Watts Up With That? (Antony Watts)
Historic parallels in our time: the killing of cattle -vs- carbon
In April of 1856, a fifteen-year-old girl named Nongqawuse
heard a voice telling her that the Xhosa must kill all their
cattle, stop cultivating their fields, and destroy their stores
of grain and food.
The voice insisted that the Xhosa must also get rid of their hoes,
cooking pots, and every utensil necessary for the maintenance of life.
Once these things were accomplished, a new day would magically dawn.
Everything necessary for life would spring spontaneously from the earth.
The dead would be resurrected.
The blind would see and the old would have their youth restored.
New food and livestock would appear in abundance, spontaneously
sprouting from the earth.
The British would be swept into the sea, and the Xhosa would be
restored to their former glory.
What was promised was nothing less than the establishment of
paradise on earth.
The believers began their work in earnest.
Vast amounts of grain were taken out of storage and scattered on
the ground to rot.
Cattle were killed so quickly and on such an immense scale that
vultures could not entirely devour the rotting flesh.
The ultimate number of cattle that the Xhosa slaughtered was
After killing their livestock, the Xhosa built new, larger kraals to
hold the marvelous new beasts that they anticipated would rise out
of the earth.
The impetus of the movement became irresistible.
By the end of 1858, the Xhosa population had dropped from 105,000 to
Forty to fifty-thousand people starved to death, and the rest
With Xhosa civilization destroyed, the land was cleared for
The British found that those Xhosa who survived proved to be
docile and useful servants.
What the British Empire had been unable to accomplish in more
than fifty years of aggressive colonialism, the Xhosa did to
themselves in less than two years
Western civilization now stands on the brink of repeating the
experience of the Xhosa.
Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the late
eighteenth century, Europe and North America have enjoyed the
greatest prosperity ever known on earth.
Life expectancy has doubled.
In a little more than two hundred years, every objective measure of
human welfare has increased more than in all of previous human history.
But Western Civilization is coasting on an impetus provided by our
There is scarcely anyone alive in Europe or America today who
believes in the superiority of Western society.
Guilt and shame hang around our necks like millstones, dragging
our emasculated culture to the verge of self-immolation.
Whatever faults the British Empire-builders may have had, they
were certain of themselves.
Our forefathers built a technological civilization based on
energy provided by carbon-based fossil fuels.
Without the inexpensive and reliable energy provided by coal, oil,
and gas, our civilization would quickly collapse.
The prophets of global warming now want us to do precisely that.
Like the prophet Mhlakaza, Al Gore promises that if we stop using
carbon-based energy, new energy technologies will magically appear.
The laws of physics and chemistry will be repealed by political will
We will achieve prosperity by destroying the very means by which
prosperity is created.
While Western Civilization sits confused, crippled with self-doubt
and guilt, the Chinese are rapidly building an energy-intensive
They have 2,000 coal-fired power plants, and are currently
constructing new ones at the rate of one a week.
In China, more people believe in free-market economics than in
Our Asian friends are about to be nominated by history as the new
torchbearers of human progress.