Posted by on 8 January 2008 at 7:50 am  Environmentalism
Jan 082008

(Note: I meant to post this entry a few weeks ago, but it got lost in the queue. It’s still relevant, however.)

Well, it’s hardly a loss to the world that some eco-freaks refuse to reproduce:

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years [Toni] was sterilised to “protect the planet”. Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card.

While some might think it strange to celebrate the reversal of nature and denial of motherhood, Toni relishes her decision with an almost religious zeal. “Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” says Toni, 35. “Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population.”

While most parents view their children as the ultimate miracle of nature, Toni seems to see them as a sinister threat to the future.

Mark adds: “Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don’t have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly. “We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food. “In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.

“That’s why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth. “Sarah and I don’t need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet.”

I doubt that organic-buying soccer moms will be rushing to sterilize themselves anytime soon. That’s one reason why I don’t regard the ecological movement as a long-term threat anywhere in par with religion, as dangerous as it might be in the short-term.

In its most consistent form, the ecological movement is nothing better than nihilistic destruction of human life. That’s not true of its mass base, however. Most ordinary-folk “environmentalists” are moved by the worry that we’re destroying the environment in ways that will be ultimately harmful to human life. They’re wrong in that embrace of environmentalism, as real as environmental destruction can be, but they’re not nihilists ready and eager to sterilize themselves for the sake of the planet.

To put the point in the standard terms of environmental philosophy, most ordinary folk describing themselves as “environmentalists” are fundamentally anthropocentric (i.e. human-centered) in their reasoning. They think that preserving and protecting the environment is necessary for human well-being. In contrast, the ideological leaders of the environmental movement disdain all such anthropocentric thinking. They regard nature as valuable for its own sake. It’s not just living beings (including rats, slugs, and deadly bacteria) that have such intrinsic value, often rocks and rivers to too. Humans are also intrinsically valuable. So we count for something, albeit much in the same way that the individual counts for something in utilitarian calculations with a global population of billions. Actually, we’re not even all that, since humans do so much damage to other species and environments without contributing anything good in return. (For a prominent example of this general view, see Paul Taylor’s well-known article “Biocentric Egalitarianism.”) The explicit purpose of environmental ethics is to de-humanize ethics, i.e. to remove humans from the forefront of ethical concern.

In contrast, no such disconnect between the ideology of leaders and mass base can be found in religion. The ideology is not nihilistic. Instead, religion promises all the wealth of values that the faithful might imagine in the afterlife. That can motivate mass fervor and mass sacrifice in this life. It is a possible basis for centuries of unquestioned darkness, destruction, and ignorance — as the history of Europe shows quite clearly.

So as dangerous as environmentalism is on a policy level, I do not see it as a possible driving force for some new world order. Although it has broad support, it does not have deep support necessary to make “eco-topia” the goal of more than a few man-hating nutters.

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