Being Against Climate Change Legislation Is Just Like Being For Slavery

Or so implies Andrew J. Hoffman, current sitter in the cushy Holcim chair at the University of Michigan, and writer of the peer-reviewed (I’m guessing) article “Climate change as a cultural and behavioral issue: Addressing barriers and implementing solutions”. This sonorous creation resides in the journal Organizational Dynamics. The publisher of that august serial, Elsevier, thinks so highly of Hoffman’s prose, that the article can be had for a mere $39.95. A bargain!

Hoffman, who not un-coincidentally has the look, mannerisms, and speech cadence of a television evangeli$t, has a deep, but narrow faith. He is certain sure that It’s Worse Than We Thought, climatologically speaking. And he is amazed that the populace has not yet awakened to the danger he so clearly sees. O why! Why hasn’t John Q. Public embraced all that is climate change? Why haven’t they succumbed to various legislations? Why do they express doubt? Why have they not yet changed their behavior?

Because they think just like slave owners do. Yes, dear reader: your lack of panic is equivalent to your agreeing with the morality of slavery.

In short, the magnitude of the cultural and moral shift around climate change is as large as that which accompanied the abolition of slavery.

He quotes a man who said that if you stood on a London street corner in the 18th century and shouted that slavery was morally wrong, “nine out of 10 listeners would have laughed you off as a crackpot” because the world’s economy was based upon slavery. That quotation is false, of course: the abolition movement began in 18th century London. But never mind, because here comes the extrapolation. Hoffman says:

If you stood on a New York City street corner and insisted that burning fossil fuels was morally wrong and should be stopped, listeners would laugh you off as a crackpot. There is a vast physical infrastructure that depends on oil, and it cannot be simply replaced without great disruption. Abolition of the primary source of energy in the world is out of the question…Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with burning fossil fuels [emphasis mine].

Hoffman's bear
This bear—a picture from Hoffman’s site—is surveying which foolish eco-tourist to eat.

Abolition! Get it? Get it? Sure you do, you sophisticated reader, you. And, oh yes, never mind that people are routinely standing on New York City street corners disparaging fossil fuels and finding receptive audiences.

Look here, dear reader. I really wanted to bite into Hoffman’s paper, prise out and expose his logical errors, bare the subtleties that can cause thinking to go wrong, and perhaps expose Hoffman to some good, old-fashioned ridicule. But except for a few asinine observations about slavery and one or two trite and ridiculous statements about the epistemology of cigarette smoking and cancer (yes), there is nothing in this paper to criticize.

When I first read it, I thought it the work on a man in his dotage. This ponderous paper—eleven pages! the journal equivalent of Gibbon—was surely the result of an indulgent editor towards a once-eminent emeritus professor? But no. Hoffman is in his prime and damn active. He pumps out books faster than Queen Victoria squeezed out children.

And Her Highness was better at naming her offspring. Hoffman’s titles: Memo to the CEO: Climate Change, What’s Your Business Strategy?, Carbon Strategies: How Leading Companies are Reducing their Climate Change Footprint, Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change. There are others, but my concern for my readers’ sanity precludes naming them.

But you get the idea: Hoffman’s purpose in life is to lecture corporations about their carbon “footprint.” No doubt, because he cares so deeply about the environment, he does this gratis. The Organizational Dynamics paper is filled with nuggets designed to intrigue corporate environmental officers who, Hoffman must be hoping, will engage him to lecture.

You know the kind of stuff I mean: “The first step in creating a carbon action plan, is to initiate the process where the organization recognizes the need of a carbon action plan.” There is nothing logically wrong with that sentence: its conclusion does indeed follow from its premise. But it is vaporous, empty.

That quotation is made up, but it’s a fair summary of Hoffman’s prose. To prove it, here, I swear to God, is a genuine quotation:

The next step in climate-strategy development is consideration for how operations and sales may be affected—both for the positive and the negative—by climate change related factors and, as a result, how such factors may alter competitive positioning.

Hey, reader! Wake up!


  1. dearieme

    Come, come. It’s Her Majesty, not Her Highness.

    Your choice of closing quotation is excellent but you might, in fairness, have told us what this native language is, and at what age he learnt English.

  2. Wolfgang Flamme

    But … slavery probably has a much smaller per capita carbon footprint.

