Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Environmentalism

Here are a few comments on Drs. Deneen, Adams, and Hayward below:

1. The fundamental distinction is between prudential environmentalism and moralistic environmentalism.

2. Prduential environmentalism is anthropocentric. Human responsibility is fundamentally personal. Thinking of ourselves as part of an impersonal whole called nature is a form of self-denial.

3. Moralistic environmentalism is quite different from previous forms of modern, secular religions. Communism etc. were HISTORICAL. Moralistic environmentalism is PANTHEISM--t’s about the end of history, about the end of distinctively human footprint upon nature.

4. Moralistic environmentalism often tends to hope for a techno-catastrophe that would return the world to the scarcity that made morality and community easier. Prudential environmentalists tend to think the bomb probably won’t fall, so to speak, and that’s good. They think about the virtue required to live well, to live responsibly with what we can’t help but know and do now. Moralistic environmentalists tend to be romantics; prudential environmentalists are realists.

5. Because prudential environmentalists are realists, they don’t really think that technology and markets can take the place of moral and political deliberation about our true situation. The prudential environmentalist is the mean between the extremes of libertarianism and moralism.

Discussions - 2 Comments

It's interesting that Solzhenitsyn managed to combine the two in a way--on the one hand he was inclined towards some less than prudent hyperbole--he really bought into the hyper-Malthusian Club for Rome hysteria but also avoided the panthesistic worldview that so often attaches to it. I think this means a healthy and prudent anthropocentrism has to be combined with scientific rigor and the non-scientific prudence that allows us to distinguish dispassionate inquiry from political activism.

What worries me is that individuals may be frightened by the rhetoric of your moralistic environmentalists on this to democratically give up liberty in order to be protected from themselves.

The science is too confused as to cause and effect to allow my neighbors to have any clear sense of what is to be done and to expect scientific rigor from them is to ask more than they can give. "Experts" can try to terrify them on TV, but out here where it is green, that is hard to take seriously. People out here look out of windows blooming nature and have a hard time seeing the threat. They also know that public transportation is NEVER going come by their door and wonder how they will get work or the supermarket if "the Government" says their cars use too much gas and they can only drive on alternate Tuesdays. Having national effort in this means ignoring local lack of a problem.

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