Wesley J. Smith contends that the environmental movement has gone much too far . . .
Environmentalism has done so much good — conservation, our national parks, cleaning up the air and rivers, remediating toxic waste dumps, and the list goes on. But something has gone terribly awry.
Beginning with “deep ecology” in the 1970s — which proclaims a moral equality between people and nature and advocates radical human depopulation — a nihilistic misanthropy has slowly but surely shrouded environmentalism. It has gotten so bad that conservation and preventing pollution, once the hallmarks of environmentalism, now often take a back seat to thwarting the development of resources in the service of an ideology that is becoming explicitly anti-human.
Consider the campaign to prevent global warming. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that many advocates who view people as potential “planet killers” fall prey to the misanthropic temptation — including support for radical population control and policies — to choke prosperity as a way of lessening our carbon footprints.
Some even extol China’s authoritarian policies. Thus, Financial Post columnist Diane Francis opined that controlling global warming will require “a China one-child policy,” which unleashed massive numbers of female infanticides and forced abortions. Similarly, the Times of London reported in 2009 that “Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population … must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming … even if it means shifting money from curing illness to increasing contraception and abortion.” Yikes!
Global warming isn’t the half of it. We now see successful environmental advocacy to grant “rights” to “nature.” Yes, you read correctly — “nature rights.” Under this neo-paganistic belief, “Mother Nature is a living being” with “the right to life and to exist,” the “right to be respected,” to “continue vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions,” (which is more than can be said for fetuses).
“Nature rights” isn’t something to worry about tomorrow: It’s happening today. Ecuador and Bolivia have already granted constitutional rights to nature. In contrast, recognizing nature as a rights-bearing entity has been promoted in the USA primarily at the local level. More than 20 U.S. cities — including Pittsburgh and Santa Monica — have legally recognized nature rights, under which anyone may sue on behalf of nature to enjoin development projects from going forward.
If nature rights can be conceived of as a shield protecting Mother Nature, she also needs a spear with which to punish her rapists. That is where “ecocide,” a new proposed international crime envisioned as equivalent to genocide, comes in. According to the This Is Ecocide website: “Ecocide is the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given Territory, whether by human agency or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.” Please pay very close attention: The word “inhabitants” does not necessarily — or even primarily — refer to human beings. Rather, it includes flora and fauna, meaning that ecocide would put people in jail for displacing plants, insects, field mice, birds, snakes, deer, etc. — no matter how beneficial the use of the land would be to human thriving.
Ecocide isn’t primarily about punishing pollution, although events like the Exxon Valdez oil spill would probably be included. Rather, ecocide is designed to chill corporate leaders from even contemplating large scale resource extraction for fear of being put in the dock at The Hague. Last fall ecocide campaigners held a mock trial in the chambers of the UK Supreme Court “prosecuting” two fictional CEOs for the “crime” of developing the Alberta Tar Sands. One CEO was “sentenced” to four years in prison for the heinous act of helping liberate the West from dependence on Middle East oil.
Why has environmentalism moved in such an economically destructive, potentially authoritarian, and decidedly misanthropic direction? The heart of the problem is that environmentalists increasingly reject human exceptionalism. Believing that we should consider ourselves just another animal among others on the planet, they push us toward self-flagellating policies and a societally enervating moral relativism that elevates nature to the moral status of humans. This actually has the effect of devaluing people to the level of flora and fauna.
At a more fundamental level, green misanthropy reflects how much of society is moving past “post-Christianity” and toward an explicit “anti-Christianity.” What better way to break the spine of the Judeo-Christian worldview than to subvert society’s belief in the unique dignity and moral worth of human beings? If enough of us accept that reductionist self-definition, the faith will totter into general irrelevance, perhaps to be replaced by the neo-earth religion we see forming among some greens in which the creation is worshiped rather than the Creator.
Wesley J. Smith is an award-winning author and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.