Reconsidering Radical Positions

Reconsidering Radical Positions


This section of DiscoverTheNetworks chronicles the personal ideological journeys — “transformations” is not too strong a word to describe what some of them experienced — of individuals who at one time identified themselves as members of the environmentalist Left, and who proudly allied themselves with the worldviews and crusades that defined it. In the accompanying articles, these individuals recount their personal odysseys, discussing the nature of their former beliefs and detailing the pivotal events that first caused them to question the validity of all they had previously held politically sacred.

In his May 1994 article, “Hard Choices for the Environmental Movement,” Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore described his experience as follows:

In the name of “deep ecology,” many environmentalists have taken a sharp turn to the ultra-left, ushering in a mood of extremism and intolerance. As a clear signal of this new agenda, in 1990 Greenpeace called for a “grassroots revolution against pragmatism and compromise.” As an environmentalist in the political center I now find myself branded a traitor and a sellout by this new breed of saviors. My name appears in Greenpeace’s Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations. Even fellow Greenpeace founder and campaign comrade, Bob Hunter, refers to me as the “eco-Judas” …

[A key] event that caused the environmental movement to veer to the left was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Suddenly the international peace movement had a lot less to do. Pro-Soviet groups in the West were discredited. Many of their members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their eco-Marxism and pro-Sandinista sentiments.

[Today there is] a new variant of the environmental movement that is so extreme that many people, including myself, believe its agenda is a greater threat to the global environment than that posed by mainstream society. Some of the features of eco-extremism are:

  • It is anti-human. The human species is characterized as a “cancer” on the face of the earth. The extremists perpetuate the belief that all human activity is negative whereas the rest of nature is good….
  • It is anti-technology and anti-science. Eco-extremists dream of returning to some kind of technologically primitive society….
  • It is anti-organization. Environmental extremists tend to expect the whole world to adopt anarchism as the model for individual behavior. This is expressed in their dislike of national governments, multinational corporations, and large institutions of all kinds….
  • It is anti-trade. Eco-extremists are not only opposed to “free trade” but to international trade in general. This is based on the belief that each “bioregion” should be self-sufficient in all its material needs….
  • It is anti-free enterprise. Despite the fact that communism and state socialism has failed, eco-extremists are basically anti-business. They dislike “competition” and are definitely opposed to profits. Anyone engaging in private business, particularly if they are successful, is characterized as greedy and lacking in morality….
  • It is basically anti-civilization. In its essence, eco-extremism rejects virtually everything about modern life. We are told that nothing short of returning to primitive tribal society can save the earth from ecological collapse….

It is not reasonable to expect the environmental movement to drop its extremist agenda overnight. The rise of extremism is a major feature of the movement’s evolution and is now deeply embedded in its political structure. We can hope that as time passes the movement will be retaken by more politically centrist, science-based leaders and that the extreme wing will be marginalized. At the same time, we must remember that most of the larger environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council etc. do have many members and campaign teams that are reasonable and based on good science. It’s just that for the time being, major elements of their organizations have been hijacked by people who are politically motivated, lack science, and are often using the rhetoric of environmentalism to promote other causes such as class struggle and anti-corporatism.

Additional Resources:

On Behalf of Environmentalists, I Apologize for the Climate Scare
By Michael Shellenberger
June 29, 2020

Hard Choices for the Environmental Movement
By Patrick Moore
May 1994

Environmentalism for the 21st Century
By Patrick Moore
November 2004

The Death of Environmentalism: Global Warming Politics in a Post-Environmental World
By Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhause
October 2004


Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All
By Michael Shellenberger

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