The eco movement isn't flapping with just the left wing the way it used to. It's now grown a new right wing, and you can date its appearance to April 15, 2007, when wealthy, war-mongering free trader Thomas Friedman, the New York Times's most influential op-ed writer, gave full-bodied articulation to its hopes and desires in the Sunday Times Magazine.
Gather round, people, for the times they are a changin'.
This isn't a simple matter of slimy politicians giving in to pressure or corporations giving themselves a greenwash or putting on a show - shambolism, as it's called. This is a new moment. From now on, those who deny the need to go green will be seen as wingnuts rather than right-wing.
But mainstream right-wingers will embrace a right-wing view, rather than a right-wing denial of green causes, for reasons I will shortly demonstrate.
Friedman - known for such globalization screeds as The World Is Flat and for belligerent columns championing the U.S. bombing of Iraq and Serbia, as well as for his castle in Maryland and multiple Pulitzer Prizes - has been quick to sign up for the job.
With the flair that's led to his reputation as the Geraldo Rivera of punditry, he's written a piece that's bound to become a classic. Thank someone for small mercies; he beat Dr. Phil to the punch.
"To name something is to own it," Friedman writes, and so he takes it upon himself to rename green, rescue its rep from the sissies and girlie-men and give it some corporate cred and heft by reframing it as "geostrategic, geo-economic, capitalistic and patriotic." His motto is "Green is the new red, white and blue."
Friedman's focus is energy independence, the urgent need of imperial powers to liberate themselves from thralldom to Saudi potentates who use the riches gained from oil exports to finance reactionary Muslim causes. To "put less money in the hands of hostile forces is now a geostrategic imperative," he argues, while supporting continued dependency "amounts to a policy of No Mullah Left Behind."
The starting point for green-mongering, in other words, is not the fragility of the natural environment but the fragility of the American empire.
And since the well-being of the U.S. empire - as distinct from the well-being of the American people - is dependent on cheap energy that can fuel both extravagance and exports, Yankee ingenuity has to find ways to create cheap energy from clean coal and clean nukes.
Other countries may have the U.S. beat when it comes to cheap labour, but the Yanks still have the corner on smarts. Elsewhere, Friedman spread the story of a guy who supposedly made a fortune selling T-shirts emblazoned with the words "I lost my job to India and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
That Yankee pluck and creativity will carry the day, he seems to feel, and find a way to suck the carbon out of coal fumes and sink it under a mountain or sea bed alongside the nuclear waste that will have to be stored for a few hundred millennia.
Since the R&D required to wrest cheap, clean energy from coal, nukes and corn ethanol means mounds of upfront capital sunk into high-risk ventures, governments have to come up with incentives such as carbon taxes that keep oil prices high for long enough to allow non-oil companies to recoup their money.
This is why right-wing greens need to get into politics: they have to control the taxpayer-funded subsidies for their chosen technologies.
Having said that governments have to weigh in, Friedman is all in favour of "mobilizing free-market capitalism." Another force besides sheer genius will help with the breakthrough. "The only thing as powerful as Mother Nature is Father Greed," he writes, though greed made New Orleans less, not more, able to contend with the hurricane force of Katrina, just one example of his ludicrous reasoning.
At any rate, Friedman thinks green can inspire companies such as Wal-Mart, "the China of companies," to use their high-volume buying to force low-cost wind and solar energy.
Friedman's energy thinking is half-baked at best, a sign that right-wing ideologues are a few decades behind in basic knowledge and experience.
That may explain why food and agriculture don't even rate a mention in his piece, despite the fact that food and ag dwarf all other causes of pollution and enviro destruction, sucking up mammoth amounts of gas and oil. But besides this, U.S. stats cited in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability show ag to be responsible, at the low end, for $5.7 billion a year in damage to air, water, soil and creatures, including humans. (Canadian records are too poorly kept to permit such analyses.)
An ingenious Yank should see that this is where energy independence needs to start.
Until now, I've blamed the enviro movement's neglect of food and its obsession with transportation and buildings on "paradigm blindness," an innocent failure to see beyond the power of stereotypes about farming and fishing as being close to nature. Friedman has alerted me to another possible interpretation.
Energy politics are made for the power elite, those with the technical and financial ability to keep on top of new enterprises and the clout to win government backing.
By contrast, food politics empowers plain folk who have daily opportunities to make change in a variety of ways.
It may just be that the neglect of food policy as a central feature of any green makeover is a telltale sign of conservative bias in eco thinking.
Now that all the cards are being laid on the table, expect the polemics to get more interesting.