Green Madness

From the article of the same name in City Journal a reminder of the reality of deep ecology.

An excerpt.

During his time in the White House, Barack Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other administration officials, asserted that man-made climate change was the greatest threat to humanity’s future—not just one threat among others, or a pretty big one, but the greatest. As recent Pew research makes clear, far more Americans on the political left think that climate change is a big deal than do those on the right, and since the Left is typically more secular and the Right more religious, we see a spiritual paradox: on the environment, those on the left are the true (if pagan) believers, while those on the right are the dogmatic “atheists” (the whole climate thing is just an exaggerated crisis cooked up by liberal elites and the fake media).

Conservative skepticism notwithstanding, though, climate-change ideologues have more or less shaped public debate on the issue—successfully branding their opposition as “climate deniers.” And by now, nearly 50 years after the first Earth Day, a broad-ranging and increasingly draconian ecological consciousness has become pervasive in American life, extending far beyond climate issues. Go to the supermarket, for example, or look inside your pantry. You’ll find that hundreds of items in bags and cans have certifications of “Non-GMO.” That means that they contain no genetically modified organisms. In recent years, more than 27,000 products have been so certified (by the Non-GMO Project), with the purpose of putting our minds at ease that what we’re about to eat is not genetically modified and will not sicken or kill us or make us sprout a third arm. Non-GMO fanatics and millions of consumers call these forbidden fruits “Frankenfood.” Never mind that nobody has been proved to have been harmed or killed by GMOs. (That can’t be said for organic spinach or bean sprouts.) And never mind that for 25 years, almost all corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the United States have been genetically modified, with nobody sickened or dead or sporting an extra limb. So why the intransigence of the activists and the gullibility of so many consumers?

The issue here is not the inevitable one of managing risk and rewards in modern life. It’s perfectly reasonable to wonder whether plants genetically modified to withstand the herbicide Roundup, say, might cause more of the poison to be used and thus entail some cost or harm. The giveaway term is the reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The real issue, that is, is not primarily technical or scientific; it’s moral and spiritual. With genetic engineering, in this view, we’re trying to play God and invariably upsetting the natural order of things. Put differently, and in the terms of the radical ecologist David Graber, we’re the fallen human parasite going after holy Mother Nature.

Consider an extraordinary 2017 news release from the Marin County, California, Department of Health and Human Services. The document reported that the kindergarten vaccination rate in the county had reached its highest rate, 93.2 percent, since 2000—a “dramatic change” from the 2011–12 school year, when the rate was a dangerous 77.9 percent. To nobody’s surprise, California experienced an outbreak of measles at that time, and Marin County was logically suspected as its source. The county turnaround was in part explained, said the news release, by the passage of California State Senate Bill 277, eliminating personal and religious exemptions from vaccination requirements, which had endangered the lives of medically fragile children. Marin County is home to a population of rich, well-educated, and politically liberal citizens, who succumbed to the anti-vax movement in droves. What drives anti-vaxxers, besides their unfounded warnings about autism, is the same principle that motivates the non-GMO crowd: we need to keep our technological hands off the supposedly divine order of nature, even if elements of that divine order, like viruses, are killing us.

I found this out firsthand years ago, when I had a conversation with the late Arne Naess, the Norwegian father of what is known as “deep ecology” and guru of the European Green movement. How seriously did Naess regard the divinity of Mother Nature? He told me that the eradication of smallpox was a technological crime against nature. The smallpox virus, he said—which had maimed, tortured, and killed millions of human beings—somehow “deserved” human protection.

Most people would regard protecting the smallpox virus as a crackpot idea, but the broader notions of deep ecology have made major headway in mainstream thought, especially through the advocacy of influential Greens such as Bill McKibben and David Graber, who have sounded the alarm for years on global warming, the depredations of fossil fuels, and the evils of human technology. Since the early 1970s, deep ecology has been the beating heart of radical environmentalism. Most people today have never heard of Naess and know nothing about deep ecology, but without knowing it, they have increasingly accepted many of its precepts. With climate change (whether you believe in it or not) destined to be a major policy issue for years to come, along with related issues concerning human interaction with the natural world, it’s worth understanding what the vision of deep ecology entails—and what its practical consequences would be.

Deep ecology is really radical: its two fundamental principles—“self-realization” and “biocentric equality”—amount to a complete rejection of Western modernity. According to deep ecologists Bill Devall and George Sessions, authors of the 1985 book Deep Ecology, self-realization is “in keeping with the spiritual traditions of many of the world’s religions,” but the self of which they speak is quite different from the modern Western version—one based in a notion of individual liberty and self-fulfillment. The ecological self encompasses humanity as a whole and, even more, includes the entire nonhuman world. No one is saved, they say, until all are saved; and the “one” includes me, all human beings, whales, grizzly bears, mountains and rivers, and “the tiniest microbes in the soil.” That’s a big self.

Retrieved December 13, 2018 from

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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