Mr. Bidinotto, a staff writer for Reader’s Digest, writes and lectures on criminal justice and environmental issues. He is the author of Crime and Consequences, published by The Foundation for Economic Education in 1989.
The following is an abridged version of Mr. Bidinotto’s speech at a Foundation for Economic Education conference on April 28,1990, held at the Alderbrook Resort Inn on the Hood Canal in Washington State.
I woke up early this morning to the view of the pre-dawn sun catching the snow-capped peaks of the noble Olympic Mountains across the water. Sea gulls whirled and screeched above the boats moored at the dock, framed by the deep green pine forests that hug the canal.
It was a quiet moment, laden with expectation and hope. I thought: What a beautiful environment for a conference; what a beautiful environment for man. And I thought: How fortunate that I am here to see this, for only my seeing it gives this morning its beauty, and only my hearing it gives this day its song.
Then, drawn back to the reason for my presence here, I was deeply disturbed. I knew that this was not the view of many who called themselves “environmentalists.” They viewed my presence as an intrusion—not as giving meaning to nature, but as spoiling its purity. That, indeed, was the message reiterated endlessly during the Earth Day celebrations. I wondered: Where did they ever get so perverse a view?
Children of Rousseau
At the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, some young people, intimidated by the pace and complexity of modern life, were looking either to rebel or to retreat—to tear down “the System,” or to withdraw to nature for a “Colorado Rocky Mountain high.” Children of Rousseau, they preached the inherent goodness of untouched nature and undisciplined emotion; the corrupting influence of reason, culture, and civilization; economic egalitarianism and small-scale participatory democracy; the mystical infallibility of the collective will and the sacrifice of the individual to the group. And they were united in their hatred of a common enemy: modern American, capitalistic society.
While most of their moderate contemporaries grew up to become our architects, accountants, and automobile dealers, a small cadre—the Rousseauian residue of the Woodstock Generation—never outgrew their fundamental cultural alienation and hostility. They never developed the slightest interest in the basic values accepted by most people. For 20 years, they have been seething on the fringes of society. Now, like scavengers scenting a wounded animal, they are closing in on a vulnerable culture.
This small group of fanatics sets the moral premises of today’s environmentalist movement. Contrary to the beliefs of many decent people who call themselves “environmentalists” and even of most of those who join environmental groups, the leadership cadre is not primarily interested in clean air, land, and water, in abundant resources, or in resolving disputed claims to their use. They have a far different agenda.
Before i continue, let me clarify a very important point. I’m emphatically not arguing that environmental concerns are trivial or misplaced. Pollution, overuse of various resources, toxic waste disposal, and other environmental issues are legitimate concerns. Yet these problems arise, not from a failure of the free market system, but from the very failure to apply free market principles to resource management in the first place.
The failure to define property rights in all natural resources has led to “the tragedy of the commons”—the tendency to treat “publicly owned resources” as free goods, to which everyone has a claim, but for which no one bears any responsibility. The competing collective claims upon vast tracts of government-owned land, the abuse of air and water, the conflicts between protecting “endangered species” versus advancing the economic well- being of people—these and many other dilemmas are caused by the absence of the principles of property rights, free markets, and individual accountability.
How market mechanisms may deal with these problems has been addressed by others, and is not my primary concern here. What I intend to explore, rather, is the philosophical meaning of the contemporary environmentalist philosophy and movement, as it has been shaped by its leadership cadre.
Deep Ecologists vs. Greens
This cadre is loosely divided into two competing, but often overlapping camps. For simplicity, I’ll distinguish these camps as the Deep Ecologists and the Greens.
The Deep Ecologists are the apolitical heirs to the old “counterculture” movement. Tending toward mysticism and nihilism, and sometimes paying explicit homage to the anti-technology Luddite movement of the Industrial Revolution, they see the environmental crusade not as a means of reforming modern society, but of escaping or obliterating it. These contemporary pagans and Druids march under the banner of “Green lifestyles” and “biocentrism.”
Many are misfits, attracted to the bizarre and mystical as a means of escapism. Ms. magazine breathlessly reported on the growth of “eco-feminism” and the “resurgence of earth-based paganism, including . . . Native American religions and Goddess-worship.” One itinerant environmentalist conducts “workshops” in which participants are urged to remember their alleged evolutionary history by rolling on the ground and imagining what their lives were like as dead leaves, slugs, and lichens.
Other Deep Ecologists prefer “direct action” against corporate and governmental targets, ranging from theatrical civil disobedience to outright terror, sabotage, and violence. They man groups like Greenpeace, Earth First!, Sea Shepherds, Rainforest Action Network, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Animal Liberation Front.
The Greens, by contrast, are the political heirs to the New Left. Marching under the banners of “Green politics” or “Social Ecology,” they profess at least a nominal concern for human values and modern culture. But their goal is a socialist, redistributionist society, which they claim is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.
