Radical environmentalists and the activist groups with which they are affiliated typically view free-market capitalism as an economic system that is inherently destructive of the natural world. They present themselves as watchdogs whose main objective is to defend the air, water, animals, plants, and other natural resources from man-made pollution and its effects. In the process, they engage in alarmist rhetoric that depicts the United States (and its capitalist economic structure) as the world’s leading environmental villain. Meanwhile, they ignore such salient facts as these:
Air quality in the U.S. improved by more than 40 percent between 1980 and 1995. In the eastern United States, EPA data show a 60-percent reduction in sulfur-dioxide levels between 2000 and 2008, and a decline in emissions of nitrogen oxides (an ozone precursor) of more than 50 percent during that same period.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a 2008 report confirming that the United States is now gaining wetlands.
Emissions of sulfur dioxide, chief cause of acid rain, fell by 32.2 percent between 1970 and 1994.
Ground-level ozone, smog's primary component, fell in the U.S. by nearly 20 percent between 1979 and 1993. Meanwhile, ambient lead concentration fell by 97.1 percent; the amount of particulates spewed into the air fell by 64 percent; carbon monoxide emissions dropped by 38 percent; releases of volatile organic compounds declined by 29 percent; and ocean dumping of industrial wastes was reduced by 94 percent.
In 2006, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 1.5 percent, marking the first time such emissions had ever fallen in a non-recessionary year. It is likely that the United States was the only industrialized nation where GHG emissions fell in 2006.
Notwithstanding this good news, radical environmental groups and their leaders warn incessantly that the earth’s environment is on the verge a catastrophe that could threaten human survival, and that capitalist, industrialized nations -- most prominently the United States -- are the major culprits. With Al Gore as a chief spokesman, these environmental radicals attempt to frighten people into a willingness to be taxed and regulated to ever-greater degrees by an ever-expanding government that gains more and more control over the reins of the nation's economy -- all in the name of environmental protection. This anti-capitalist agenda is made plain by the words of many of the environmentalist movement's leading radicals themselves. Communist political figures such as Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, and Evo Morales likewise condemn capitalism, in the harshest terms, as the major cause of pollution worldwide.
The same core worldview also underlies many legislative efforts to designate large swaths of "wilderness" land off-limits for natural-resource development. One such law was the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which expanded the 107 million acres of federally owned U.S. wilderness area by more than 2 million additional acres.
Following the first Earth Day in 1970, the radical environmental movement supplanted the conservationism that stretched back to the progressive policies of Theodore Roosevelt. The deep strategy of this movement became an anti-technology, anti-capitalist redistributionism, which its leaders believe is nature's (and humanity’s) only hope. From its foundation, this movement has turned a blind eye to the enormous environmental degradation that, under cover of the Iron Curtain, once descended like a plague upon much of the habitable portions of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Moreover, the levels of air and water pollution in Communist China today dwarf the corresponding levels of pollution in the U.S.
In his book Trashing the Economy, Ron Arnold summarizes the process by which the radical environmental movement wins converts to its cause:
"It sneaks up on you. The novice environmentalist sees only the lofty and noble dream of a perfect physical environment. Then, headline after headline -- acid rain, global warming, the ozone hole, oil spills -- the environmentalist begins to harden. Negativity sets in. Perceptions change. There is a distinct shift toward seeing man as the systematic destroyer of the good, the systematic doer of evil. The image of humanity changes. A profound misanthropy develops -- and the environmentalist is unaware of it."