The One Minute Case Against Environmentalism

Environmentalism versus humanity

The premise behind the environmentalist movement is the belief that nature untouched by human influence has inherent moral value independently of its benefit to mankind, and therefore the influence of man, and especially that of industrial civilization, is immoral. What leading environmentalists oppose is not the threat to human life posed by environmental destruction, but man’s exploitation of nature to improve its ability to sustain human life.

In the words of popular environmentalist Bill McKibben, “The problem is that nature, the independent force that has surrounded us since our earliest days, cannot coexist with our numbers and our habits. We may well be able to create a world that can support our numbers and our habits, but it will be an artificial world. . . .” The environmentalist attack on the “artificial” extends to all human manipulation of the environment. While few advocates of environmentalism recognize it as such, the ultimate goal of the environmentalist movement is the total destruction of industrial civilization, and the vast majority of the human race whose existence is made possible by it.

Environmentalism versus the mind

Human beings have evolved over millions of years to survive by using their reasoning mind. There is nothing “unnatural” about this. It is human nature to think and use technology to enrich our lives. We are as much a part of the “natural world” as any other creature. Instead of claws, fangs, or the heightened senses of animals, we have our minds and hands.The difference between our comfortable lives and the short, dangerous, and miserable existence that our ancestors eked out in trees, caves, and caverns is continually made possible by application of reason to the problem of survival.

Shackling man’s mind by preventing him from applying it to improve his condition would ultimately lead to our extinction. The genetic and biochemical tools which made the Green Revolution possible feed billions of people today. Farming machinery feeds billions more. Undoing the industrial revolution would eliminate the vast majority of productivity improvements in agricultural production and distribution. To the extent that we cripple technology, we cripple our ability to exist as human beings.

Capitalism is the solution to environmental destruction

The usual response to environmental destruction is a call for more government controls of industry. However it is the lack of property rights, not capitalism which is responsible for environmental destruction, as the history of socialist states aptly demonstrates.1

According to Roy Cordato2,

Environmental problems occur because property rights, a requirement of free markets, are not being identified or enforced. Problems of air, river, and ocean pollution are all due to a lack of private property rights and/or protection. Since clarifying and enforcing property rights is the basic function of government in a free society, environmental problems are an example of government failure, not market failure.

In a free society, environmental problems should be viewed in terms of how they impinge on human liberty. Questions should focus on how and why one person’s use of resources might interfere with the planning and the decision making abilities of others. Since, legitimately, people can only make plans and decisions with respect to resources that they have “rights” to, environmentalism that has human wellbeing as the focus of its analysis, must center on property rights.

Even if some environmental dangers are real, we would be much better equipped to deal with them by embracing prosperity and technological progress than surrendering to the indisputable danger of nature to those who give up their primary means of survival. As Ayn Rand put it,3

City smog and filthy rivers are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be). This is a scientific, technological problem—not a political one—and it can be solved only by technology. Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is whole-sale death.

If a court can make a definitive causal connection between an injured party and a party responsible for a pollutant, it should demand compensation of harms. If it cannot find a responsible party guilty, but punishes an innocent party, it punishes man for his nature as a productive, industrial being and thus makes human life impossible.

References:

  1. Thomas J. DiLorenzo. “Why Socialism Causes Pollution” The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, March 1992.
  2. Roy E. Cordato. “Market Based Environmentalism vs. the Free Market” June 4, 1999
  3. Ayn Rand. “The Anti-Industrial Revolution,” Return of the Primitive, 282. 1971

Further reading:

22 Comments

Filed under Environment, Politics

22 Responses to The One Minute Case Against Environmentalism

  1. Nice post. It succinctly points out the dangers of environmentalism.

  2. Thank you for this article! I could never comprehend why people are easily fooled by the environmentalist’s propaganda – if you ask me, this is just a friendly term for anti-humanism. I really hope that more people will come to realize that this environmentalism is destructive – it only sounds good because it’s being hyped by the bandwagon.

    • Cindi

      I value humann life which is why I value the environment. Without the earth we would not be in existence. We would have nothing to live on. By destroying earth and not keeping it in good condition we destroy our chances of living. Environmentalists are not destructive. The only destructive people are the ones who don’t care enough to keep earth green. You are killing human life by not conserving the environment.