The most consistent among them join the various Green Parties and groups; but the more pragmatic and sophisticated join the more respectable, better-heeled fronts, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Worldwatch Institute, the Union of Concerned Scientists, or even the United States Environmental Protection Agency and its regulatory sisters.
For all their feuds, both camps supplement each other. The Deep Ecologists set the moral tone and spiritual direction: they inspire, radicalize, and recruit. Meanwhile, the Greens translate these raw assets into political power—into proposals, manpower, candidates, and ultimately laws.
Both factions—particularly the countercultural “direct action” groups—have been growing rapidly. But the more radical ones have been expanding far faster than old, mainstream liberal, “tree-hugger” groups such as the Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, the Humane Society, and the National Wildlife Federation. These latter have struggled to keep up, becoming increasingly radicalized by the competitive demands of the environmentalist marketplace, and by the logic of the environmental ethic itself.
In its purist form, the so-called “environmental ethic” was defined in 1966 by UCLA historian Lynn White Jr., and in 1972 by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess.
White blamed the ecological crisis on the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage, which, he said, was based on the “axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.” He called for a “new religion” based upon “the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature” and “the equality of all creatures, including man.”
Naess took this a step further. Individuals do not exist, he said; we’re all only part of larger “ecosystems.” The “shallow ecology” of mainstream conservation groups, he argued, was still anthropocentric or homocentric—that is, man-centered. It aimed only at improving the environment for the benefit of humans. “Deep ecology,” on the other hand, led to a view of “biospheric egalitarianism . . . the equal right [of all things] to live and blossom.”
In short, this philosophy maintains that all things are created equal; they should be veneratedas ends in themselves, as intrinsically valuable apart from man; and they have equal rights to their own kinds of “self- realization,” without human interference or exploitation.
The “Animal Rights” Movement
The most prominent manifestation of “biospheric egalitarianism”—the “animal rights movement”—emerged with the publication in 1975 of philosopher Peter Singer’s book, Animal Liberation. Led by a group of young philosophy professors, this movement went far beyond traditional concerns for animal welfare or protection. Its basic premise was captured in the title of Singer’s first chapter: “All Animals Are Equal.”
“This book,” Singer wrote, “is about the tyranny of human over non-human animals.” That tyranny amounts to “speciesism,” akin to “racism.” A speciesist, Singer said, “allows the interest of his species to override the greater interest of members of other species.” Note the word “greater.”
As philosopher Tom Regan, author of The Case for Animal Rights, put it, “the fundamental wrong is the system that allows us to view animals as our resources, here for us . . . .” Instead, Singer and Regan held that all beings with a capacity to feel pleasure and pain have an “inherent value of their own.” Or, as columnist and ethologist Michael W. Fox asserted, “Each sentient being should be valued in and for itself.”
According to three other animal rights philosophers, this means “. . . there can be no rational excuse left for killing animals, be they killed for food, science or sheer personal indulgence.” It means: no animal testing of medicines or surgical techniques; no hunting, circuses, or rodeos; no bird cages or dog pens; no leather; no meat, milk, or eggs; no use of animals, period.
Even man’s most innocuous activities are viewed as intruding upon the rights of other species. Philosophy professors Dale Jamieson and Tom Regan, addressing 200 marine scientists, declared that whales have rights, since “they have a mental life of greater sophistication than many humans.” They attacked the training of whales to perform in aquatic parks, and even oceanic whale-watching cruises. “Whales,” they admonished the group, “do not exist as visual commodities in an aquatic free market, and the business of taking eager sightseers into their [emphasis added] waters . . . is exploitative.”
There can be no compromises on animal rights, say its proponents. Steven Wise of Attorneys for Animal Rights contends, “The lives of tens of millions of animals do not belong to us and are not ours to compromise.” The authors of an animal rights anthology affirmed: “Compromise, in the traditional sense of the term, is simple unthinking weakness.”
This fanaticism has led some activists to acts of terrorism and violence against the “tyrant species.”
In April 1987 the Animal Liberation Front torched a university research building in Davis, California. In October 1988 the same group tossed paint and acid on the homes and cars of people working for the San Diego Zoo. Bombs have been planted at British fur stores and, this year, at up-scale department stores around San Francisco. Women wearing furs have been attacked on the streets of New York City. One woman there was recently convicted for attempting to murder the president of U.S. Surgical Corporation, which uses animals to teach doctors surgical procedures; this animal lover was captured with two pipe bombs filled with nails.
The “Rights” of Nature?
Such acts are the cul-de-sac of the premise that animals have intrinsic value and inherent rights. To see why, it is important to grasp how different this view is from the Lockean-based tradition of rights. That tradition regards rights as arising from human nature. Rights are moral principles that define the boundary lines necessary for peaceful interaction in society. The purpose of these boundaries is to let men pursue their well-being and happiness without interference.
Any intelligible theory of rights must presuppose entities capable of defining and respecting moral boundary lines. But animals are by nature incapable of this. And since they are unable to know, respect, or exercise rights, the principle of rights simply can’t be applied to, or by, animals. Rights are, by their nature, based on a homocentric (man-centered) view of the world.
Practically, the notion of animal rights entails an absurd moral double standard. It declares that animals have the “inherent right” to survive as their nature demands, but that man doesnt. It declares that man, the only entity capable of recognizing moral boundaries, is to sacrifice his interests to entities that can’t. Ultimately, it means that only animals have rights: since nature consists entirely of animals, their food, and their habitats, to recognize “animal rights” man must logically cede to them the entire planet.
“Is it not perverse to prefer the lives of mice and guinea pigs to the lives of men and women?” asks philosopher Patrick Corbett. Not really, because “if we stand back from the scientific and technological rat race for a moment, we realize that, since animals are in many respects superior to ourselves, the argument collapses.” Man, snarls Michael W. Fox in his book, Returning to Eden, “is the most dangerous, destructive, selfish and unethical animal on earth.” All animals may be equal in animal rights theory; but—as Orwell pointed out in Animal Farm—some animals are more equal than others.
Some “biospheric egalitarians” (or “biocentrists”) have decided that even plants and inanimate objects have rights not to be used by humans. In The Rights of Nature, Roderick Frazier Nash notes that “ecological egalitarianism,” as he calls it, “accords nature ethical status at least equal to that of humans. The antipode is ‘anthropocentrism,’ according to which humans are the measure of all nature.”
In 1972, Christopher Stone published an article in the California Law Review titled “Should Trees Have Standing?—Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” This absurd viewpoint was further dignified by the prominent liberal Harvard law professor Laurence H. Tribe, in a 1974 Yale Law Journal article, and later in a book of essays. Worse yet, Stone’s argument was actually accepted and cited in a 1972 dissenting opinion written by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
Direct Action and Eco-Terrorism
The most successful of the Deep Ecology groups is Greenpeace International, whose activists engage in highly visible acts of “nonviolent” civil disobedience, such as plugging up smokestacks and chemical waste pipes, or invading missile test sites on inflatable rafts. Their
Robin Hood image has paid off with at least 4 million contributors worldwide and an annual income over $100 million. Greenpeace has become the darling of the liberal media, and the entertainment industry’s charity of choice. The cable music network, VH-1, financed and is airing dozens of free commercials for the group, many narrated by Hollywood celebrities. A movie about Greenpeace founder David McTaggart is in the works.
Even more disturbing is the fawning media treatment given to the group Earth First!, the violent guerrilla arm of the Deep Ecology movement. It specializes in sabotaging bulldozers, tearing down billboards and power lines, putting nails on roads to stop logging trucks, and pounding spikes into trees to destroy saw blades. One of its slogans is “Back to the Pleistocene”—meaning, back to the last Ice Age. Another slogan is “no compromise in defense of mother earth.”
“The only thing we have in common is an absolute conviction that the Earth comes first,” says a U.S. government scientist who is a secret member. Another member, Christopher Manes, has recently published a book, Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization. His closing line: “The time to make the choice between the natural and cultural world has come.”
Appropriately, the patron saints of the Deep Ecologists are the 19th-century Luddites—English workmen who, during the Industrial Revolution, went on a rampage to destroy factory machinery.
Today, says Daniel Grossman in the left-wing Utne Reader, “modern-day critics of industrial automation, nuclear technology, pesticides, genetic engineering, and other dubious technologies proudly wear the label of ‘Neo-Luddites.’ Indeed, the 19th century Luddites . . . offer a source of inspiration for today’s Neo-Luddites . . . . Neo-Lud-dites judge the acceptability of a technology not merely by its impact on human health and the environment but also by its effects on human dignity and traditions of society . . . . Neo-Luddites are unwilling to accept disruptive technological forces as the inevitable cost of progress.” In short, Neo-Luddites are proclaiming a right to perpetual stagnation—not just for themselves, but imposed upon the rest of society.
Chellis Glendinning, a psychologist and author, defines the “principles of Neo-Luddism” in a companion article. Neo-Luddites “perceive the human role not as the dominator of other species and planetary biology, but as integrated into the natural world with appreciation for the sacredness of all Fife.” The only appropriate technologies, she says, are those created “by the people directly involved in their use—not by scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs . . . .” These must be “understandable to the people who use them and are affected by them.”
This means a technology simplified, intellectually, to a level comprehensible to society’s lowest common denominators. Thus, she concludes, “we favor the dismantling of the following destructive technologies [italics in original]: nuclear technologies . . . chemical technologies . . . genetic engineering technologies . . . television . . . electromagnetic technologies . . . computer technologies.”
A Death Wish for Humanity
Human values, even human life itself, mean little to Deep Ecologists. In one interview, Arne Naess targeted ideal world population at 100 million people. Given that current world population is about 5.3 billion, what do Deep Ecologists hope will happen to the remaining 5.2 billion?
