Counterpoint by Mark Nicol – The degradation of the environmentalist movement

| October 15, 2020

When man had the ambition to fly, to soar above the normal plane of human habitation, he had to overcome the physical force of gravity. And when man seeks to soar above the moral plane of self-interest, he has to overcome a like metaphysical force.

Every time we fly above ground, we have fueled motors working feverishly, wings designed to promote lift, which temporarily but sufficiently sustain the cause. Yet wherever man has sought to sustain ascendant moral causes he has tended towards imminent failure, by not recognizing the immutable fact of moral gravity.

The true environmentalist is the luckiest person in the world, a person endowed with a sensibility fully appreciating the transcendent beauty of life on Earth. If we look out at the cosmos, beyond this frail speck of life-giving dust, for now we see nothing but wondrous sterility. What is transcendent, here on Earth, is the fragile conquest of life over the pervasive silence of the cosmos.

Rachel Carson, in her founding environmentalist text “Silent Spring”, (1962), was the first respected voice recognizing that mankind was seriously damaging the fabric of life on Earth. In the 1950s Carson established herself as more than just an analytical scientist, marine biologist. She wrote works celebrating the rich diversity of marine life, distinguishing her as a naturalist.

In Silent Spring Carson launched out as an environmental activist. She focused upon the detrimental effects that pesticides, especially DDT, were having on ecosystems.

Carson’s work birthed a grassroots environmental movement, led to a US ban on the use of DDT, and creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. By the late 1960s, the respectable intellectual, moral fabric that Rachel Carson had founded for an environmentalist movement was already undergoing internal degradation.

Carson established a hard scientific basis, and a moral extension beyond disaffected scientific interest in her naturalist and environmentalist works. But the late 60s hippy movement, in taking up the cause, imparted a soft/fuzzy intellectual approach, a moral, political voice that was myopic and histrionic. Unfortunately, this lame pedigree has filtered through to the contemporary Green movement.

Distinct from the emerging populist movement, Paul Ehrlich, another US biologist, established the complementary hard analysis base for the environmentalist cause. In “The Population Bomb”, (1968), Ehrlich pointed to excessive human population as the principal cause of an emerging geoecological crisis.

But, like Thomas Malthus in his 1798 treatise, “An Essay on the Principle of Population”, Ehrlich also predicted that unless human population growth was reduced the species would be unable to feed its numbers. H also erroneously forecast that mass famines would result.

Malthus could not have predicted how innovations of the Industrial Revolution would allow mankind to feed greater numbers than ever before. Ehrlich erred, in analysis and in any shrewd political conception, when he also raised the overpopulation alarum as predicted cause of imminent subsistence failure.

Global demographic overload is the prime factor generating our man/biosphere crisis, far more palpable in 2020 than in 1968. But any environmentalist raising the overpopulation alarum, now, has to confront not only every self-interested anthropocentric lobby railing against that logic.

One has to deal with two prominent historical instances, where proponents of the logic made over-audacious forecasts. Consequently, the warning is now howled down as a cry of wolf.

Carson and Ehrlich defined the two fundamentalist analyses of anthropogenic biosphere devastation, the qualitative and the quantitative. Thus, we view human devastation of ecological fabric, health, as the consequence of the way we act, as the consequence of the numerical scope of the human footprint.

Every political lobby group attacking our rapidly worsening geoecological dilemma, today, is convinced that by adopting a pure qualitative redress to the problem it can be solved. Somehow, if we all reduce our carbon footprint, recycle waste, stop eating meat, the crisis will be defeated.

The qualitative approach to our environmentalist dilemma will mitigate, but never solve the problem.

Let us imagine a world consisting of two fifty acre farms, each initially populated by two generations of two, four people. The subsistence carrying capacity for each farm is eight. The family on the left farm keeps their population, generation after generation, at four, and should continuously enjoy an affluent life. The family on the right farm doubles its population each generation.

Which family will develop an economic/ecological crisis, is sure to go to war, will have the numerical advantage to succeed in that war, is ultimately assuring that the total ecological and social system will fail?

Excessive human overpopulation is strangling the biosphere on planet Earth. But the mindset of near every human being on the planet, today, is placed with that farm on the right – illogically, belligerently, and damnedly refusing to rein in egoistic human excess.

We might expect this behaviour from the Right-winger, who never feigned to car for more than ephemeral self-interest. But how is it that the Green politicker aligns with this ecocidal, ultimately homicidal lobby too?

Solution to the man/biosphere problem requires rational analysis of the problem, as per the qualitative and quantitative effects of the human ecological footprint. Even more telling will be the moral address to the problem. But moral gravity has, almost, thoroughly corroded any true fabric in the environmentalist movement.

Beyond Carson, Ehrlich, no-one has imparted anything of groundbreaking, fundamental intellectual worth to the environmentalist cause.

The Deep Ecology philosophy developed by Arne Naess was too esoteric in its ethics to ever be influential. Suzuki, Gore? With five and four children apiece, they are vociferous pleaders for the cause tainted by their own quiet, egoistic treachery. This intellectual vacuum leaves us with the prominence of the populist movement.

When the fundamental truth, analytical, moral, contained in a culture of aspirational thinking is weak, we are guaranteed that the gravitational pull of self-interest morality will degrade the ascendant cause.

Jesus proposed a phenomenal treatise of aspirational thinking, 2,000 years ago, opposing the pervasive predatory morality of the age with a puritanical altruistic plea. But Jesus did not rationally analyze the existential pragmatism of his reactive, idealistic proposition. Jesus also expediently attached his ideology to an incompatible Hebraic henotheist lore, plus plied the standard contemporary lie of the prophet – divine mandate.

Consequently, the inherent irrationality, impracticality, incongruity, and deception contained in initial Christian thinking all but guaranteed that it would be degraded, appropriated to self-interest purposes. The Romans and Billy Grahams of history simply drew upon inherent fallibilities.

Abstractive degradation was the other process, which killed real constructive achievements embryonic in late-Ancient World idealist movements. The espousal of humanist, quasi-environmentalist ethics in Taoist, Confucianist ideologies evaporated off as the meaningless rituals sitting opposite brutal business as usual.

Nothing could be more savagely paradoxical than the Vedic/Hindu/Buddhist seminarian practise of effete transcendental meditation, opposite the Brahman’s cynical autocratic usage of the same Vedic lore. Ahimsa, the ancient Indian concept of cherishing all living things, succumbed to this abstractive degradation.

Moral degradation of the modern environmentalist movement has occurred because the strong analytical truths established by Carson, Ehrlich, were never inter-ratified, and were not imparted with any strong moral reasoning.

Noting nought from the failures of the Taoist, Confucianist, Christian, Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Communist movements, the modern environmentalist presents as history’s grand ideological naif. This stupidity is conceitedly emblematic in the Green-Left’s proclamation of ‘progressive politics’, the naive conception that humanitarian/environmentalist agendas can dominate over self-interest.

The natural hierarchy of vital moral purposes is constructed as a pyramid – self-interest as the foundation, humanitarian extension as the next tier, environmentalist extension next, true religious extension at the apex. This construction represents the mortal’s increasing extension beyond crude egoistic conception, action, to ultimately embrace, nurture, and celebrate all being.

However, as a conscripted existentialist, the mortal cannot forsake depredation, the crude practise of violent self-interest assertion, ever. We cannot turn the pyramid upside down, survive as transcendental beings.

Analogous to the strong force amongst the four fundamental forces of Physics, self-interest is the most powerful force in our moral cosmos. We have 2,000 years of evidence, the consistent failures of ideological movements attempting to turn nature’s moral pyramid upside down, instructing us how to assemble a workable moral politics.

Progressive politics will not be defined by moving ever to the Left, towards pathetic renunciation of self-deterministic assertion. It will be found in the intelligent reconciliation of self-interest, humanitarian, environmentalist, and religious causes. The environmentalist fight is not Left v. Right, man against man. It is man, either against, or reconciled with nature.

Moral gravity has exacted an horrific effect upon environmentalist aspirations. Homosexual, feminist, pro-refugee, and indigenous rights lobbies have inveigled their non-related, oft dubious and counter-effective causes into an ideology already dilute in intellectual, moral conception.

Symptomatically, the Australian Green Party is a fraudulent environmentalist organization. It should be replaced by a lobby focused on its cause, capable of formulating a conciliatory moral agenda.