Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Human Nature?

Hugh Hewitt posts a notice of a new National Geographic program called, "Aftermath Population Zero," which considers what the world would look like were there no human life on earth.

The most interesting sentence of the description might be this one: "After being controlled by humanity for millennia, nature reclaims the earth."

Do the powers that be at The National Geographic Society think that humans fundamentally unnatural? That would explain alot. Is Environmentalism, in its strong, quasi-religious form, misanthropic?

Update. On his blog, Jonah Goldberg posted this pearl of environmentalist wisdom, via Todd Seavey:

"Around the time of the DDT ban, Dr. Charles Wurster, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, may have revealed how some environmentalists really feel about human beings when he was asked if people might die as a result of the DDT ban: "Probably...so what? People are the causes of all the problems; we have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them, and this is as good a way as any."

Discussions - 14 Comments

Is this still a distinction that upsets people? Every "environmentalist" (treehugger, or whatever other epithet folks wish to make and hurl) I know is well aware that humans/humanity are part of nature, yet are (quite obviously) very unique within it. Nonetheless, most people understand the generic, popular concept of "nature" to be the natural, organic, non-manmade environments of Earth (trees, rivers, mountains, squirrels, etc.), as opposed to the artificial, synthetic environments made by mankind (plastic chairs made from petroleum, Wal-Marts, parking lots, skyscrapers, home theaters, nuclear waste dumps, etc.). If advised to "get out and see some nature" most of us understand that means to go take a hike and admire some forests and moose and such, even though it COULD, possibly, mean "go to the nearest meet-market bar and watch the opposite sex." The environmentalists I know care as deeply about humanity as trees and baby seals, tired conservative caricatures aside. Yet, the truth is that what humanity does has much greater potential detrimental impact on the trees than the essentially passive trees do on humanity. Knowing this doesn't necessarily lead to misanthropy though, nor should it.

The environmentalists I know care as deeply about humanity as trees and baby seals, tired conservative caricatures aside.

I doubt it. They, like you, advocate essentially misanthropic policies all too often. It comes from their unexamined neo-Epicureanism, which of course is materialism which is fundamentally misanthropic.

It is no accident that programs like this (just watch a few hours of Discovery channel as it is a common theme in almost all of them) end up with such statements. Your attempts to divide environmentalism off some radical misanthropic core is in vain. Almost all of it is deeply confused about man and nature...

Is Environmentalism, in its strong, quasi-religious form, misanthropic?

Problem is, there is very little modern environmentalism that is not "quasi-religious". Almost all of it poses some sort of "nature" that is separate from man and his place in it. However, it's understandable. What is a materialist going to do but end up in a nihilistic moralism?

Who is Richard Adams?

This all reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend in college. Sometime during my sophomore year, I became friends with a very nice girl who was an excellent student and (for our age at the time) an excellent writer. But she was also an introvert and somewhat socially awkward. She didn't like many people and people didn't generally take the time to get past her steely front. Gradually, she started to get bitter and to pull herself even further away her limited social circles. As she did this, she gravitated toward radical environmentalism and people who felt similarly disenchanted with society. Because I was always pretty skeptical about environmentalism and because I suspected that some of the folks in her new circle were not the best influence on a person inclined to be depressed, I pressed her to explain herself and her developing disgust with people. At first she was angry with my questions but then she began to cry about the way that people arrogantly put their feelings above the feelings of a tree. Trees should have rights too, she said. I swear she did this. When pressed harder she asserted that people were like a virus planted on the earth. The natural world would be better off without us. She got very emotional and insistent about all of this the longer she talked. It became very hard to tell whether her environmentalism caused her misanthropy or if she was inclined toward environmentalism because of her misanthropy. For all practical purposes, it did not matter. My eyes got wider and my heart was broken for her. It was actually very sad. We hardly ever spoke beyond forced pleasantries after that conversation. I tried, but she had hardened her heart. I often think of her and of what a shame it was that she was able to slip through the cracks like that. I hope she came out of it and found some people worth loving.

My eyes got wider and my heart was broken for her. It was actually very sad.Yeah Julie, it sounds like you really made an effort to understand her position and weren't the least bit patronizing!

Seems kinda pointless to argue with these guys, Craig, when you've given a thoughtful response and are immediately shot down by Christopher with his, "Nope, you're a misanthrope!" response.

a thoughtful response

Well, that word "thoughtful" comes up allot around here, with no meaning I can discern behind it, so perhaps you can explain what you mean by it.

As to Craig's response, it is not what I would call "thoughtful". Mr. Adams point stands, that the vast majority of "environmentalism" is in fact a quasi religious understanding of man and nature, just as Julies acquaintance displays (admittedly in an extreme way, tied up with her own issues). it DOES posit a nature and man that are at odds, a man that is "unnatural", a pristine state of nature that should be if only man weren’t around to mess things up, etc.

Craig vainly tries to distance environmentalism from itself, claiming instead that it is something much more humanistic. He stands against reality. I wish it were that way, but wishing it does not make it so. I don't need to "shoot it down", it's a ghost, a wish, a projections of good intentions that defy reality...

I could also argue by anecdote and think back to MY old university pal -who had finished the Asbhrook program!- and when it came to environmentalism he was always pushing the Rush Limbaugh line ("The Earth’s ecosystem is not fragile, and humans are not capable of destroying it." from his book See, I Told You So, p.189-90, 1993) or the Ann Coulter line ("The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet -- it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars -- that's the Biblical view." from here), but that proves exceedingly little, either way. Just a story to be embraced or dismissed as necessary.

