Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reasonable and Humane Enviornmentalism

I was very glad to be asked to contribute to this blog since I am generally an opponent of its goals and tenor. Hopefully, a fair and charitable discussion of the issues at stake can lead to a consensus - on at least some things.

First, some points of disagreement:

The very motto of the site speaks to an excessiveness and apocalypticism that is not only irrational, but by its radicalness, keeps people from wanting to be associated with environmental responsibility. It only preaches to the choir.

"Saving Humanity - One Planet at a Time" is both melodramatic - and nonsensical. Humanity is not in danger of extinction. Claims to the contrary are unscientific and frankly - scaremongering. It would be enough to state that modernization harms the natural world in certain ways. And human beings thrive best in a healthy environment. A beautiful and robust natural world makes life more beautiful and enjoyable.

Instead, environmentalism is always trying to avoid planetary destruction and extinction. It's unserious.

Evidence of this continues here on this blog with calls for vegetarianism, media blackouts, bemoaning the Iraq War - undoubtedly to be followed by cries against capitalism, corporate America, the Republican Party, and apple pie.

Other than my disagreement on some of these matters themselves, I'm disappointed because many people react to this political theatre by throwing the environmental baby out with the left-wing bath water.

People have a good and natural disgust for environmental destruction. Oil slicks on pristine waters, animals covered in crude, hillsides stripped bare, poisoned fish, smog and grime in city air, lakes and rivers and oceans closed to swimmers and fishing, animals extinct forever - all these things repel your average person and the environmental movement can do much if it appeals to sense and common decency.

But people also generally have a disinclination to apocalypticism and conspiracy theory. Human experience and history has shown them that it is usually a kind of hysteria to some real, but manageable problem. They also have a revolutionary hatred of having others opinions imposed upon them by governmental - or non-governmental - force.

The nature of our problem in the modern world is human ingenuity - it is also part of the solution. We have the greatest command of natural fores and productivity in the history of the world. There are more people in the modern age than have even existed for most of history put together. And so we have new problems - one of which is not spoiling the natural world we live in.

I, and many people can get behind that goal. But seeing as how there is a new environmental crisis every few years (nuclear fallout, new ice age, the ozone layer, acid rain, rain forests, whales, global warming, etc. etc) the environmental movement is destroying its credibility year by year. The global cooling trend that emerged in 2007, if it continues, (as scientists who believe solar activity causes global temperature cycles say it will) it could be another deadly blow to the current environmental movement.

An environmental movement tied to general left-wing politics is an environmental movement doomed to spectacular failure. Unless the real goal is left-wing politics and a blind insistence that the two are inseperable, the environmental movement needs to unhitch itself from these other problems.

We need a strong environmental movement. One that has room for all people, with differing opinions. One that puts human beings first. Human beings that need and thrive in a healthy and beautiful natural world.

Simple living and a love and care of nature is an environmental movement that is built for all people.

And built to last for centuries.



  1. Okay, I agree: "modernization harms the natural world in certain ways. And human beings thrive best in a healthy environment. A beautiful and robust natural world makes life more beautiful and enjoyable."

    But, if there is one area of modern life in which radical activism is appropriate, it is in the protection of our planet's endangered ecosystems. The earth right now is under siege from greedy corporate capitalism that places profits above all other concerns--particularly environmental concerns. And it is under siege because we Americans eat too many animals, drive too many SUVs, and live selfish, materialistic lives.

    That is precisely why this blog deals with topics like ecological sustainability, vegetarianism, and voluntary simplicity--because these are concrete solutions to what ails the planet.

    It's not about politics...it's about making people aware of the precarious state of our planet and giving them the tools they need to live more sustainable lives.

    What could be more beautiful than that????

  2. It’s always a treat to read the perspective of our good friend Publius. However, he lives in his own world where he can feel comfortable writing about ecology without fearing that the advocates on this blog would also utter any other progressive idea. His delusion is that one can separate one’s political beliefs from concern about the environment. In another context he would oppose the notion that one’s religious convictions could be neatly separated from one’s ethical or political beliefs. The fact of the matter is that the preponderance of the scientific evidence points in the direction of a warming trend that is correlated to an annual increase in the amount of carbon fuels that are burned across the globe. Publius seems confused about the kind of dispute this is. Is it a dispute about the facts or the evaluation of the facts? He admits that there is ecological destruction going on and good for him. But he doesn’t get at the underlying political and ideological dispute that lies at the heart of the issue. Instead he wants to chide what he calls the Left for irrationality and exaggeration. However, according to the conservative perspective he champions it makes no difference whether ecological destruction is happening because the government has no business regulating the corporations or utilities or vehicle manufacturers or the wasteful habits of the private consumer that cause it. It’s an infringement of individual liberty for government to interfere with iron laws of supply and demand in the market. Publius seems to think that the protection of American population from the effects of environment degradation, pollution, resource depletion and global warming are best left to the voluntary self-regulation of the private sector and it’s an annoying scare tactic when the Left points out that this simply isn’t happening and that there’s a role for government here. It is a continual source of amusement to me that the Conservative political ideologues actually believe that the Founding Fathers formed this government for the exclusive purpose of limiting itself.

    S. Mayo

  3. S. Mayo provides such a wonderful example of a left-wing rant, he should be on exhibition.

    Other than his mastery of setting up straw men to knock down at will, engaging in taunts like "lives in his own world", "delusion", "confused", etc. etc. it proves how unserious much of the left is.

    Rather than trying to actually engage with and convince someone who has environmental sympathies, he attacks and denigrates.

    Enjoy a very lonely and fruitless environmental movement.


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