Source: William R. Hawkins

A few weeks ago a long essay appeared in The New Republic by staff writer by Emily Atkin titled “Breaking up Amazon Won’t Solve Its Climate Problem: The tech giant changed how Americans buy stuff. It will have to do so again — whether it wants to or not” that displayed the Green Left’s leanings toward totalitarianism. It isn’t just Amazon’s way of doing business they want to change, but the behavior of its customers, who will also have to change the way they purchase merchandise whether they want to or not.

Atkin wants to move beyond “The idea of breaking up Silicon Valley’s giants — Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple — [which] has become conventional wisdom on the left wing of the Democratic Party” because simply dividing up their work will not reduce their work in the aggregate; and it is the work that poses a threat to the planet.

“The company’s biggest carbon problem has always been AWS data centers, of which there are at least 68 around the world, containing between 50,000 and 80,000 servers that consume an enormous amount of energy and require huge amounts of water to keep them cool.” complains Atkin. Even though Amazon now uses renewable energy sources to generate half its power, it is not enough to satisfy the Greens. The problem with alternative energy sources is that they cost more to use than traditional fossil fuels, Yet Atkin does not address whether Amazon has been able to find ways to uses energy more efficiently. Such a questions is irrelevant to her. But it is not irrelevant to its customers who ultimately must pay for the resources Amazon uses to provide them with the goods and services they want. But then Atkin states “it’s not just Amazon that needs to change. So do its customers — which is to say, a majority of us.”

Amazon has just under half of the e-commerce market, but within that stat, just over half of the items sold come from third parties, not Amazon itself. So Amazon provides a service to thousands of sellers as well as millions of consumers. About one-third of these sellers are very small enterprises with five employees or less. Often just one person like the book resellers I see lined up at the head of the line at every library sale. It is not, however, who is engaged in commerce that upsets the New Left, it is that any commerce is going on at all. Under socialism, of course, e-commerce would have never developed. It is a truly entrepreneurial form of capitalism which would not have been allowed to see the light of day. This is the great flaw in socialism; it breeds stagnation.

The rise of the Greens, however, takes the Left even further away from solving the problems of humanity; it takes the movement from stagnation to regression. Atkin complains about the huge amount of business Amazon does and the carbon footprint it leaves as it fulfills billions of orders. It now has 50 cargo planes! As we know from the Green New Deal, commercial air service should be abandoned. Even worse are all the trucks used to make deliveries, not only those owned and leased by Amazon, but those used by the postal service, UPS, and FedEx.

Again, the customers are to blame for this. “Amazon is also largely responsible for a fundamental shift in American consumerism” complains Atkin. They want more and they want it faster. And they place orders when they want to, not in organized blocks or in bulk to reduce the shipping effort. Atkin thinks Amazon should force customers to combine their orders, not just offer incentives to do so. So here comes the totalitarian message: “Amazon probably won’t make such changes unless its customers demand it — or at least demonstrate a willingness to shop responsibly rather than whimsically. It will require an old-fashioned mentality, in a way: Americans will have to begin thinking of and other e-commerce sites not as on-demand delivery services for every little thing, but stores that require just as much forethought as a trip to the mall did twenty years ago. And that might be too much to ask of the average consumer in the digital age. In which case, the government might have to step in.”

Noting that Amazon is taking some steps in the Green direction, Atkin proclaims it to be inadequate. “That doesn’t mean that Amazon will never go fully green. It just means that they might be forced to do so against their will. Say Democrats win unified control of Washington, as the Republicans did in 2016. Given the party’s increasing antipathy toward Big Tech and growing support for the Green New Deal, Amazon and its customers could be in for a reckoning.”

This would just be the start for turning the clock back on the American standard of living. “The problem is much bigger than Amazon, of course. American consumerism itself — our throw-away culture — needs to change if we’re to have any success in keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius”, she argues, “As Grist reported in 2016, citing a study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, “The stuff we consume — from food to knick-knacks — is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use.” So we must all reduce what we consume, including even food.

Since the movement emerged from the New Left in the 1970s there are Greens who have included in that reduction the human race itself. The group Negative Population Growth believes “that our nation is already vastly overpopulated in terms of the long-range carrying capacity of its resources and environment. We urgently need, therefore, a National Population Policy with the goal of eventually stabilizing our population size at a sustainable level, far below today’s, after an interim period of negative growth.”

Even the Green New Deal has come under attack for still talking about job creation and “growing” a Green economy. “The biggest problem is infinite growth, not fossil fuels” is the theme of a podcast from Don Fritz, who teaches something called Environmental Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis. Of course, politicians backing the GND can’t say on the stump that their platform is meant to make their constituents worse off. So they use the rhetoric of growth even if they must twist its meaning. Rebuilding structures so they are less comfortable and useful is not growth, even if jobs are “created” to carry out the demolitions. If the 2020 election is to be a vote on our economic future it must be conducted on honest terms. When citizens go to the polls, they need to know what they are getting into.