This section of DiscoverTheNetworks explores the worldviews, activities, and agendas of radical environmentalism, a movement whose goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life, but rather the creation of a world where “nature” is deemed to have “intrinsic value” that ought to be revered for its own sake, irrespective of any benefit to mankind. Radical environmentalists espouse “deep ecology,” which asserts that the environment is an end in itself and that man is an intruder — if not a rapist and despoiler — who should have no greater priority than any other species. From this axiom, they reason that any human action that changes the environment is necessarily immoral.
Notably, radical environmentalists invoke the doctrine of intrinsic value not against wolves that eat sheep, or beavers that gnaw trees; they invoke it only against man, only when man wants to use natural resources for the advancement of some business endeavor. Thus they tend to reflexively oppose the pursuit of such endeavors as oil exploration, logging, housing development, and all manner of commerce.
A logical corollary to this view is the premise that free-market economic systems are inherently plagued by greed and by a willingness to exploit the environment to whatever degree is necessary for maximum profit, without regard for any resultant ecological harm. Consequently, a hallmark of radical environmentalism is its hostility to capitalism and its embrace of socialism as a preferred economic model.
It is imperative to distinguish radical environmentalism from conservationism — the rational, or conservative, brand of environmentalism that rejects any and all gratuitous or preventable damage to the natural world. Conservationism is committed to minimizing air pollution, water pollution, the destruction of natural ecosystems, and the unnecessary depletion of natural resources. By the same token, however, it understands that the potential benefits of progress and industry (conducted in an environmentally responsible manner) may sometimes justify mankind’s manipulation/exploitation of landscapes, forests, rivers, mineral reserves, etc. Robert Locke’s “The Right Conservative Position on the Environment” does an excellent job of distinguishing between radical environmentalism and conservationism.
Radical environmentalism talks eloquently of the purification of air and water, and is sincerely concerned with these issues. But its ultimate goal, the one it believes must be achieved for environmental purity finally to be realized, is the demolition of the West’s industries and the technology that drives them, and the cultivation of a world where “Nature” becomes a surrogate religion.
Radical environmentalists have made “development” an evil word. They work to inhibit or prohibit the harnessing of Alaskan oil, offshore oil, nuclear power, coal — and every other practical form of energy. They oppose construction projects that would lead to more housing, commerce, and jobs — in favor of the “rights” of spotted owls, snail darters and other purportedly endangered species. They would sacrifice medical research that extends and improves the quality of human life to the “rights” of mice and other laboratory animals. They “protect” the environment from the industry that is a quintessential human activity and from man himself, whom they consider a rapist and despoiler in his soul.
According to writer Michael Berliner:
“The expressed goal of environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. Intrusion is necessary for human survival. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man control his life and project long-range goals. Intrusion improves the environment, if by ‘environment’ one means the surroundings of man — the external material conditions of human life.”
The misanthropy at the heart of radical environmentalism is well expressed by biologist David M. Graber, who, in a glowing review of Bill McKibben‘s The End of Nature, writes: “Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet…. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
The late Michael Crichton said in 2003 that environmentalism had become “one of the most powerful religions in the Western World” and “the religion of choice for urban atheists.” Crichton was referring the fact that radical environmentalists tend to regard their most deeply held beliefs as articles of faith, rather than as science: “Increasingly,” he wrote, “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. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.”
Another hallmark of radical environmentalism is its scientific thuggery, a trait that was exhibited during the so-called “Climategate” scandal that erupted in late November 2009. At the heart of the controversy was the fact that a number of leading American and British climatologists who held that mankind’s industrial activity was causing a dangerous warming trend in the earth’s atmosphere, had intentionally manipulated the evidence in order to provide “proof” that their warnings were justified. The scientists’ deceptions were discovered when hundreds of their private email messages and documents were obtained and publicized by computer hackers.
Portions of this piece are adapted from “The Scourge of Earth Day,” authored by Michael Berliner and published by FrontPageMag.com on April 22, 2005.
Radical Environmentalism (See pages 1326-1333)
By The University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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