The push to get poor people to use a different kind of fuel, one more palatable to the rich, is not new. Just as Joe Biden and wealthy Western nations have endeavored to get poorer nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and in the South Pacific to move away from coal power and switch to solar, wind, or other sustainable energies, aristocrats and upper classes of the past sought to get the poor to give up energy sources that actually work.
What we're seeing now—the elitist push to eradicate all coal plants in the US, the demands that developing nations abandon the same fuel sources that made America and other rich nations so powerful and prosperous, and the dictates within the US that all Americans switch to electric vehicles and abandon fossil fuel energy—is just the latest in a long line of efforts to force the poor and working class to adopt habits more palatable to their "betters."
In Anton Chekov's play Uncle Vanya, the country doctor Astrov gives one of the earliest literary diatribes on what he sees as the ecological problems facing Russia. Long before claims of climate change urged people to alter their lifestyles, nations to reimagine their economies, Astrov condemns the peasants for their use of lumber as a fuel source. Instead, he wants them to use something that is, in his view, more sustainable, but that creates more work for the peasants who need to gather the fuel source peat.
"You can burn peat in your stoves and build your barns of stone," Astrov says, decrying the cutting down of the forests to serve needs of the people. "Oh, I don't object, of course, to cutting wood when you have to, but why destroy the forests? The woods of Russia are trembling under the blows of the ax. Millions of trees have perished. The homes of the wild animals and the birds have been laid desolate; the rivers are shrinking, and many beautiful landscapes are gone forever.
"And why?" He continues, before blaming the peasants. "Because men are too lazy and short-sighted to stoop and pick their fuel from the ground. Am I not right? Who but a senseless barbarian could burn so much beauty in his stove and destroy what he cannot create himself? Man has reason and creative energy so that he may increase his possessions. Until now, though, he has not created but destroyed. The forests are disappearing, the rivers are drying up, the game is being exterminated, the climate is spoiled and the earth becomes poorer and uglier every day."
Just like Biden, Trudeau, the World Economic Forum, and all the rest, Astrov's concern is not for the people but for his own desires, which he then assumes are the noblest desires, the fulfillment of which will lead to the betterment of all mankind. It won't, however, lead to better outcomes for the peasants, who instead of burning efficient, less carcinogenic lumber, would bend and stoop to collect a less efficiently burning, more polluting fuel source.
At the latest climate summit for world leaders flying private jets, some of the nations who had previously promised to give up coal have backtracked. They realized that the economic reality of giving up an efficient, abundant, cheap energy source in favor of the tech heavy solar and wind options was not actually going to better their societies or their economies.
South Africa, which has already experienced rolling blackouts, says it's not going to retire it's coal-fired power plants after all. Indonesia won't meet its goals either. Nations that are backtracking on promises to get rid of coal are finding that they don't want to eliminate jobs for tens of thousands of workers, that making the switch to other forms of energy production are costly, time-consuming, and are not proven to be as efficient as what they've already got going.
What did the wealthy nations do? They tried to buy the developing nations off, but what they offered were primarily loans, meaning that what they really offered was debt.
Why would any nation consent to going into debt to assuage the climate fears of wealthy western elite leaders who spend more time pontificating about their own virtue than actually taking accountability for their own actions? Why would a nation seek to follow the footsteps of the US which has sunk its own fossil fuel industry, sold off millions of barrels of its own strategic oil reserves, and given up energy efficient status to calm its own "moral" misgivings?
The US keeps pushing. Leaders are displeased that South Africa has backed out. Meanwhile, Joe Biden promised to phase out coal powered plants in the US and will move ahead with the "green" agenda. That message was delivered by climate czar John Kerry, the failed presidential candidate and former Massachusetts senator who has denied owning a private jet, claiming instead that it belonged to his wife.
Biden has shut down energy pipelines and demanded that Americans go electric, even as his plan for millions of EV charging stations across the US has been a total failure and those who do have EV cars have discovered the shocking inefficiency of the current charging station system. Yet he continues to pontificate on his plan, perhaps imagining, as Astrov does, that he will earn some part of the glory that comes with having remade the energy economy to suit the pet policy positions of the prosperous few.
Astrov takes credit for forest preservation, even as he ignores the present plight of the peasants, saying "when I pass peasant-forests that I have preserved from the axe, or hear the rustling of the young plantations set out with my own hands, I feel as if I had had some small share in improving the climate, and that if mankind is happy a thousand years from now I will have been a little bit responsible for their happiness."
While Astrov demanded the peasants burn peat and not trees, Biden's insistence on how us peasants are meant to live is far more insidious. He wants us to drive EV cars even though we can't charge them anywhere, switch our homes and power plants to wind and solar even though the manufacture of solar panels is primarily a Chinese enterprise and there's no way to recycle wind turbines when they fail—which they do. And for some reason that makes little sense to anyone, he's leaning all into these "green" technologies with no consideration for the efficient, clean power of nuclear energy.
Biden and western elite leaders are stuck in a time warp, like Astrov. They believe they know what is best for us peasants even as they are far removed from our lives, our needs, wants, or desires. They have a vision for the world that hinges on the sustainable energy that suits their aesthetics, but they have absolutely no vision for the people.