In any case, I think it's curious how environmentalists (and sure, fine, I am one of them, with certain limitations and conditions on which particular variant that is) have so often been ridiculed by the right for their granola hippie talk of Gaia and the interconnectedness of all living things, but now, I guess painting enviros as humanity-haters is a more effective tack now, politically.

Here's just one example of how absurd it is to think that most environmentalists are misanthropes. There seems to be a bit of a problem with the world's seafood fish supply, and while I don't eat fish extremely often, I really enjoy it when I do. I think there are numerous valid justifications for trying to stabilize or even build up global fish stocks - including the one that says the health of the oceans might indicate the healthiness of the planet as an environment for PEOPLE to LIVE IN/ON - but surely one of them is so that people, including me, can enjoy this bounty of the Earth (provided by The One True Christian God, if you prefer). But golly, with 6 billion + people gobbling up fish with various intensities, it just might be possible that we're just putting too much of a strain on a finite resource...maybe?

Many environmentalists even have children and want their kids to be able to see and appreciate natural beauties and wonders, as well as even imbibe some of nature's bounty (yeah for selfishness for the Ayn Rand fans).

So, true, if I was the only environmentalist on an Earth otherwise populated by Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and their minions well, yes, perhaps I would develop some misanthropy - particularly if I couldn't enjoy fish once in a while due to any Limbaugh-Coulterite policies that say "Just keep fishing!"

Another thing to consider is that there are PLENTY of environmentalists (and this is increasingly true) today who are not just "quasi-religious" secularists who care deeply about trees, owls, snakes, etc., but
there are many Christian environmentalists within the enviro movement today. And they largely share the same concerns as the not-explicitly religious enviro groups. So, when calling environmentalists misanthropes, is that derision aimed at the Christians, as well?

And MR. ADAMS - By passing along Mr. Wurster's must-kill-people remarks you (along with Goldberg and Seavey) are also perpetuating, at best, unsubstantiated third-person hearsay (scroll down a bit for relevant section), and a most infamous quote utilized by the brownwashers. Mr. Wurster explicitly denied that quote, and the reliability of the man alleging them is easily questionable. Mr. Wurster issued a statement to be put in the Congressional record that stated:

"I wish to deny all of the statements of Mr, Yannacone. His remarks about me, attributed to me, and about other trustees of EDF are purely fantasy and bear no resemblance to the truth. It was in part because Mr. Yannacone lost touch with reality that he was dismissed by EDF, and his remarks of May 1970 indicate that his inability to separate fact from fiction has accelerated.

I respectfully request that my denial of any truth to Mr. Yannacone's remarks be made part of the record of these hearings."

That is from page 268 of House Hearings on the Federal Pesticide Control Act of 1971 (Serial No 92-A). Do you (or Goldberg or Seavey) have any transcript or source for Mr. Wurster's alleged remarks?

So now we're running out of fish, huh? Go sell crazy somewhere else, sob sister.

You know Craig, I do appreciate your attempt to parse a humanistic "environmentalism" from the modern environmental movement, but it is in vain. It would be nice if the modern environmental movement was animated, motivated, and most importantly inspired by something other than a materialistic, quasi spiritualist understanding of man and nature, but it just ain't. You can't cite a few Christian's who support the modern environmental movement any more than you can cite the fact of allegedly "Catholic" pro sodomy groups as indication that Christians accept sodomy. These groups are the exceptions that prove the rule - that the modern environmental movement is deeply confused about nature and man's place in it.

Let me repeat: YES, most environmentalists are misanthropes, at least if they took their philosophy seriously. In a way, Julie's friend is to be commended for admitting what most environmentalists will not - that they are fundamentally anti-human. It does not matter that they think they are being moral by being such, anti-humanism (humanism as understood traditionally and by most men through history) is a fundamental facet of their philosophy.

One thing that reveals your too easy cozyness with said philosophy is how easily you dismiss Rush and Coulters criticism. Yes, they are exaggerating for effect, but it is an exaggeration and not a fundamental untruth that they speak. Your willingness to dismiss it only shows your willingness to jump on board the anti-human bandwagon...

If Wurster denies having said that, I will note it.

But what is "the health of the oceans." I understand what human health is. What is the difference between a healthy ocean and an unhealthy one? To be sure there's a difference between an ocean that is polluted and animals and plants can't live in it, and one that is clean, but that's not the same thing as "a healthy ocean." An ocean is a physical object. It can no more be sick than can a chair.

To borrow a literary term, to speak of the health of an ocean is to indulge in pathetic fallacy.

Alright, please excuse my literary flourish there. I didn't mean to anthropomorphize the salt and water molecules that make up the oceans at any given moment. I was using the term "oceans" in the more common parlance to refer to ocean waters and the various life forms that live within them. Yes, it is quite true that the salt and water molecules of the oceans can "no more be sick than can a chair," but if one analyzes the health of the various life forms within the oceans, whether a majority or minority of those life forms are doing well and have stable or thriving populations, one can get some sense of the "health of the oceans" in that sense, a sense which I think is really not so obscure. As well as the likely overfishing of many species, I think that this "plastic soup" in the Pacific, for example, does not describe a healthy environment for various ocean organisms.

As for the alleged Wurster quote, I doubt he said it, and the man who accused him of saying it may well have had various ulterior motives for claiming it. Who knows? Thanks for posting the clarification.

"People are the causes of all the problems; we have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them, and this is as good a way as any."

You first, Chief Scientist Dr. Charles Wurster

Do you understand that it's high time to get the personal loans, which would realize your dreams.

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