Friday, August 8, 2014

Environmentalists, Luddites, and Collectivism

Responding to a column by Paul Mulshine, in which Mulshine cited draconian environmental laws for New Jersey’s economic stagnation, three letters appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger trumpeting environmentalism.

The first (and most prominent) letter was submitted by a high-profile NJ Sierra Club activist, Jeff Tittel (Who’s the Luddite?). Tittel took issue with Mulshine's equation of environmentalists as Luddites. Tittel argued to legally stop two fossil fuel pipelines—one oil, and one natural gas—proposed for NJ; claimed that fossil fuels are bad and should be replaced with wind and solar; and asserted that “Environmentalists are the ones who are trying to move this state and country forward with new technology and innovation.”

Shawn R. Klein (Cause and effect) complained about “the world’s industrial overdevelopment and lack of environmental consideration.”

And Rachel Funcheon (Don’t knock enviros) rolled out the collectivist argument, saying “The jobs or profits of some do not trump the good of all,” and demanded that “we . . . invest in clean, renewable types of energy that will help preserve the Earth for future generations.”

I left these comments:

Environmentalism is not so much aligned with ludditism as collectivism. Collectivism holds that the individual is subordinate to the group, which is the fundamental focus of moral concern. Collectivist ideology serves environmentalists purposes well. Note the handy rationalization for the Pinelands Commission decision, which, notes Tittel, stopped the gas pipeline because it "was for a private facility outside the Pinelands." But the private liberty to produce and trade—derived from the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—is precisely what government is established to protect. The pipeline was a means of private individuals to pursue their happiness through trade. The commission violated the rights of these productive traders, based on—what? To "preserve the Earth for future generations"—as Shawn R. Kline demands?—non-existent generations that take moral precedence over actual human beings alive today? Collectivists will always sacrifice the well-being of actual people in the name of a collectivist abstraction as a way to further their ultimate agenda.

Keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, "environmentalism" is not about cleaner industrialization. It is about no industrialization. It is about preserving the "natural"—i.e., non-human developed—environment based on the theory that nature has intrinsic value; i.e., value apart from a valuer.

But nothing can have intrinsic value. The "natural" environment is inimical to human life and flourishing. Human beings survive and thrive by altering nature, through productive work and trade, for the purpose of turning the natural environment into a livable human environment. The vital social requirement is freedom to work and trade. Environmentalism is ideologically opposed to human environmentalism, and thus opposed to work, trade, and the freedom it depends on. Hence, the drive to use governmental force to stop construction and development of projects like the natural gas and oil pipelines. Nature, you see, has “intrinsic value”; except for man, who environmentalists wantonly excommunicate from nature—precisely because of his unique intellectual capacity to turn raw nature into a human value.

Our air and water has never been cleaner, our lives never longer, our planet never healthier, and our vulnerability to extreme climate and weather events never lower, than in the era of fossil fuel development. Where would we be without water purification and delivery systems, industrial waste disposal systems, clean central heating, electric stoves, and nat-gas delivery systems—all of which depend on reliable, economical, industrial-scale energy to power—as opposed to scooping water from polluted streams (provided there's no drought), cooking and heating over open wood- or dung-burning indoor fires, and smelly, disease-infested outhouses?

There was a time when people really did "preserve the Earth for future generations." It is called the Dark Ages. The preservation mindset is a prescription for human stagnation, poverty, and a short, miserable existence. That's because, as Annie sang, "Tomorrow . . . is always a day [or a generation] away."

Thankfully, there were no environmentalists around before the Industrial Revolution to "preserve the Earth." If there had been, the few of us that would be around today would still be existing in short, miserable lives, ever at the mercy of "untouched" nature; rather than enjoying the advanced technological industrialization bequeathed to us. We should celebrate the fact that the Earth wasn't preserved for our alleged benefit; and then build on the progress we inherited to make our lives still better and happier—by, for example, respecting the rights of productive individuals and their companies to build fossil fuel pipelines—which will result in the passing on to the next generation of an even more technologically advanced society.

We should not be worried about "the world’s industrial overdevelopment," as Rachel Funcheon says. "Overdevelopment" is a euphemism for stopping economic progress and keeping people poor and miserable. Anyone who loves life should be worried about environmentalism, which grew out of the 1960s "back to harmony with nature" ecology movement and is ideologically inimical to human well-being.

I'm all for the liberty of entrepreneurs to develop and market solar and wind in free competition with other energy producers. But I'd like to know exactly which environmentalists "are trying to move this state and country forward with new technology and innovation"; i.e., actually doing the work of investing their own money in, and doing the intellectual and physical work of, developing, demonstrating, and marketing these innovations. All I see are wealthy do-nothings lobbying government to increase control of the energy industry, inhibit and stop proven energy-generating methods, and steal from taxpayers to subsidize crony socialist "clean energy" companies.

Tittel claims that wind and solar are economically competitive with nat gas-fired and conventional power plants. Very well. Let's remove all energy subsidies, along with restrictions on all energy sources (including nuclear, the ultimate "clean energy," if that catchphrase has any meaning), and see what the market—the voluntary choices of producers and consumers freely contracting—"decides" is the most profitable, most economical, and most reliable means of meeting our industrial-scale energy needs.

Related Reading:

Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet—Alex Epstein and Eric Dennis

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