Liberty threatened by radical environmentalism Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Brendan O'Neill has a piece in the UK Guardian which pretty well characterizes the threat radical environmentalism poses to our freedom and liberty. My one criticism of the article is his use of the broader term "environmentalism" as descriptive of the radical element.
In fact, I consider myself an environmentalist of sorts in that I don't want dirty air, dirty water or a polluted landscape and do believe we should be good stewards of our environment. But that, of course, is far short of the agenda of radical environmentalists.
O'Neill puts the threat into perspective:
In the current debate on liberty, we hear a lot about the attack on our democratic rights by the government's security agenda, but little about the grave impact of environmentalism on the fabric of freedom. It seems to me that green thinking – with its shrill intolerance of dissenting views, its deep distaste for free movement and free choice, and its view of individuals, not as history-makers, but as filthy polluters – poses a more profound threat to liberty even than the government's paranoid anti-terrorist agenda.
I happen to agree with his assessment (although I'm also concerned with any government's "security agenda"). Right now, I see a bigger threat from the radical environmental agenda than I do from any other agenda in terms of liberty and freedom.
There's little mystery concerning how they'd treat people like me if they had the power and authority:
Environmentalists are innately hostile to freedom of speech. Last month James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate change scientists, said the CEOs of oil companies should be tried for crimes against humanity and nature. They have been "putting out misinformation", he said, and "I think that's a crime". This follows green writer Mark Lynas's insistence that there should be "international criminal tribunals" for climate change deniers, who will be "partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths". They will "have to answer for their crimes", he says. The American eco-magazine Grist recently published an article on deniers that called for "war crimes trials for these bastards… some sort of climate Nuremberg."
Sounds uncomfortably like a religious persecution we once suffered - the Inquisition. There "heretics" were forced to recant their heretical ways before they were burned at the stake. And radical environmentalism sounds more and more like a religion everyday in that regard.
But perhaps the main way that environmentalism undermines the culture of freedom is by its ceaseless promotion of guilt. In the environmentalist era, we are no longer really free citizens, so much as potential polluters. We are continually told – by government, by commentators, by radical activists – that everything we do, from wearing disposable nappies to using deodorant to allowing ourselves to be cremated, is harmful to our surroundings.
And the unfortunate thing is radical environmentalists and their agenda have become pervasive. They've captured the momentum and are convincing governments that "the end is near" if we don't do something. The plans they put forward are so radical and oppressive that they're economically ruinous.
William Nordhaus is a professional economist, and his book A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policiesobjectively weighs the plans (assuming, for the sake of argument, that all the extremist arguments are true) put forward by various proponents of doing something now. Nordhaus develops an economic formula in which he takes the policies proposed by the various factions and weighs the economic impact of each over 100 years.
The practical unit of economic resources he uses is a trillion inflation-adjusted dollars.
He believes that the most important concern of any policy that aims to address climate change should be how to set the most efficient "carbon price," which he defines as "the market price or penalty that would be paid by those who use fossil fuels and thereby generate CO2 emissions."
You should read the entire explanation, but using "1" as neutral or no change and a "+" as beneficial to economic activity and a "-" as detremental, here are his findings:
The unit of value is $1 trillion, and the values are specified to the nearest trillion. The net value of the optimal program, a global carbon tax increasing gradually with time, is plus three—that is, a benefit of some $3 trillion. The Kyoto Protocol has a value of plus one with US participation, zero without US participation. The "Stern" policy has a value of minus fifteen, the "Gore" policy minus twenty-one, and "low-cost backstop" plus seventeen.
According to Nordhaus' calculation, the "Gore" policy would be a disaster (which, of course, any number of people have pointed out and been called "heretics" for their trouble). But that is the policy which most of the radical environmentalists wish to see implemented.
Liberty – true liberty – requires that people see themselves as self-respecting, self-determining subjects, capable of making free choices and pursuing the "good life" as they see fit. Today, by contrast, we are warned that we are toxic, loaded, dangerous specimens, who must always restrain our instincts and aspire to austerity. This is not conducive to a culture of liberty; indeed, it represents a dangerous historic shift, from the Enlightenment era of free citizenship to a new dark age where individuals are depicted as meek in the face of more powerful, unpredictable forces: the gods of the sea, sky and ozone layer.
In fact, what O'Neill describes is a culture that, if it buys into the agenda, will hand over its freedom of self-determination to a "higher power", i.e. government. Government, in turn, will then regulate every conceivable aspect of our life - through restrictions, since the premise is we're in the shape we're in due to excess - to the point that we are no longer allowed, by law, to travel or live as we want.
Interestingly, that's precisely the goal of some of the extremists:
Some greens openly admit they are on the side of illiberalism. George Monbiot describes environmentalism as "a campaign not for more freedom but for less". Environmentalism is instinctively and relentlessly illiberal, and it is doing more to inculcate people with fear, self-loathing and a religious-style sense of meekness than any piece of anti-terror legislation ever could. If you believe in freedom, you must reject it.
And it is something I most adamantly do reject. "Heretic" and "denier", in this case, are labels I wear proudly.