IT WOULD BE a supreme irony if, after taking the nation to a sublime state of vigilance against terrorism motivated by militant forms of The Religion That Can’t Get Along With Anybody Else, the next big attack came from a totally different source, motivated itself by a kind of religion: ecoterrorists. The going assumption is that they are not that kind of people, and therefore wouldn’t do anything truly murderous, however many vacation homes they burn down or lab rats they set free. But there is strong evidence that in fact they are, and that some of them must have reacted to Sept. 11 with something akin to envy. For the environmental movement in fact harbors ideologues who believe that protection of the environment is such an extreme good that lethal means are legitimate to obtain it. They have said so in public. One can of course presume that they don’t mean it and that ideas do not have consequences, but long experience would suggest that extremist thoughts lead to extremist actions eventually. The quotations below are all from prominent environmentalists, excerpted from James Dunn’s and John Kinney’s acute 1996 book Conservative Environmentalism:
David Foreman, Earth First!: "We advocate biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It may take our extinction to set things straight."
Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalogue: "We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age."
Earth First! Newsletter: "If radical environmentalists were to invent a disease to bring human populations back to sanity, it would probably be something like AIDS."
Dr. Van den Bosch, University of California, chided others about their concern for "all those little brown people in poor countries" who might be saved if DDT was used.
David Graber, biologist, National Park Service: "Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planet… Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."
Charles Wurster, chief scientist, Environmental Defense Fund: "There are too many people and [banning DDT] is as good a way to get rid of them as any."
Dr. Paul Taylor, professor of philosophy, City College of New York: "Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens – not only would the Earth’s Community of Life continue to exist but – the ending of the human epoch on Earth would be greeted with a hearty ‘good riddance.’"
Pentti Linkola: "Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed."
Maurice Strong, secretary general, 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development:
"What if a small group of world leaders were to conclude that the principal risk to the Earth comes from the actions of rich countries? And if the world is to survive, those rich countries would have to sign an agreement reducing their impact on the environment. Will they do it? The group’s conclusion is "no." The rich countries won’t do it. They won’t change. So, in order to save the planet, the group decides: Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about? This group of world leaders form a secret society to bring about an economic collapse. "
Ecoterrorists, by which I mean anyone who subscribes to an environmental philosophy which logically leads to the conclusion that people dying is a good thing, are thus similar to communists in that they esteem themselves the proprietors of a good that overrides all others, including the sanctity of human life. They also resemble communists in that it is possible to promote this "good" without revealing the lengths to which one is willing to go for it. They are thus natural adepts at blending in with normal people who pursue the respectable politics of seeking limited goals by limited means.
Their basic doctrine is twofold: save the environment by getting rid of people, and if that fails, by getting rid of industrialization. An apocalyptic reduction of the human population would be a good thing, but failing that, gradual reduction would do the same job in more time. It is easy to ignore this on the grounds that they don’t have the means to put it into effect, but we should beware the possibility of a kind of "soft" ecoterrorism that would consist in resistance to public health and faminerelief measures on the grounds that the environment is better off if people die. The millions who have died in the Third World due to environmentalists’ campaigns against DDT, asbestos cement, methyl bromide, and chlorine are cases in point. There have already been quite explicit defenses of abortion and euthanasia along these lines. This mentality call it "prodeath" could gradually seep into the political ideals of more and more people until it becomes a force in the elite and the electorate. Even if we don’t see freaks from Seattle crashing airplanes into the Space Needle, the philosophy alone is a potent threat. We must guard against our own minds being gradually seduced by it, particularly by the argument that things like euthanasia are "inevitable."
Just because humanism is a suspect ideology among conservatives doesn’t mean that antihumanism is the right alternative. In fact, insofar as man is closer to God than is nature, putting nature on the pedestal from which we have removed man would be retrogressive. Animal Rights is not so much an extension of rights to animals (why not let them vote, by the way?) as a curtailing of the rights of human farmers, scientists, and the public. The consequences of positing nature as a good in whose name man must be subdued, are horrifying. One can write the negative utopias in one’s own mind without difficulty. A World Suicide Society dedicated to the eradication of the human race and climaxing in the selferadication of the eradicators. A totalitarian society based on a fetish for environmental protection. A mere conspiracy at the UN to strangle the vital capitalist nations of the world in environmental red tape. Or just Theodore Kaczynski.
When the Unabomber’s manifesto came out, I was surprised at the number of people I knew who read it and said that large sections of it were perfectly reasonable. These attitudes are already being absorbed by our culture, albeit in the watereddown, patchy and inconsistent way of people who want ideas whose consequences they refuse to think through. The very fact that Kaczynski’s utopia which Plato described in The Republic as the City of the Pigs was attractive to people shows the dangerousness of the sentimental longings of the overcivilized for redemption through primitiveness. One suspects that an enormous motor of the environmentalist passion, particularly in its extreme forms, is a longing for a great purgation of civilization as such. Revolt against civilization, rather than against capitalism as such, is the great theme of the ‘60s, which is why the attempt to shoehorn the troublemakers into the iron boot of wouldbe Marxist revolutionaries doesn't quite come off, though my editor is of course right with his lifelong efforts to prove that these people are infinitely infected and corrupted with this particular political virus. When did Marx ever care about the environment, of all things? It is possible that the central discontent of our society, which has erupted in a dozen different ways, is overcivilization, a fact that only one major political movement of the 20th century discerned, and they, too, wasted no time getting rid of people. People will have to learn to satisfy this anticivilizational urge by going to nudist colonies or something; politics is too important a field for it to be acted out in.
The great antiindustrial dream (Ayn Rand, to her credit, saw something like this in her book The AntiIndustrial Revolution) is to end the industrial system. The petty antiindustrial dream is to throw wrenches into the works wherever one can. There is a great danger that frustrated ecoterrorist aspirations may show up in the form of a rash of petty acts of sabotage, which would of course be the perfect way for alienated teenagers to lend some moral dignity to acts of vandalism. Rage against the machine.
Whenever I tell leftists in argument that their movement is incipiently totalitarian and in the final analysis similar to the great tyrannies of the 20th Century, they always have the same comeback: Bill Clinton didn’t exterminate anybody. But it is not hard to see how democide could come to pass in this country and in the rest of the advanced West, albeit in a superficially gentle form designed to not raise our objections. Imagine that in the name of the environment and the "carrying capacity" of the earth, laws were made to limit reproduction and population growth. Imagine limits on family size. Imagine mandatory abortions, which already exist in China. Imagine mandatory infanticide, as defended by Prof. Peter Singer of Princeton. Imagine lifespan limit laws and mandatory euthanasia. Imagine that as the number of old people grows with medical advances, public desire to pay for caring for them declines, and imagine that this lifespan limit is gradually curtailed. Old people are ugly, anyhow, and who ever accomplished anything worthwhile after 60? Plus humans are only the prototypes of a certain blueprint of DNA, which can be modified at will. How could human life possibly be sacred? Rankest specism! Equal rights for all forms of consciousness!
Ecoterrorists who actually have physical plans afoot and there have been a steady drizzle of incidents coasttocoast for some years should of course be surveilled by the FBI and stopped in their tracks. This much should not be controversial. But the deeper danger is that like the communists, they will be defeated on the battlefield and yet succeed in infecting society with their ideas.
And they might even take out a few skyscrapers in the meantime.