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Jul 23, 2007

Can the Environment Survive the Environmentalists?

There is a now-old saying; "All we have to fear is: fear itself!". It has been attributed to FDR and to Winston Churchill. What is amazing is just how true that sentiment remains.

Nowhere is this so true today than in the realm of the neoLuddite dilemma. At least one neoLuddite would have himself described this way:

The original Luddites were textile workers who smashed automated weaving equipment, not realizing that there was such ElasticityOfDemand? in the textile markets that the new looms would improve their lot rather than worsening it.

A movement beginning in the early 1970s was variously called "voluntary simplicity," Luddite, Neo-Luddite, and other names.

Beliefs vary among participants but a separation from the commercial value system promulgated by television, other media, and retailers is a common element. Some participants take a faith-based approach, drawing from diverse Christian traditions including the Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and Shakers. Other participants are atheists.

By eliminating commercial messages entirely, and keeping them out of our life, we are better able to think for ourselves and are less tempted by the shallow pleasures of foppish fashion. We are not inundated with the implicit value judgements in television programs.
Now, to be fair -- there is absolutely, positively, nothing -- in and of itself -- that is wrong with this sentiment. Not by one iota. But there is a 'deeper' element to it, with a vicious political drive, that is a great hazard to our future.

There is one thing which is absolutely true, whether you enjoy it or not -- our race is locked into an ever-expanding economic cycle. This is absolute fact; if the economy were to collapse, it would take millions or even perhaps billions with it. And there are zero signs of its changing over to anything else. There is some question as to how long this game can be continued, yes -- in the current form. And therein lie the rub: the neoLuddite would have you believe that economics is a fixed-sum game. They speak of fungibility, and how food and shelter are somehow non-fungible goods. In its extreme form, environmentalism is also quite neoluddite in nature, today. Take for example the "Deep Ecology" 'hilosophical' movement. From the Wikipedia entry:

Deep ecology is a recent branch of ecological philosophy (ecosophy) that considers humankind as an integral part of its environment. It places more value on other species, ecosystems and processes in nature than that in established environmental and green movements, and therefore leads to a new system of environmental ethics. The core principle of deep ecology as originally developed is Næss's doctrine of biospheric egalitarianism — the claim that all living things have the same right to live and flourish. Deep ecology describes itself as "deep" because it is concerned with fundamental philosophical questions about the role of human life as one part of the ecosphere, rather than with a narrow view of ecology as a branch of biological science, and aims to avoid merely utilitarian environmentalism.
This is the sort of movement that leads to the extreme forms of veganism, such as has been exemplified by certain versions of Buddhism, wherein you have monks whom have dedicated themselves to eating leaves and fruit that fell on its own, and nothing but, for the remainder of their lives; they consider their lives to be equal in value to that of an earthworm.

And, again -- there is nothing wrong with that way of thinking, nor with that particular way of life. Where the problem comes in, however, is when this sort of thinking gets tied into things like the feminist movement. Enter ecofeminism:
Ecofeminism is a social and political movement which unites environmentalism and feminism[1], with some currents linking deep ecology and feminism.[2]oppression of women and the degradation of nature, and explore the intersectionality between sexism, the domination of nature, racism, speciesism, and other characteristics of social inequality. Some current work emphasizes that the capitalist and patriarchal system is based on triple domination of the "Southern people" (those people who live in the Third World, the majority of which are south of the First World), women, and nature. Ecofeminists argue that a relationship exists between the
As a bit of an aside -- there is a 'saw' (joke, that is), that runs something like this: Where would you put the Men's Studies department at a university? The answer to that question reveals precisely a great deal of the difficulties facing the intellectual community as a whole when confronting this sort of ideology as it enters the political spectrum, as recently discussed byCato@Liberty, the blog of the Cato Institute -- the premier libertarian policy thinktank. Suffice it to say that science ought not involve itself in politics -- and, frankly, neither should politics involve itself in science.

It is this dilemma -- that of the politicization of the environmentalist movement -- that has ironically created some of the greatest obstacles to the greening of the economy. Take, for example, this simple fact: Poverty is the greatest destroyer of the ecology there is. If you doubt this, consider the association between the ecological havoc that is being wrought in Africa and the Meso/south American rainforests, in light of the practice of subsistence farming.

One of the quickest ways to "save the rainforest" would be to make soil fertilization cheap enough and sustainable enough that the South American "slash and burners" would no longer have any reason to move on from their lands. What is most interesting about this -- specifically in terms of the Amazon -- is that it is now known that there once was an entire civilization that existed along the Amazon river. They used a technique of fertilization which has been abandoned due to ignorance of it, but which could revolutionize the lives of these poverty-stricken individuals, and perhaps lead them to greater economic success -- which in tandem would result in ecological preservation and restoration. This technique is simple enough; take the chaff of the farming process, turn it into charcoal -- rather than simply burning it -- and till the soil with this charcoal. The rain can't wash it away -- and there you have a sustainable patch of farmland. Add nitrogen-based fertilizers, and the amazon region could become a net exporter of foodstuffs -- while the rainforests could recover into the wasteland of burnt-out fields.

But this isn't information the "dark greens" wish to hear. There are a number of reasons for this, but they have been summed up somewhat sufficiently elsewhere (iteratively, no less). This author, of course, is by no means above letting others do his typing, and thus:
8. Technology Is Not the Problem; It's the Solution.
[...]
Nuclear generation of electricity emits no pollutants and no carbon dioxide. About 110 nuclear power plants provide about 20 percent of U.S. electricity today. Yet more than 100 additional plants have been cancelled or deferred indefinitely since the early 1970s.204 This was the direct result of an intense antinuclear-power campaign, carried out by many of the same individuals who are now demanding domestic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
And:
9. Bad Advice Is Often Worse Than No Advice.
[...]
All too often the advice reflects the reactionary environmentalists' theological dislike of man-made things rather than a true concern for the environment. As a result, this advice often encourages environmentally destructive behavior.


The simple truth is this: if the environmentalist movement continues down its current path of technological obstruction, especially in light of the continued development of ever-increasing economy, their actions could very readily result in abject ecological ruination.

As evidenced by the fact that "green tech" is now the third highest category globally for venture capital investment, right after biotech and information tech, in that order -- it would now seem that the antitechnology environmentalist is the environment's worst enemy. Surely there must be a cause for this; but one must ask: what is its source?
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Posted: Monday July 23, 2007, 12:43 pm
Tags: the can environment survive environmentalists? [add/edit tags]

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Ys Ab (211)
Monday July 23, 2007, 3:31 pm
We haven't considered ourselves Environmentalists for a couple of decades. We are Deep Ecologists, Social ecologists, and primitivists. But now, my spiritualism is toward "The Way of the Leaf".

Ys Ab (211)
Monday July 23, 2007, 3:41 pm
For the leaf lives its appointed time and does not struggle against the wind that carries it away. The leaf does no harm, and finally falls to nourish new leaves.

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