Environmentalism is Bad Medicine for Humans

by | May 18, 2000

It is time for Americans to reject environmentalism and to celebrate the value of trees and oil fields -- not for their own sake, but for the benefits they bring us.

On Earth Day, environmentalists should celebrate the latest consequence of their ideas: skyrocketing gasoline prices.

This year’s OPEC cutbacks in the production and distribution of oil have led to higher prices for consumers in the United States — our nation depends on OPEC nations for a large percentage of the oil used in this country. However, it is not necessary for the United States to be so dependent. There is a vast amount of untapped oil in the Alaskan wilderness that could be used to meet America’s energy needs. Unfortunately, environmentalists have succeeded in keeping most of Alaska’s oil inaccessible, claiming that human needs for energy should not take precedence over preserving the pristine form of the Alaskan wilderness.

In every conflict between the needs of people and the preservation of nature, environmentalists call for the sacrifice of human interests. Whether it is the well-being of loggers against the spotted owl or the benefits derived from animal testing versus the harm to the tested animals, nature is always prioritized over human existence and progress.

The underlying premise behind environmentalism is that nature has intrinsic value apart from its value to human existence. David Foreman, founder of Earth First!, stated publicly that, “Wilderness has a right to exist for its own sake, and for the sake of the diversity of the life forms it shelters. We shouldn’t have to justify the existence of a wilderness area by saying, ‘Well, it protects the watershed, and it’s a nice place to backpack and hunt, and it’s pretty.'”

Environmentalists view the Alaskan wilderness, the wetlands and the rainforests as inherently valuable and worthy of preservation in their current, untouched form. No reason is given for this value, and we are expected to accept without question that the spotted owl is valuable and should be protected, despite any negative effects on humans that might result. Humans, after all, are not considered a part of nature that is important to preserve.

Sustaining human existence is a process of reshaping the environment to meet our own needs. The more productive we become, the more we change our surroundings. Whether building a dam in a river to generate hydroelectric power, drilling for oil to produce gasoline or cutting down trees to make room for housing, every action that benefits humans necessarily modifies our environment. Since environmentalism holds that the environment should be preserved, it is automatically opposed to human existence.

Either humans have a right to exist or we don’t; there can be no middle ground stating that we may exist, so long as we don’t kill too many animals or cut down too many trees. If nature is intrinsically valuable and does not include humans, every meal is immoral, every house built is an evil committed against nature. Human existence is an act that should bring with it a never-ending sense of guilt.

City University of New York Professor of Philosophy Paul Taylor advocates environmentalism consistently. “[T]he end of the human epoch on earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty, ‘good riddance,'” he writes.

Environmentalists win over many people not by condemning man, but by advocating things that benefit his existence, like cleaner air or water. No one wants to breathe polluted air or drink water infested with bacteria, so these goals are very appealing. Those who have bought into the environmentalist movement’s claim that unregulated capitalism leads to pollution embrace environmentalists as the only solution to pollution, although they may not agree that nature should be preserved at man’s expense.

If environmentalists really cared about improving human existence, they would advocate capitalism — the system that allows individuals to use nature to continually improve their own lives, leading to incredible improvements in the quality and length of human life. In the last 100 years, the life expectancy has risen nearly 30 years for the average adult.

Instead of supporting capitalism, environmentalists are in favor of arbitrarily designating vast, potentially valuable tracts of land as public, untouchable property, and call for limitless government power to regulate businesses.

Under a pure capitalist system, as described in philosopher Ayn Rand’s works, everything is privately owned. As a consequence, nature is preserved only to the extent that it benefits man. Companies cannot dump waste into rivers at whim, because those rivers are the property of someone else. The same applies to any other form of pollution that is harmful to man — nobody wants to pollute their own property, and no one is allowed to pollute anyone else’s, so waste management is handled in a very clean fashion. At the same time, no one has the right to prevent someone from drilling on his own property, or from otherwise using his land for his personal benefit.

It is time for Americans to reject environmentalism and to celebrate the value of trees and oil fields — not for their own sake, but for the benefits they bring us.

Alex Epstein is a philosopher who applies big-picture, humanistic thinking to industrial and environmental controversies. He founded Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), a for-profit think tank and communications consulting firm focused on energy and environmental issues, in 2011 to offer a positive, pro-human alternative to the Green movement. He is the author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less. He is the author of EnergyTalkingPoints.com featuring hundreds of concise, powerful, well-referenced talking points on energy, environmental, and climate issues. Follow him on Twitter @AlexEpstein.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

The Real Meaning of Earth Hour

The Real Meaning of Earth Hour

The lights of our cities and monuments are a symbol of human achievement, of what mankind has accomplished in rising from the cave to the skyscraper. Earth Hour presents the disturbing spectacle of people celebrating those lights being extinguished. Earth Hour symbolizes the renunciation of industrial civilization.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest