Environmentalist Gridlock

by | Sep 12, 2006

Each of these hours spent in traffic is time not used as each individual sees fit to spend it.

Many incoming students at the school I attend – University of Southern California – are new to Los Angeles and are experiencing for the first time the notorious long, agonizing delays in traffic, which are the nation’s worst. These long waits in traffic are largely thanks to the environmentalist movement.

It is a common misconception that the environmentalism is a benevolent, well-intentioned movement primarily concerned with clean air or water for the benefit of mankind. The truth is that environmentalism is an ideology antithetical to human life.1 Environmentalism proceeds from two premises. First, it holds that nature has intrinsic value – in other words, that the environment has value in and of itself apart from someone to value it – namely human beings. Indeed, it is “arrogant” and “selfish” the environmentalists say, to be concerned with the environment simply so that mankind can utilize, or enjoy it more effectively. Instead, the greens say, man should be sacrificed to nature for nature’s sake. Second, they believe that man is somehow apart from nature, artificial, an intruder to the “pristine” natural world.2

Yet, man, by his very nature, must alter the environment to in order to survive and prosper according to novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand. To build the simplest shelter, or to engage in the earliest forms of agriculture, man must alter nature to fulfill these ends. Because of this, environmentalists view his technological achievements as a threat to nature. Since man uses technology in order to live, it logically follows that man’s very existence is an evil, which must be eradicated from the Earth. 3 This view explains what environmentalist policies have led to around the world.

For example, environmentalists have successfully lobbied to prevent drilling oil and natural gas in reserves in Alaska and Southern California, condemning hundreds of millions in the United States, and world wide, to a needlessly reduced standard of living. They even oppose nuclear energy that would provide energy while alleviating their alleged concern for air pollution associated with fossil fuels.

The insecticide DDT is a safe and effective chemical used to destroy malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The use of this chemical has saved some 500 million human lives according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.4 Environmentalist activists, making dubious allegations that this chemical is harmful to certain species of birds, have successfully lobbied to ban DDT. This ban has lead to a holocaust in which literally tens of millions have died and hundreds of millions have been sickened needlessly from this disease.5

With the philosophical underpinnings, and murderous track record of the environmentalist movement, it is not surprising that the environmentalists have turned their venomous hatred toward the automobile. A tour of the greater Los Angeles area reveals one of the most remarkable engineering achievements of mankind – the colossal in scale, intricate, elaborate, and beautiful, system of freeways. The construction of these freeways, mostly in the 1950’s and 1960’s, together with the mass production of the automobile, have provided millions of people with safe, reliable, convenient, economical, and speedy travel over great distances. The LA freeway system is
the concretization of American individualism, freedom and human efficacy.6

What has happened since then? Lobbying by environmentalists groups seen to it that almost no new freeway has been constructed in Los Angeles for the last 30 years in spite of the fact that freeway usage has more than doubled in this period.7 Environmentalist groups such as the Sierra Club, have participated in litigation which has held up the extension of the 710 freeway into Pasadena, linking it to the 210. The Sierra Club cited among its concerns the destruction of “mature trees” along the proposed path.8

Similarly, many proposed freeways, including the Reseda Freeway, 118 freeway from Oxnard to San Fernando, Fillmore Freeway, were cancelled, often in mid-construction. Billions of dollars annually, which could have built hundreds of miles of new freeways, was instead wasted on the underutilized and heavily subsidized mass transit system thanks largely to environmentalists. Former Governor Grey Davis decreed that the, “California’s era of freeway construction is over,” in spite of the fact that the driving habits of Californians have indicated otherwise. 9 Such statements indicate that the environmentalist agenda is well entrenched in California politics.
Largely as a result of environmentalist influences, Southern Californians spend more time than anyone in the United States stuck in traffic – an average of 96 hours annually. To put this figure in perspective, given that there are 10 million motorists in Southern California, this figure translates to the equivalent of nearly 1500 lifetimes snuffed out every year in Southern California alone.

Time needlessly wasted should not be viewed as an inconvenience to be stoically born by motorists. Each of these hours spent in traffic is time not used as each individual sees fit to spend it. It is hours parents are not able to spend with their families. It is the time of the scientist not spent performing medical research life saving treatments. It is time engineers were not able to put to use developing technology that could have built new products to improve our lives.

Lost time is not the only consequence of gridlock. Traffic congestion leads to reduced quality of life as motorists arrive at their destination frustrated and fatigued. It leads to reduced standard of living since trade that might have occurred did not, because people chose not to make a trip they otherwise might have. Gridlock also means lives lost due to the inability of emergency vehicles to reach their destinations in a timely manner. It causes increased traffic fatalities as congestions makes roads dangerous.10

The more honest environmentalist will admit they are willing to demand sacrifices of man for the sake of the non-human concerns such as endangered species, trees, or to preserve the natural landscape. But often environmentalists claim they are motivated by concern for the human health hazard brought about by increased pollution due to more extensive automobile use. Though it may be argued that peak efficiency traffic may provide an incentive for increased automobile use and therefore fuel consumption, this is largely offset by the fact that gridlocked automobiles create much greater nitrous oxide and carbon contaminants per mile as those operating at peak efficiency according to the EPA.11 It is a difficult case to make that restricting construction of new freeways reduces pollution. But as we’ve seen, clean air for people to breathe in particular, or human life and comfort in general, is not really what environmentalists are concerned about.
References:

1. Schwartz, Peter, ed. “The Philosophy of Privation.” Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. (Penguin Group, 1999), p. 219.

2. Ibid, pp. 220-221.

3. Ibid, pp. 222.

4. Williams, Walter. “Silent Spring: RIP 2004.” Capitalism Magazine. June 7, 2004. <http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3785>

5. McClintock, Tom. Speech given by State Senator Tom McClintock to the California Asphalt and Pavement Association. January 24, 2002. <http://republican.sen.ca.gov/web/mcclintock/article_detail.asp?PID=211>

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Czamansk, David. “U.S. Agency Suspends Support of 710 Freeway Expansion.” Sierra Club of Pasadena Website.

9. McClintock, Tom. Speech given by State Senator Tom McClintock to the California Asphalt and Pavement Association. January 24, 2002. <http://republican.sen.ca.gov/web/mcclintock/article_detail.asp?PID=211>

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

Jason Hoskin is a graduate student in pathobiology, and is president of the USC Objectivist Club. For more information, visit www.uscobjectivistclub.com.

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.

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