Reviewing a recent Deep Ecology manifesto—Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature—David Graber, a biologist for the National Park Service, expressed his own hopes thusly:
Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line—at about a million years ago, maybe half that—we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth . . . . Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.
Mr. Graber isn’t alone in his death wish for the human race, as Earth First! leader David Foreman makes dear: “We advocate bio-diversity for bio-diversity’s sake. That says man is no more important than any other species . . . . It may well take our extinction to set things straight.” Or how about this: “An ice age is coming, and I welcome it as a much needed cleansing. I see no solution to our ruination of Earth except for a drastic reduction of the human population.”
Foreman therefore finds a silver lining in the horrible Ethiopian famines: they are, he says, Mother Earth’s natural defense against overpopulation. Likewise, his group’s official publication has cheerfully suggested that, from an ecological perspective, the AIDS epidemic might mean the end of industrialism, which is “the main force behind the environmental crisis . . . . [Thus] as radical environmentalists, we can see AIDS not as a problem but a necessary solution.”
Despite such nihilistic ravings and criminally destructive acts, Earth First! is being treated more and more respectfully by the liberal media. David Foreman, arrested by the FBI for conspiring to sabotage two nuclear power plants, was given a flattering profile on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. Earth First! was also glowingly depicted in a segment narrated by pop singer Carole King for the syndicated program, “A Current Affair.” Mainstream environmentalists often refuse to repudiate Earth First! Former Senator Gaylord
Nelson, who was a founder of the first Earth Day and now is with the Wilderness Society, has said, “I think groups like Greenpeace and Earth First! make a significant contribution to the educational process.” Darrell Knuffke, a regional coordinator for the Wilderness Society, calls Earth First! “extremely important to the movement.” Environmentalist guru David Brower, who built the Sierra Club to prominence, defends Earth First! sabotage without qualification: “They’re not terrorists. The real terrorists are the polluters, the despoilers.”
Earth First!’s growing acceptance by the media and mainstream environmentalists demonstrates the radicalization process within the movement. In fact, Earth First!’s Foreman had been the chief lobbyist for the Wilderness Society until 1980, when he quit because it was too moderate for his taste. Likewise, even the direct-action group Greenpeace was too tame for Paul Watson, one of its co-founders; so he founded Sea Shepherds, a more violent group which boasts of having sunk 12 whaling ships.
David Brower explains how this radicalization process works. “I founded Friends of the Earth to make the Sierra Club look reasonable. Then I founded the Earth Island Institute to make Friends of the Earth look reasonable. Earth First! now makes us look reasonable. We’re still waiting for someone to come along and make Earth First! look reasonable.”
Nature vs. Human Nature
What is the distinctive aspect of human nature that so offends these radical environmentalists? As they make clear ha virtually every utterance, it is man’s power to reason, and everything that flows from it: abstract knowledge, science, technology, material wealth, industrial society, the capitalist system.
Animals, lacking any rational capacity, survive by adapting themselves to nature. Human beings can survive only by utilizing reason to adapt nature to themselves. This means that to subsist, man must unavoidably use and disrupt animals and their habitats, transforming natural resources into food, clothing, shelter, and tools (capital). By nature and necessity, man is a developer.
To traditional Western thinkers, this was man’s power and his glory. To Deep Ecologists, however, man is the only thorn in an otherwise perfect Garden of Eden. They go beyond (or below) Marx, rejecting even the labor theory of value, and substituting a “natural resources standard of value.” They equate natural resources with capital, and thus the development of resources with “capital consumption.” Therefore, to develop resources, as man must, is to destroy. And since man is destructive by nature, everything in the universe is “natural” . . . except human nature.
In summary, Deep Ecology is an example of what I call “neutron philosophy”: it kills people, while leaving their environment intact.
While the Deep Ecologists denounce a man-centered perspective toward nature, the more pragmatic political types within the environmental movement are reluctant to admit such an underlying animus. Besides, these would-be “planet managers” don’t want to destroy the world: they want to run it. So, to gamer political power, they posture (like their Marxist ancestors) as friends of humanity. In well-furnished offices, their lawyers and lobbyists crank out endless reports and legislative proposals, often cloaked in the ill-fitting mantle of the very science and technology they privately despise. Even the legitimate scientists among them tend to look at facts through Green-colored lenses.
In his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, Dr. Paul Ehrlich declared: “In the 1970′s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death. . . . Nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate . . . . We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail . . . .”
But the only mass famines or deaths were politically engineered by Communist governments in Cambodia and Ethiopia. Everywhere else, food production went up, population soared, death rates went down, and life expectancy increased. This hasn’t mined Ehrlich’s credibility with the media: he’s now a commentator for NBC television, and has another book out, The Population Explosion, regurgitating his same old Malthusian horrors.
Then there was the great cultural angst over the “nuclear winter.” Nuclear war, declared Green astronomer Carl Sagan, would stir up a vast overcast that would freeze the planet, destroying all life. Immediate nuclear disarmament was the only answer. Alas, later studies determined that Sagan’s calculations from computer models had been badly flawed: the dreaded “winter” probably would be only a two-week cool snap. But that information never made it to the front pages.
How about the great asbestos scare? All that insulation in our homes and schools was going to create a cancer epidemic, environmentalists told us. Well, a 1988 Harvard symposium, and articles in Science magazine and the New England Journal of Medicine, all confirmed that the levels of asbestos exposure faced by most occupants aren’t dangerous at all. Nonetheless, the EPA-generated asbestos scare has cost the public millions of dollars in taxes and depressed real estate prices, and asbestos removal has actually increased the danger by stirring up particles.
Similar scientific nonsense undergirds the scares over the ozone hole, acid rain, genetic engineering, nuclear power plants, radon gas in our homes, and the great Alar-on-our-apples cancer scare of 1989.
Consider today’s overriding environmental concern, the “greenhouse effect.” It’s a case study of how science is being manipulated by Green politics.
“Global Warming” = Political Science
In the sweltering summer of 1988, Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Congress: “The earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements . . . . The four warmest years . . . have all been in the 1980s . . . . In my opinion . . . the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.”
Hansen’s alarming statements launched a wave of frightening predictions and controversy about what might happen if the planet warmed up. Yet how good is the evidence for global warming?
Heat-trapping “greenhouse gases” (e.g., carbon dioxide) have, in fact, been growing by minute quantities in our atmosphere. But claims that this has already warmed the earth about 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past century have been refuted by recent reviews of earth temperature records and NASA satellite data. Moreover, the frightening predictions—of future rising temperatures, killer heat waves, giant hurricanes, and melting polar ice that will raise sea levels and inundate coastal cities—are being scaled down with each new scientific study.
If greenhouse gases increase and all other factors remain the same, the earth will warm up. But other factors aren’t remaining the same. For example, clouds keep the planet some 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it would be under clear skies. Many scientists think global warming would produce more cloud cover, which might act as a natural thermostat. Oceans also have a complex effect upon climate. Sunspots, volcanos, and small changes in earth’s rotation or orbit can easily overwhelm any warming impact of minute greenhouse gas increases.
Proponents of global warming—such as James Hansen, and Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research—crank out their dire predictions from computerized climate models. But poorly understood climatic processes are only crudely represented in these models. Schneider himself concedes that it’s an “even bet” that the models overestimate future warming “by a factor of two.”
The best evidence for the global warming theory, Hansen told me, came from air bubbles trapped deep in Antarctic ice. These revealed lower concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide during ice ages, but much higher concentrations during warm interglacial periods. The greenhouse theory, of course, is that carbon dioxide changes are supposed to cause temperature changes. But when questioned, Hansen admitted that, according to the ice samples, the temperature changes came first. In short, the actual sequence of climatic events was exactly backwards from the greenhouse theory.
For such reasons, dozens of atmospheric scientists participating in a 1989 greenhouse workshop concluded that claims for greenhouse warming could not be made “with any degree of confidence.” Richard Lindzen of M.I.T.’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences says flatly, “The data as we have it does not support a warming.”
Yet the absence of evidence hasn’t deterred the Greens from demanding that we adopt drastic political, economic, and lifestyle changes to “protect ourselves” against a threat that may never materialize.
The Insurance Policy Ruse
Global warming has become the favorite cause of the Greens, because “remedies” for it would require a scale of government intervention that strikes at the very heart of the free market system.
Today coal, oil, and other fossil fuels provide 90 percent of the world’s energy. Yet environmentalists propose huge tax increases to discourage fossil fuels, in the name of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. An EPA report suggested that “the government could increase the price of fossil fuels by imposing charges or fees, at the same time reducing the price of desirable alternatives by providing subsidies.” The Worldwatch Institute suggests a hefty “carbon tax” on fossil fuels, to compel people to switch from coal, oil, and natural gas and toward “renewable energy sources,” including solar, wind power, and the like. Senators Albert Gore, Timothy Wirth, and others have introduced bills to force major, expensive changes in fuel efficiency, to reduce carbon emissions, and to halt international deforestation. Other proposals would discourage auto use, encourage public transportation, and foster drastic population control.
The most “green” thing about these proposals is the color of the money they would cost. Estimates from an array of economists range from $800 billion to $3.6 trillion. EPA administrator William Reilly concedes that “To slow down the global heating process, the scale of economic and societal intervention will be enormous. It will involve far greater inconvenience, dislocation and cost.”
This prospect—more primitive lifestyles and massive state planning—holds great appeal for many environmentalists. Their political problem, though, is how to build public sentiment for such massive taxing and spending, particularly at a time of considerable governmental red ink.
The answer is fear. Whether the issue is Alar, radon, ozone holes, or global warming, environmentalists use the same basic tactic. First, they proclaim some terrible doom right around the corner. When responsible critics demand evidence, the environmentalists reply: “Well, there seems to be disagreement and uncertainty here. But the consequences of this possible threat are so dangerous that, as an act of prudence, we can’t afford to walt until all the facts are in. We have to act as if the threat were real.”
