In reply, a respected colleague of mine at the Mises Summer University, wrote the following:
I'm not sure I buy that argument. It seems to assume something like the following premise: “If many of the most prominent people who embrace the label `X-ist’ have advocated bad stuff, then one shouldn't call oneself an `X-ist.'” But that premise seems to have some odd con-sequences, as follows:I have quoted my colleague not so much in order to answer him in particular, but because his response provides a good starting point for providing a further explanation of the profound and inherent evil of environmentalism and why a reasonable person should no more call himself an environmentalist than he would call himself a Communist or Nazi.
Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label "atheist” (e.g. Stalin, Pol Pot) have perpetrated great evil, so Ayn Rand shouldn't have called herself an atheist.
Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label “liberal” (e.g. Woodrow Wilson, FDR) have perpetrated great evil, so Ludwig von Mises shouldn't have called himself a liberal.
Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label “capitalist” or '”free-marketer” (e.g. the GOP) have perpetrated great evil, so George Reisman shouldn't call himself a capitalist or a free-marketer.
Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label "egoist” (e.g. Max Stirner, Nikolai Chernyshevsky), while not exactly perpetrators of evil, have at any rate advocated some pretty dubious stuff, so Ayn Rand shouldn't have called herself an egoist.
And so on.
I mean, why let the bad guys set the meanings of all these terms?
It should be realized first of all that “environmentalism” is in a very different category than the examples of the advocacy of atheism, liberalism, et al. by authors who also propound clearly destructive ideas. This is because atheism, liberalism et al. in themselves do not represent a philosophy or program that is evil on its face or that necessarily implies evil. (In this connection, it should be recalled that Stalin and Pol Pot committed their atrocities not in the name of atheism, but in the name of Communism.) In addition, in all of the examples cited there are also prominent supporters of the doctrines who go out of their way to present theories and programs that demonstrably promote human life and well being. Thus both Ayn Rand and Mises were atheists, liberals, pro-capitalist and pro-free market, and were egoists. Their writings serve as far more than a counterweight to the wrong or dubious ideas of other supporters of these doctrines and, indeed, make a compelling case for why these doctrines themselves in fact serve to promote human life and well being.
However, there are no counterparts to Rand and Mises in the advocacy of environmentalism. (Nor could there be.) No one in environmentalism rises to challenge the evils that its leaders and spokesmen advocate or to show that environmentalism is the opposite of what they claim.
By way of contrast, consider the following case. Imagine that someone known as a prominent supporter of Austrian economics wrote an article or gave a speech in which he advocated the enactment of wage and price controls or the nationalization of industry. I think that everyone affiliated with the Mises Institute, certainly myself included, would be all over this person and make it as clear to the world as possible that his views not only did not represent those of Austrian economics but were in complete and total opposition to everything Austrian economics stands for.
Now imagine that a prominent environmentalist writes an article or gives a speech in which he expresses the wish for a virus to come along and wipe out a billion people. What will be the reaction of the environmental movement? Will that individual be denounced for misrepresenting the movement? Will the rest of the movement’s leaders rush to assure the world that that individual was so far from representing environmentalism that he actually represented the diametric opposite of its principles?
Not at all. There will be no negative reaction of any kind from within the movement, not even a raising of eyebrows. I can say this with the utmost confidence, because such statements have already been made, and made repeatedly. And there has been no outrage, no negative response of any kind from within the environmental movement.
Here’s David M. Graber, in his prominently featured Los Angeles Times book review of Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature: “McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.… It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
And here’s Prince Philip of England (who for sixteen years was president of the World Wildlife Fund): “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.” (A lengthy compilation of such statements, and worse, by prominent environmentalists can be found at Frightening Quotes from Environmentalists.)
There is no negative reaction from the environmental movement because what such statements express is nothing other than the actual philosophy of the movement. This is what the movement believes in. It’s what it agrees with. It’s what it desires. Environmentalists are no more prepared to attack the advocacy of mass destruction and death than Austrian economists are prepared to attack the advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism and economic progress. Mass destruction and death is the goal of environmentalists, just as laissez-faire capitalism and economic progress is the goal of Austrian economists.
And this is why I call environmentalism evil. It’s evil to the core. In the environmental movement, contemplating the mass death of people in general is no more shocking than it was in the Communist and Nazi movements to contemplate the mass death of capitalists or Jews in particular. All three are philosophies of death. The only difference is that environmentalism aims at death on a much larger scale.
Despite still being far from possessing full power in any country, the environmentalists are already responsible for approximately 96 million deaths from malaria across the world. These deaths are the result of the environmentalist-led ban on the use of DDT, which could easily have prevented them and, before its ban, was on the verge of wiping out malaria. The environmentalists brought about the ban because they deemed the survival of a species of vultures, to whom DDT was apparently poisonous, more important than the lives of millions of human beings.
The deaths that have already been caused by environmentalism approximate the combined number of deaths caused by the Nazis and Communists.
If and when the environmentalists take full power, and begin imposing and then progressively increasing the severity of such things as carbon taxes and carbon caps, in order to reach their goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent, the number of deaths that will result will rise into the billions, which is in accord with the movement’s openly professed agenda of large-scale depopulation. (The policy will have little or no effect on global mean temperatures, the reduction of which is the rationalization for its adoption, but it will have a great effect on the size of human population.)
It is not at all accidental that environmentalism is evil and that its leading spokesmen hold or sanction ideas that are indistinguishable from those of sociopaths. Its evil springs from a fundamental philosophical doctrine that lies at the very core and deepest foundations of the movement, a doctrine that directly implies the movement’s destructiveness and hatred of the human race. This is the doctrine of the alleged intrinsic value of nature, i.e., that nature is valuable in and of itself, apart from all connection to human life and well being. This doctrine is accepted by the movement without any internal challenge, and, indeed, is the very basis of environmentalism’s existence.
As I wrote in Capitalism, “The idea of nature’s intrinsic value inexorably implies a desire to destroy man and his works because it implies a perception of man as the systematic destroyer of the good, and thus as the systematic doer of evil. Just as man perceives coyotes, wolves, and rattlesnakes as evil because they regularly destroy the cattle and sheep he values as sources of food and clothing, so on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value, the environmentalists view man as evil, because, in the pursuit of his well-being, man systematically destroys the wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable. Indeed, from the perspective of such alleged intrinsic values of nature, the degree of man’s alleged destructiveness and evil is directly in proportion to his loyalty to his essential nature. Man is the rational being. It is his application of his reason in the form of science, technology, and an industrial civilization that enables him to act on nature on the enormous scale on which he now does. Thus, it is his possession and use of reason—manifested in his technology and industry—for which he is hated.”
Thus these are the reasons that I think it is necessary for people never to describe themselves as environmentalists, that to do is comparable to describing oneself as a Communist or Nazi. Doing so marks one as a hater and enemy of the human race.
Whoever believes that it is possible to be a “free-market environmentalist” is guilty of a contradiction in terms. The free market rests on a foundation of human life and well-being as the standard of value. Environmentalism rests on a foundation of the non-human as the standard of value. The two cannot be reconciled. It’s either-or.
I know that these conclusions are upsetting to many people. It’s got to be upsetting to realize that one is advocating destruction and death. But fortunately, there’s a simple and ultimately happy solution: just stop doing it. Stop being an environmentalist!
Copyright © 2008, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. His web site is www.capitalism.net.