The title of this article is a play on Douglas Murray’s book on Western Europe’s cultural suicide. The concern here is not related to the dire generational problems of mass immigration and ethnic and national identity facing the region covered in Murray’s book. Rather, it relates to the present day consequences of West European left-of-center governments’ commitments to the radical Green agenda.
In an article written nearly three years ago, I argued that the West, Europe in particular, was on a path of energy suicide. Little has occurred to change my mind. The EU and its economic powerhouse Germany officially entered into recession in the first quarter, and its outlook for a precipitous economic decline seems all but assured.
Europe’s Precipitous Economic Decline
Germany has been the economic engine for the Eurozone for decades, and what happens to Germany inevitably rebounds on the region’s prospects for economic growth and social well-being. The German industrial foundation on which the EU was built is cracking and it will drag the rest of Eurozone down with it. “Europe’s economic engine is breaking down” reads a Bloomberg headline published in May. The latest IMF forecast predicts that Germany will be the worst performing G-7 economy this year, the only economy expected to contract in the group.
The German economy lost considerable momentum at the end of the second quarter according to the latest survey of the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) with deteriorating demand conditions, a marked slowdown in business activity growth, a six-month low in company expectations of business conditions, and a reduced rate of job creation. A key indicator of business confidence, the business climate index from the Munich-based Ifo economic research institute, dropped for the third consecutive month in July.
Foreign companies held back on investments in Germany last year while billions flowed out of the country, the German Economic Institute (IW) reported in late June. According to IW estimates, around €125 billion ($132 billion) more direct investment flowed out of the EU’s largest economy in 2022 than was invested in the country from abroad, representing “the highest net outflows ever recorded in Germany.”
On Friday last week, one of Germany’s most influential newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, quoted the CEO Matthias Zachert of chemicals group Lanxess who stated baldly that “de-industrialization has begun… This is seriously endangering German prosperity and social security for people in the medium and long term.” Lanxess, along with other energy-intensive companies, have shut down plants to remain competitive.
BASF, the biggest chemical producer in the world and a pillar of the German economy founded over 150 years ago, warned that the economy was uncompetitive due to high energy costs and would downsize permanently. It has relocated its investments to the US and China where energy costs are a fifth as expensive.
Confronted by high energy costs emerging from two decades of the green policy agenda, many German firms are failing. A short list: Eisenwerk Erla, a firm in the metallurgy sector, filed for bankruptcy after more than 600 years of existence; Teusser Mineralbrunnen Karl Rössle GmbH, a mineral water manufacturer/bottler, also went bankrupt after 130 years in operation; Alfred Clouth Lackfabrik GmbH, a wood products firm founded in 1917, is now insolvent.
Europe’s Debilitating Energy Costs
Who or what is to blame for Europe’s current economic morass? To many in the legacy media, “Putin did it” seems to be the obvious fallback. In response to a podcaster’s question, “Is Putin’s war really to blame for Germany’s energy disaster”, energy expert and former environmental senator of Hamburg Professor Fritz Vahrenholt made it clear that it was government incompetence that was to be blamed: “The failed transition to green energies is responsible.”
Germany’s economic problems have been long in the making, even if the shock of denying itself cheap natural gas piped in from Russia after the imposition of sanctions boomeranged and added to its energy costs. Germany’s prohibitively expensive Energiewende (“energy transition”) strategy, implemented in 2010, aimed for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards reliance on renewables for the country’s energy needs. The magical thinking of green ideologues in government expects intermittent solar and wind energy to fully replace its dependence on fossil fuels. A Stalinist fantasy target of “net zero emissions by 2050” led the country to shut down most of its coal and all of its nuclear plants.
Surcharges to finance the renewables’ rollout have resulted in Europe’s highest power bills for many years. One in four Germans is now energy impoverished (defined as those devoting more than 10% of their budget on power and fuels) and the German middle class now is increasingly affected by the ravages of green policies.
Europe’s Culture of Climate Catastrophism
No major region in the world has so completely forsaken its own basis of economic and social well-being, assured by access to cheap fossil fuels, as has Western Europe. What makes a society work against its own material interests? Much as the medieval Christian mendicant in search of God wore hair-shirts for penance and redemption, modern Western society has adopted what a recently published book calls a cultural narrative of climate catastrophism. Europe’s rich philosophical heritage derived from ancient Greece, Rome, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment has been replaced by a nihilistic primitivism clothed by a veneer of climate pseudo-science as remarked by the IMF-cancelled Nobel laureate John Clauser. Almost two decades ago, Michael Crichton described the West’s climate cult, and his words ring even truer now:
“Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists… environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment… Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner or saved.”
When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1521, they described witnessing a bloody ceremony. Aztec priests cut open the chests of sacrificial victims and offered their still-beating hearts to the gods. In our so-called age of science, the modern climate priesthood is figuratively offering the still-beating heart of Europe’s once-mighty civilization to appease Mother Gaia.