  3. Andy

    What you are leaving off the table is that you couldn’t breath at all if plants were not taking your waste product and recreating your fuel for you. Humanity and Nature never were and never will be separate. In spite of yours and the “environmentalist” claim to the contrary. Your presuppositions are silly. You say environmentalists are frog kissers. I say kiss my asphalt.

  4. Kristen

    Can you really believe that environmentalism is all about “total destruction of industrial civilization?” Environmentalism is about conserving the resources on which our civilization depends so that we can survive. Our society, like it or not, needs natural resources, and the sooner we take action to conserve them (or better, use technology – yes, environmentalists are for technology! – to find solutions using renewable resources) the better off we will all be.

  5. I think you have a gross misunderstanding of the green movement. I don’t know a single environmentalist who believes that nature untouched has intrinsically high moral value. Every environmentalist I know is a humanist, first and foremost. They prize human life, and embrace environmentalism as a tool to make sure the broadest number of people can live healthy lives as possible. They fear climate change and the destruction of ecosystems because those things impact human populations in the long run.

    Sure there are a few hippy-dippy, polar-bear loving environmentalists out there. But you’re doing the movement a disservice by pigeonholing it in such an ignorant way.

    BTW, I agree wholeheartedly with Kristen above.

  6. Dallas Beaufort

    Until environmentalists develop a higher publicly accepted market value for undeveloped land (private property) instead of usurping these properties through town planning corrupting and stealth there credibility will always assume the nature of a thief in the night and thereby creep and act in the shadows not willing to prove their worth.

  7. Susannah

    This definition of environmentalism is ridiculous, I too agree with Kristen. The environment is our life support system. You wouldn´t wreck your house and expect to live comfortably, so why wreck the planet?

  8. Rick Fischer

    We need clarity about what we are talking about. True environmentalism seeks to improve life for all humans, and willingly employs technology and efficiently uses resources for that end, stipulating that clean environment and conserved resources are central to that goal. Radical extremists, on the other hand, place non-interference in the natural world as the highest goal, superior to human welfare. They cloak themselves in the rhetoric of true environmentalism while using the courts, government and environmental laws to thwart technology, industry and global advancement.

    Allow me to support that claim with examples. Remember the battles over DDT? True environmentalists sought to regulate or ban DDT for agricultural and domestic use. Fair enough. But the radicals won the day with an outright ban even on the use of DDT to control malaria. The very next year, ten thousand Americans, and one million world citizens, died unnecessary and preventable deaths from increased malaria. The UN recently admitted that fifty million preventable deaths have resulted from that unwise total ban on DDT. That means nothing to radical environmentalists. Or how about this one: the very first thing the radicals did after getting the government to declare the polar bear endangered was to use that ruling in court to try to block construction of new power plants. Explain to me how the electric car will become a reality without new power plants to provide the electricity. Solar and wind? Radicals are in court blocking new wind farms on the grounds that birds might hit the blades, and new solar farms because they might alter the habits of desert lizards, and both of them because they object to the transmission lines. Radical environmentalists want hydro dams removed because they interfere with salmon sex, and nuclear is totally forbidden, notwithstanding that the whole rest of the world is going nuclear. Carbon offsets and cap-and-trade are purely money schemes that will enrich the already rich and seriously harm the world economy, with no actual benefit to the environment. Enough? I have lots more.

    You can’t dismiss radical environmentalism as an inconsequential fringe element. The courts give them the same power as the mainstream groups regardless of their misanthropic goals, and any group that calls itself “environmentalist” automatically gets political support from the mindless left. If the radical environmental agenda were adopted worldwide, humanity would walk a path of misery and starvation to a much less populated world. And that is the extremists’ true hidden agenda.

  9. James

    You should re-name this article “Against Ludditism.”

    Your description of environmentalism does not hold well among its populace at all.

    I dunno, the article is ironically radical. And as you’ve demonstrated, radicals are always easy to refute.

    • Neffra Harnash

      Way easy. They like to make sweeping generalizations, and have no solutions to problems rather worsen them. But hey, not everyone appreciates irony.

