Environmentalism is today the most popular and broad ideology amongst the intelligentsia in the West. On the one hand anyone who has been insulted by toxic odors or seen the effects of unrestrained industrial pollution can’t be unmoved by the consequences of humans behaving badly. On the other hand, most of those who call themselves environmentalists seem strikingly focused on far more than just the practical problems of day-to-day pollution mitigation.
Environmentalism is a “total” ideology, in that its solutions are not piecemeal. It promises to “save” the planet with detailed prescriptions every human being is expected to follow. Allegiance to Mother Earth is the roaring demand in every ear, daily increasing in volume … and an almost religious fervency.
This fervency does not extend to common sense cleaning up and conservation, mind you, but to an ideological way of thinking. Environmentalist solutions, whether to real or imagined problems, invariably feature the kind of rigid intolerance and nepotism that somehow survived the collapse of Communism in the former Soviet Union.
Consider legislation that punishes companies for every animal harmed in the production of energy. Fair enough. Oil companies should be responsible to answer for every animal they harm. If an oil spill killed millions of animals, we would all be outraged. It is therefore beyond passing strange that Green legislation punishing oil companies actually promoted solar and wind plants when, for instance, it is well known that in the US alone solar and wind plants kill millions of animals annually, including endangered species.
Why would government elites promote such unbalanced law? Green hypocrisy is also found among cultural elites whose concern for the environment or the poor seems all too often simply an exercise in self-promotion, a relatively cheap way to accrue money and moral self-satisfaction.
Take, for instance, former Vice-President Al Gore and his attitude to a basic necessity—energy. At every turn he uses his political influence to attempt to foist laws on the masses that forcibly reduce their energy use and limit their access to affordable energy. In 2007 after his global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, won an Oscar for best documentary feature, it was reported that his Nashville mansion—and Mr. Gore owns many mansions—consumed twenty times more electricity than the national average.
Of course, this single mansion at about 10,000 square feet was undoubtedly bigger than the average house size, around 2,400 square feet at the time, so a fairer calculation would be the energy use per square foot. The latter figure reveals something more personal about one’s priorities. It shows how much energy one chooses to burn to maintain an acceptable standard of living about one’s person.
A simple calculation shows that Mr. Gore considers an acceptable level of energy consumption for himself to be about four times what the average American uses. In the same space the average American burns the energy of one lightbulb Mr. Gore has shown, by his example, that he needs four lights. Perhaps Mr. Gore justifies this because he considers his life to be bigger, bolder, and brighter than yours. More power to him. One can hardly be blamed for tripping over Al Gore’s vast carbon footprint.
There are genuine environmental problems, such as malaria and other insect-borne diseases in Africa and Asia, or clean water around the developing world, or air pollution in China, or deforestation and soil erosion in Haiti and Indonesia and Brazil. Such serious problems hardly seem to exercise environmentalists, who are focused like a laser beam on climate change. They are so concerned about an increase in global average temperature that is orders of magnitude smaller than typical daily and seasonal temperature change in any given locale, and thus also orders of magnitude smaller in consequences, that instead of genuine problems they consider it imperative to micromanage your home thermostat.
In the end environmentalism seems less about a healthy and beautiful environment and more an excuse for bullies and busybodies to feel good about themselves by exercising power over others.