Jonathan Schell explains: “In the past, action usually awaited the confirmation of theory by hard evidence. Now, in a widening sphere of decisions, the costs of error are so exorbitant that we need to act on theory alone—which is to say on prediction alone.” Scientists, he adds, must “disavow the certainty and precision that they normally insist on . . . . Scientists need to become connoisseurs and philosophers of uncertainty . . . . [T]he incurable uncertainty of our predicament, far from serving to reassure us, should fill us with unease and goad us to action.”
In the face of this uncertainty, says Stephen Schneider, “A few tens of billions, or perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars, spent annually around the world for such planetary insurance . . . is an investment that is long overdue.”
This “insurance policy” ruse neatly switches the burden of proof from those proposing a theory, onto those who are demanding evidence. By this nifty logical inversion, the theorist no longer has to prove his case; rather, the skeptic is somehow supposed to “refute” a case for which no evidence has been offered in the first place. The absence of evidence is now cleverly relabeled “uncertainty,” against which we are exhorted to buy expensive “insurance policies.” Precisely because we have no case, say the environmentalists, you’d better do what we say. This is nothing more than an extortion racket, relying on our own serf-doubt as its enforcer.
Stephen Schneider does admit to an ethical dilemma about all this. He says that sometimes, to advance their views with the public, scientists “have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.” Each scientist, he cautions, must decide the “right balance [between] being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”
But since when are scientists supposed to “balance” the truth with anything?
Cashing in on Eco-Hysteria
Clearly, the American people are never going to buy the Deep Ecology outlook of Earth First! or the Animal Liberation Front. But these groups make the more pragmatic, political left-wing groups look comparatively responsible—and they are cashing in. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Worldwatch Institute, and the Environmental Defense Fund are manipulating scares over global warming and pesticides, not to destroy man, but to turn him into a harnessed beast of burden, with themselves holding the reins.
For example, Senator Timothy Wirth of Colorado said that “We’ve got to try to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing anyway, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”
And what kind of “economic policy” are we talking about? Stephen Schneider says that solving problems like global warming will require us to “redistribute our current resources . . . thus altering accustomed levels of expenses or incomes.”
Time magazine says: “. . . Americans . . . will have to . . . find alternative sources of energy and use all fuels more efficiently. What all this requires is self-discipline on the part of the world’s haves and increased assistance to the have-nots.”
Botanist Peter Raven recently told a Pittsburgh conference that “The people at the top are consuming far, far more than a vast number of people at the bottom. It’s much too unequal . . . in a way that affects the sustainable productivity of the world.”
Don’t assume the motive here is sympathy for the poor. The massive anticipated job losses in existing fossil fuel industries don’t faze the environmentalist cadre. “I realize that such a switch would be a staggering blow to the coal mining industry,” says Schneider. “But where is it written that anyone has an indefinite right to antisocial or antienvironmental employment?” Paul Ehrlich, too, makes it clear that the environmentalist goal isn’t to make poor people better off. Since rich people, by using more resources, cause many times more “ecological destruction” than poor people, Ehrlich concludes: “Actually, the problem in the world is that there are too many rich people.”
So the basic division within the environmental movement is between the Greens, who want to rid the planet of rich people, and the Deep Ecologists, who want to rid the planet of people, period.
In Defense of Human Nature
Underlying it all is an antipathy for a complex, technical, and free society where survival is bought at the cost of ambition, learning, thinking, taking risks, and working hard, all within a free, competitive marketplace. One sees the radical environmentalist motivation clearly captured in the book title, Returning to Eden—a woozy yearning for an egalitarian garden, where fruit drops from the tree into one’s lap, where the struggle to survive ceases, where all animals lie down in peace and harmony. If you’re a Deep Ecologist, the “ecosystem” will take care of you; if you’re a Green, the social system will. But either way, environmentalism’s Eden is a risk-free place where idle wishes will be the coin of the realm.
With the collapse of Communism—particularly of socialist economic theory—environmentalism has become freedom’s foe for the ‘90s. Environmentalism represents a now-denuded Marxism, stripped of all its tenets, desperately clutching its last fig leaf of mindless egalitarianism. As such, it is a purely negative, contentless “ism.” It is the final rallying point for nihilistic drifters and collectivist dreamers, who are united, not by ideas, but by a hostility toward human thought; not by values, but by an aversion for human aspirations; not by some utopian vision of society, but by a profound alienation from human society.
How are we to confront the radical challenge posed by environmentalism? It is useless merely to oppose it: environmentalism represents an intellectual and value vacuum, and one cannot negate negation. Therefore, our defense against it lies not in politicking, nor even in economic education, but in something far more basic, something upon which economics and everything else depends.
Our defense lies in accepting our own human nature, and the solemn responsibilities that flow from it. By fulfilling our nature and responsibilities as human beings, we bring meaning and value into the world.
Whatever they wish to call themselves, the contemporary children of Rousseau are at war with human nature—with Homo sapiens and the homo-centric view of the world. Driven by fanatical hostility, they cannot be bought off by appeasement and compromises, which will only weaken our free society and its cultural institutions. However, they can be rendered harmless—if we reject their Pro-crustean moral premise, which reduces man to, or below, the status of mice, weeds, and soft.
Nature indeed provides beautiful settings for the work of man. But unseen and unappreciated, the environment is meaningless. It is but an empty frame, in which we and our works are the picture. From that perspective, environmentalism means sacrificing the picture to spare the frame.
We shall protect ourselves, and our civilization, against their assaults on the day when we finally confront their charge of “speciesism” with buttons and bumper stickers proudly declaring our own right to exist as our nature demands, and unashamedly proclaiming our own form of “species solidarity.”
Without apologies, then, let me be the first to come out of the closet, so to speak, and declare: I am a practicing homocentric. 
1. For a brief overview of these principles, see Richard L. Stroup and Jane S. Shaw, “The Free Market and the Environment,” The Public Interest, Fall 1989, pp. 3043. Also see Doug Bandow, ed., Protecting the Environment: A Free Market Strategy (Washington: Heritage Foundation, 1986). For detailed approaches to private environmental protection, contact the PoEtical Economy Research Center, 502 S. 19th Avenue, Suite 211, Bozeman, MT 59715.
13. Editorial, Barron’s, March 5,1990. For other examples and a good overview of this terrorism see John G. Hubbell, “The ‘Animal Rights’ War on Medicine,” Reader’s Digest, June 1990, pp. 70-76. Besides the author’s article in the September 14, 1983, Intellectual Activist, other articles giving overviews of the movement and its philosophy include Charles Oliver’s “Liberation Zoology” in Reason, June 1990; Ronald Bailey’s review of Peter Singer’s In Defense of Animals in Commentary, October 1985; and the resulting exchange of letters in Commentary, March 1986.
19. Newsweek, February 5, 1990, pp. 24-25; New Republic, April 30, 1990, pp. 31-32; The Progressive, September 1989. p. 15; Vogue, September 1989, p. 801; Omni, August 1989, p. 25; Nation, July 17, 1989, and May 2,1987, pp. 568-570:. Backpacker, September 1988, pp. 20-23; Rolling Stone, April 23, 1987, p. 61; Esquire, February 1987, pp. 98-106; The Amicus Journal, Fall 1987, pp. 28-42.
26. Eisenberg, p. 31. Elsewhere, Naess suggested a somewhat less drastic goal of one billion people—roughly the world population in 1800. See Peter Borrelli, “The Ecophilosophers,” The Amicus Journal, Spring 1988, pp. 32-33.
40. For a thorough demolition of the Malthusian notion that population growth must lead to resource destruction and eventual mass starvation, see the works of Julian Simon, particularly The Ultimate Resource (Princeton, N,J,: Princeton University Press, 1981).
46. Dr. Petr Beckmann’s excellent newsletter, Access to Energy, contains superb analyses of nuclear scares, as does his classic book, The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear. Available from Beck-mann at Box 2298, Boulder, CO 80306.
48. Robert James Bidinotto, “The Great Apple Scare,” Reader’s Digest, October 1990. See also Kenneth Smith, “Alar: One Year Later,” report published by American Council on Science and Health (1995 Broadway, New York, NY 101123) March 1990. For the deliberately manipulative, or organized campaign sorrounding the scare see “How a PR Firm Executed the Alar Scare,” Wall Street Journal, October 3, 1989. Two scientific analyses that thoroughly refute the Natural Resources Defense Council report, ‘Intolerable Risk,” which touched off the scare: Analysis of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Report, “Intolerable Risk,” by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, May 25,1989; and A Critical Review of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Report “Intolerable Risk,” prepared for the National Agricultural Chemicals Association by con- suiting Scientists.
50. For examples of the continuing controversy see Science News, July 2,1988; Time, July 4, 1988; Barron,, February 7, 1989; Science, June 2, 1989; Newsweek, May 22, 1989; and Hansen’s letterS in the Washington Post of February 11,1989, and The New York Times of January 11,1989.
51. Robert James Bidinotto, “What Is the Truth About Global Warming?” Reader’s Digest, February 1990, is a brief primer on the greenhouse subject. For scientific discussion of the greenhouse effect and its causes, see: Steven Schneider, Global Warming (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989), pp. 13-17; Policy Options for Stabilizing Global Climate, Executive Summary of Draft Report to Congress (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, February 1989), pp. 15-16; Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect (U.S. Department of Energy, May 1989) p. 4 Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem (Washington: George C. Marshall Institute, 1989), pp. 1-2; Daniel Hillel and Cynthia Rosenzweig, The Greenhouse Effect and Its Implications Regarding Global Agriculture (Amherst, Mass.: Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station, April 1989), p. 4.
