Tuesday, December 04, 2007
This morning, a quick skim of the Houston Chronicle led me to a story (alternate link from the Washington Post) that immediately reminded me for more than one reason of Michael Berliner's essay, "Against Environmentalism", particularly the following passage:
The fundamental goal of environmentalists is not clean air and clean water; rather it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization. Their goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather it is a subhuman world where "nature" is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.Given that our public policy "debate" is so often premised on making a "scientific" case for more government intrusion into our lives -- and that science, being government-funded, is sometimes highly politicized, little else could explain the motivation behind the scientific study described in the Chronicle:
If the good of man were the aim of environmentalists, they would embrace the industry and technology that have eradicated the diseases, plagues, pestilence, and famines that brought wholesale death and destruction prior to the Industrial Revolution. They would embrace free enterprise and technology as the only solution to the relatively minor dangers that now exist -- minor compared to the risks of living in a non-technological world.
But by word and deed, they demonstrate their contempt for human life. [bold added]
Divorce isn't just a family matter. It exacts a serious toll on the environment by boosting the energy and water consumption of those who used to live together, according to a study authored by two Michigan State University researchers."Divorce isn't just a family matter." So the woman who wakes up and realizes that she should take control of her own life and leave the sodden, abusive lout she married as a foolish girl should worry instead about the total of their separate electric bills should she do so? The man who learns that his wife has been sleeping around should remember that, at least when she isn't "saving water" under some other guy's roof, she's reducing water consumption under his? The couple who realize that, while they are both decent people, but just don't belong together, should take a life-long vow of unhappiness and frustration for the sake of a smaller "footprint" on an inanimate and uncaring Earth?
The analysis found that co-habiting couples and families around the globe use resources more efficiently than households that have split up. The researchers calculated that in 2005, divorced American households used between 42 and 61 percent more resources per person than before they separated, spending 46 percent more per person on electricity and 56 percent more on water.
Their paper, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, also found that if the divorced couples had stayed together in 2005, the United States would have saved 73 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water in that year alone. [bold added]
The examples above may sound ridiculous, but they are the logical conclusion of the unstated premise of the study, which is that preserving nature (whatever that means) is intrinsically important, and so outweighs man's desire for happiness. Environmentalism doesn't just threaten to make it impossible for man to live. It also threatens to make us miserable while we are still around. This is because environmentalism has nothing to do with furthering man's life.
The next thing you know, we're going to have to force young couples to undergo marriage counseling before they tie the knot -- or make it harder to get a divorce -- so they'll be less likely to harm the environment by doing so later on. Sorry! The religious right already came up with that one! (Including the following money quote: "It's in the state's interest for marriages to be saved.")
But on a more serious note, what other purpose could such a study (whose results a five-year-old could predict) have in today's context than to motivate a hue and cry for the government to "do something" so "society" won't have to pay so dearly for failed marriages?
The frequent coincidence in the approaches of the environmentalists and the religious right in calling for prescriptive law lies not just in the fact that both view the government's purpose as guiding human behavior (rather than protecting individual rights), but also in the fact that both share the same fundamental outlook on morality, which Berliner identified as intrinsicism. The intrinsicist views some actions as good regardless of motivation or consequences. The environmentalists and religious right differ only in which particular things they view as intrinsically good.
But not always: Diana Hsieh recently discussed a convergence between the two, the religious adoption of environmentalism as "stewardship", including the fact that environmentalism could become more dangerous as part of a religious outlook.
Note that she emphasizes a nihilistic animus behind environmentalism. I think that this is true of environmentalist intellectuals, but not so much of the rank-and-file, who take the professed motivation of "saving the earth" at face value. This is what makes the notion of "stewardship" so dangerous: Past a point, the nihilism of the left becomes impossible to ignore. But religion is much trickier, as Diana points out, and I have also indicated.