, thanks. Yeah.


Emmet Penney  53:18  

Hey, look, you see, he's one of those people with no principles, what you should say to yourself is, their principles should be mine. And that is possible with someone without any.


Chris Keefer  53:29  

All right. We'll leave it there, man. It's been a blast. And yes, I will see you in person in three dimensions in San Francisco very shortly at the breakthrough dialogues. one more shout outs to nuclear barbarians to grid brief. That is, I think, one of the most undersubscribed you know, the ratio between quality and subscription is way off there. So everybody should stop and sign up fix that for me people. And Emma, you did a great job with being the height man on the interest. So I'm gonna let you do the outro here, take it away, whatever you feel like,


Emmet Penney  54:03  

hey, look, you know, I, I talk, I talk smack I talk a big game. I get that I might say things that people might not like and hear. That's fine. You don't have to completely agree with me and I don't have to completely agree with you to agree on what the solutions are. And that's the most important thing. I hope things that I said here were provocative and helpful for people. And I hope that you can send in you to subscribe and listen to decouple


Chris Keefer  54:28  

stare go What about the stay radiant stay classy stuff. That's what oh, yeah,


Emmet Penney  54:32  

stay strong. Stay sharp and stay radiant. Folks. We will see you next time.


Chris Keefer  54:38  

Love it. Bye for now.



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