  3. Briggs


    What Hoffman forgets is that slavery was able to be abandoned because of fossil fuels.


    Oh, dear me. As you might say, I funked it. Whom might I address as “Highness”?

    Hoffman is a native of Bureaucracia, whose language is a cross between Hungarian and an Actuarial Life Table. As near as I can tell, he has not yet learned English.

  4. Speed

    Was it Hoffman who wrote, “Nuclear power as a cultural and behavioral issue: Addressing barriers and implementing solutions” back in the 1980s?

  5. Speed

    Whom might I address as “Highness”?
    Zonker Harris.

  6. j ferguson

    I see he has yet to turn out “Tales of Hoffman”

  7. Hwan

    Matt…methinks you should not read so much crap.

  8. Bernie

    Organizational Dynamics is to peer review as the National Enquirer is to literature. It is about as soft and as vacuous a journal as one could possibly get. How can you “peer review” rank opinion pieces? The relatively few actual empirical studies that I recall appearing in the Journal were woeful in terms of design and sample size.

    Alas the field of organizational behavior has more than its share of such trite banal nonsense enlivened with meaningless tautologies.

  9. View from the Solent

    “Whom might I address as “Highness”?”
    Well, I can only speak of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    Her (His) Majesty is the monarch. The monarch’s sons and daughters, their spouses, and the monarch’s spouse are highnesses. (Which implies that siblings of the monarch are highnesses, since they are offspring of the previous monarch.)

    It might stretch a bit further than that in some instances, perhaps some cousins. Funny old place the UK.

  10. Pat Moffitt

    It would come as a surprise to Hoffman that many “ignore” the climate risk as a result of having looked at the evidence and found it lacking in substance.

  11. Judy Cross

    As usual the shills for the kleptocracy turn things upside down. If paying fees in order to get permission to add a beneficial trace gas to the atmosphere isn’t slavery itself, I don’t know what else it could be called.

    Here in British Columbia, the government already collects a “carbon tax” on the use of coal, petroleum and natural gas. The legislature put in place the means to install a “cap and trade”
    system in 2008. The juggernaut continues to roll in spite of the climate scam having been exposed. They are asking for public input until Dec 6,2010.

  12. Hoffman verges on the truth, in a back door fashion. There is a parallel between carbon authoritarianism and slavery — both seek to deny individuals their basic human rights in order to extract pecuniary benefits. Hoffman is the opposite of an abolitionist, though. He is pro-slavery. He would enslave the world and inflict backbreaking burdens to satisfy his own endless amoral greed.

  13. Was momentarily taken aback to read “Andy”, among his many accomplishments, is a board member of the “Michigan League of Conservative Voters”, but upon further review noted the league has quixotically but no doubt innocently mis-identified itself as “conservative” rather than “conservationist”.

    ..has the look, mannerisms, and speech cadence of a television evangeli$t

    just proves everyone has a “god”, no matter what that “god” is called. And whether they have enough insight to recognize that trait in themselves, or not.

  14. Wm Schulte

    Did you really pay $39.95 for the article?
    I only thought you were “spelling challenged”, not nuts.

  15. Briggs

    Wm Schulte,

    No, sir, I did not. The college I am at has access to that journal. I would never pay to read something like this.

  16. Yum, that one on the right looks big enough. Not too many clothes to tear through and plenty of fat to help get through the hard winter months.

  17. Greg Cavanagh

    That photo of the bear and tourist is wrong on so many levels.

    Surely the tourist group stood at the tree line and spied in the distance a brown bear wayyy out in the distance, and walked out there to him.

    Worse, is the camera man walked around the bear to take a photo from the opposite side.

    Do you think they know anything about animals?

  18. Mike B

    Just an aside, but the idea of the Holcim Chair of Sustainable Enterprise is more than a bit ironic, given that Holcim is the largest manufacturer of cement in the world, and cement production is the second largest producer of man-made CO2 after electric power generation.

    I wonder just how comfy that concrete chair is? 😉

  19. Jerry

    There’s a Journal of Organizational Dynamics? Really? What’s next, an Organization of Dynamic Journalists? Sort of an anti-NPR.

  20. Harry

    Let us not forget that nine out of ten listeners would consider you a crackpot simply by shouting on a street corner, regardless of subject.

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