  10. Kat

    As it is with so many things in this world, this issue is all about balance. Yes, we must preserve human freedoms and incourage innovations in technology that will result in the betterment of all mankind but we must also protect this rock that we evolved on and as a part of. We need this world. It is a delicate balance that allows us to be here and we must be aware of that as we progress.

    Also, I am very interested in your assumption that environmental problems are problems with property rights. I wonder if you could further elaborate on that point.

  11. Tim

    It’s a shame that this is only a one minute case since it deserves so much more time. Nonetheless, you’ve summarized a great deal in such a short essay. Excellent points! And, I ditto those comments made by Rick Fischer above–with a particular emphasis on the DDT ban that cost millions of lives–a tragic example to illustrate when radicalism goes way too far. Extreme environmentalism includes a long list of draconian laws and policies based on a pseudo-rational ideology that is based more on warm, fuzzy, feel-good mentalities than on practical solutions to real world problems. The attacks on this article from other commenters illustrates the confusion over education versus draconian activism. Conservation and sustainability are about education and are legitimate concerns, particular for the average American who desires to save money; but, the average American does NOT agree with removing the rights of people and businesses. Let the markets decide. After all, it was the high gas prices that pushed the green movement forward into the mainstream. And, it will be the markets that uncover environmentalism as a fad since any type of “-ism” never seems to stand the test of time. In the meantime, since people have the ability to turn a good thing bad, we now possess the temporary urge to pass restrictive rules and policies regarding how we are supposed to live. In other words, do this, don’t do that, can’t do this, shouldn’t do that…and if you don’t follow the rules, then you hate the Earth and your “part of the problem”. And all of this until the public suddenly awakes to discover that their rights have been curbed and an imbalance of power has occurred, and conservatives will, at this point in time, have all the ammunition they need to pounce on liberals. And, the political cycle of life continues as ideas change and so on and so forth. It is the classic pendulum that swings from one extreme end to the other.

  12. Jen

    All of the “benefits” of any climate change that occurs that you are so in favor of will only “benefit” the western hemisphere (North America), according to the data presented here.

    We do need to consider the entire planet when arguing about benefits of climate change, because the small portion of North America that might actually benefit from any temperature increase would be so small that it would effect the majority.

    Case 1: When the Great Lakes were formed, that massive amount of fresh water that was introduced to the ocean caused an Ice Age in Western Europe. The ice in Greenland is melting, with the potential to cause this type of event to happen again. But, eh. That’s not our problem, right? It’s not like we trade or have alliances with that part of the world, right?

    Case 2: Next, a rise in overall global temperature will only raise water levels by 23 inches, not 12 feet. That’s not so bad, right? What about when you get the massive amount of rain associated with the temperature change. This would cause flooding, and not just for people in coastal communities. Inland water supplies would overflow. There would be increased erosion along the coast as well. But come on, you didn’t like going to the beach that much anyway, right?

    Case 3: Another situation would be the additional rise in temperature for the deserts of Africa. Why should we care? That’s not in America. What about your water supplies in the deserts of America? Don’t you think a rise in temperature in Nevada will not cause drought for those citizens? It would also cause the annual California wildfires to increase. If you don’t live there, it is not your problem, right?

    Case 4: A warmer climate in Siberia and Canada would allow for expansion into these territories so we may benefit from it’s untapped resources. Great idea, let’s strip mine the forests of Canada and drill for oil in Russia. Like adding wealth to other countries won’t be a negative to our current economic problems. The value of the American dollar would fall even more.

    Think about it.

  13. Tom T.

    It is not fair to characterize all environmentalists as extremists. That’s like equating all pro-life people with those who kill doctors or all Muslims with terrorists.

  14. Neffra Harnash

    No one is trying to “cripple” the growth of technology, rather enhance it in order to free us from the capitalists that we throw our money @ for oil and goods we can make here in our own country. Here’s the cool part. We can do it without WASTING natural resourses and all it takes is each person to realize they have the power to use the brains they were givin to save their own lives by thinking about what they can do to ensure their life and seeds can continue lineage and further evolution on this planet without rotting in a pile of waste.

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