52. Carbon dioxide constitutes a mere one-third of one-tenth of one percent of our atmosphere. Alarmist claims about a “25 percent increase in carbon dioxide” only refer to a fractional increase in that tiny amount, from an approximate atmospheric concentration of .00(Y275 to ,00035&—an increase of-000075 in absolute terms. See: Christopher Flavin, Slowing Global Warming: A Worldwide Strategy, Worldwatch Paper 91 (Washington: Worldwatch Institute, October 1989), pp. 6, 10, 11, 13 (table), 14; Hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, November 9 and 10, 1987 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988), pp. 37-49; Schneider, pp. 41,102; Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, pp. 842; Policy Options, Executive Summary, pp. 3,12,15; Scientific American, September 1989, p. 62; Chemical Engineering Progress, August 1989, p. 32; Policy Review, Summer 1989, p. 70; Consumers’ Research, November 1988, p. 28.
53. Schneider, pp. 84-86; Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, pp. 18-19; Flavia, p. 6; Hillel and Rosenzweig, pp. 11-12; Consumers’ Research, November 1988, p. 28 (chart); James Hansen and Sergei Lebedeff, “Global Trends of Measured Surface Air Temperature,” Journal of Geophysical Research, November 20,1987.
54. New York Times and Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1989; Boston Globe, January 25, 1989; Technology Review, November-December 1989, p. 80. For refutation of the claim that the past decade was the warmest on record, see Science, March 30,1990, pp. 1529,1558-1562.
55. Schneider, pp, 24, 92,104. Hillel and Rosenzweig, p. 6; Herin, pp. 6, 16-18; Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, p. 14; Hearings, Senate Commission on Energy and Natural Resources, November 9-19, 1987, pp. 119- 120, 122; Policy Options, Executive Summary, p. 4; The Sciences, September/October 1989, p. 18. See also the papers by James Hansen and associates in Science August 28, 1981, and May 20, 1983; in Climate Processes and Climate Sensitivity, Geophysical Monograph 29 (American Geophysical Union, 1984), pp. 130-131; and in Preparing for Climate Change (Washington: Government Institutes, Inc., 1987), pp. 35-37.
56. Dr. Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research painted a “plausible scenario” of smoky forest fires in Canada, a killer heat wave, and a hurricane that devastates Long island—all generated by the greenhouse effect. See Schneider, chapter 1.
57. A Woods Hole scientist’s prediction in Popular Science, August 1989, p. 56, Paul Ehrlich warned that “we could expect to lose all of Florida, Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles basin” on an NBC “Today” Show broadcast, May 3,1989. Ehrlich also predicted that killer droughts could result in 50 million to 400 million deaths by starvation; cited in Flavin, p. 19.
58. For instance, nine new studies presented before the American Geophysical Society concluded that since a warmer atmosphere will mean increased snowfall, the polar ice caps will grow, not melt, in the event of any global warming. The researchers cut earlier predictions of sharp sea-level rises to a foot or less. Denver Post and Los Angeles limes, December 8,1989.
60. On clouds and their effects: Christian Science Monitor, September 5,1989; Washington Post, September 14,1989; New York Times, April 24,1990; Science News, September 23,1989, p. 196; Scientific American, September 1989, p. 75; Lindzen, MIT Tech Talk, September 27, 1989; Scientific Perspectives, pp. 6-8; Hillel and Rosenzweig, pp. 2, 8; Flavin, pp. 13-14; Schneider, pp. 14-16, 55, 66, 71-72.
61. Scientific Perspectives, pp, 13-14; Newsweek, July 24, 1989, p. 42; Consumers’ Research, November 1988, p. 29; paper by Dr. Hugh Ellsaesser for Pacific Environment Conference, October 1989, pp. 10-12; Ellsaesser, “A Different View of the Climatic Effect of CO:,” prepublication paper, August 1989, pp. 13-17, 20- 21; Ellsaes-set, “The Climatic Effect of COs: A Different View,” Atmospheric Environment, Vol, 18, No. 2, pp. 431-424 (1984).
64. Science, June 2, 1989, esp. p. 1042; Scientific Perspectives, pp. 10-12;Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, pp. 15-16; Schneider, pp. 9697; Chemical Engineering Progress, August 1989, p. 28; Fortune, July 4,1988, p. 106.
79. For an invaluable new history and analysis of the political wing of the environmentalist movement and its orgnnizations: Jo Kwong Echard, Protecting the Environment: Old Rhetoric, New Imperatives (Washington: Capital Research Center, 1612 K Street, N.W., Suite 704, Washington, DC 20006; 1990).
85. Associated Press story, Youngstown Vindicator, April 6,1990. Ehrlich elaborated on this theme in his new book, The Population Explosion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990), and in a syndicated column in the Los Angeles Times which ran in the Youngstown Vindicator on April 10,1990.