The debate on environmentalism -- specifically as regards the environmental movement itself -- has been marked by confusion since the beginning. Criticism of environmentalist thinking tends to confuse means with goals. Environmentalist reforms, however they are presented and whatever they may involve, are simply means of pushing forward the Green agenda. As for the goals inherent in that agenda...they are something else entirely.
We see this misapprehension at work today in the debate concerning renewable power sources. Critics continually object that renewables such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power simply can't provide enough energy to run a modern industrial society. While figures differ, all forms of renewable energy put together don't break into the double digits of what is required to support an advanced economy like that of the U.S. The general consensus lies at around 3% to 5%. It currently stands at roughly two-thirds of 1% -- yes, you read that right. Much time is spent pointing this out, as if the Greens don't realize it. But of course they do -- in fact, that's the entire point.
Not that they'll ever admit it. The Green argument concerning renewable energy is that it can easily provide adequate power with the added benefit of creating a "sustainable" economy. The most recent example appeared in the October edition of Scientific American in a piece by Mark Z. Jacobsen and Mark A. Delucchi titled "A Plan for a Sustainable Future: How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030." (A PDF version is available here.) The authors make the claim that America's energy needs can be provided for by:
- 490,000 I megawatt tidal turbines
- 5,350 100 megawatt geothermal plants
- 900 1300 megawatt hydroelectric dams
- 3,800,000 5 megawatt windmills
- 720,000 .75 megawatt wave converters
- 1,700,000,000 rooftop solar voltaic systems, 0.003 MW
- 49,000 300 megawatt solar thermal plants
- 40,000 300 megawatt photovoltaic power plants
This makes for an impressive picture. Unfortunately, it's almost completely empty. Writing in The American Spectator, William Tucker completely demolishes the argument in his customary thoroughgoing fashion. (Anyone dealing with detailed tech policy questions would do well to study how Tucker handles them.) Tucker points at that the amount of space required for the solar plants alone would be in excess of 450,000 square miles, "the size of Texas and California combined." As for rooftop systems, there very likely aren't 1.7 billion roofs on earth to set them up on...at least, not enough rooftops sturdy enough, large enough, and oriented to the south enough. Similarly, "We would live in a forest of 80-story windmills interrupted by rolling prairies of solar collectors. Every inch of coastline would be girdled with tidal generators while every square mile of ocean was dotted with wind and wave collectors. There would be no place on the planet not dedicated to gathering energy."
Clearly, "A Plan for a Sustainable Future" is by no means a serious proposal, but instead a PR effort intended to sell the Green agenda. And what is that agenda?
The goal of environmentalism is not to provide power or maintain the current level of industrial activity. If anything, it's the exact opposite. Since conservation was twisted into an ideology in the late 1960s, it has pursued the explicit goal of remaking society on the basis of a fantasy notion of natural living, in which human beings are little more that another unit of the ecology, no more important and requiring only slightly more in the way of resources than a snail darter or a spotted owl. While not trumpeting this aim, Greens make no secret of it.
Environmentalism is a revolutionary ideology, deriving much of its thinking, rhetoric, and practice from the left. Like other left-wing cults, it is explicitly anti-capitalist. But environmentalism goes one step further -- while the left wishes to remake industrial society according to the Marxist model, the Greens wish to simply abolish it and return to a mythical "natural" state. What easier way to accomplish that then to cut the West's energy lifeline?
Nuclear power has already been made anathema. Coal and oil, as CO2 releasers, are next on the agenda. In the end, this leaves only renewables. What this means is more than conservation, more than recycling, more than the Green gestures to which many Americans have become reconciled. It means a complete collapse of industrial society. Not mere cuts, but effective eradication of home heating, electricity, and transportation. It means shutting down virtually all heavy industry. The limited industry that will remain - electronics, computers, some forms of biotechnology -- will be light enough to leave a small ecological "footprint." It will also be controlled by government, or rather the Green bureaucracy.
Of course, such a system cannot conceivably support 300 million Americans or 6 billion people worldwide. But as they say, that's not a flaw, but a feature.
Mass murder has always been inherent to socialism. The first recorded mention of genocide occurred in a February 1848 edition of the socialist paper Neue Rheinische Zeitung, edited by none other than Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Twenty years later, the Nihilists amused themselves by trying to calculate how many people would have to be killed once they took over. The generally accepted figure was 10%. As many will recall, William Ayers easily doubled this figure in similar discussions with his Weather Underground comrades.
Nor was this limited to cocky pseudo-revos. Whenever the left has achieved power, mass murder -- democide, in the term coined by Dr. R.J. Rummel -- has been the result. Stalin accounted for his 40 million. Mao may have exceeded this. As far as percentages of population go, the Khmer Rouge are the undisputed champs, having slaughtered at least a third of their Cambodian countrymen.
The Greens like to reverse the formula, speaking instead of what the optimal human population of earth might be. The numbers vary -- a billion, half a billion, a hundred million, or a little over 1% of the current world population. There's even a Voluntary Human Extinction movement, which holds that the human race is an evolutionary failure that would be better off extinct.
But the impulse is the same. The question remains on how to reach the goal. In the past, Greens have spoken of outside forces doing the job for them, of population crashes caused by overpopulation, pollution, resource depletion, or lately, by global warming. But there has always been a more typical leftist undercurrent as well, common among Earth First! and eco-fascist groups, that if nature fails, the Greens should step in. Such concepts as tailored viruses designed to cut the population through sterilization or more final effects have been discussed in Green circles with considerable seriousness.
The revelations of fraud concerning the East Anglia Climate Research Unit e-mails will go a long way toward transforming the debate on environmentalist policy. But such a transformation should not be limited to the topic of global warming. The public image of environmentalism as a warm, sentimental, animal- and tree-loving movement is no more than a mask. In truth, it is steel-hard and anti-human, yet another example of the sickness within the soul of modernism. The center-right must discover a method of getting this truth across. But first, this truth must be adequately understood.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker.