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In the Battle of Man Vs. Nature, Give Me Man
In the Battle of Man Vs. Nature, Give Me Man
January 03, 2012
Originally published in Forbes
Welcoming the new year contemplating the sunset comfortably ensconced on a cliffside balcony high above the manicured banks of the Miami River, it’s hard not to marvel at the hand of man. Behold as lights defeat the growing darkness, lending sparkle to a condo canyon that was once a malarial swamp. Yes, the pristine wilderness is a wonderful place to visit, but most rational people would rebel if forced to live there.
All living beings transform the environment to suit their needs, but none as thoroughly as man. This virtue is essential to progress and civilization, yet today it is under assault as never before.
The impetus for this assault is fundamentally religious, though its practitioners present a scientific pose. To understand how the new religion is structured one need only replace the deity with Mother Nature, the messiah with Al Gore, the devil with carbon, carnal sin with consumption of non-renewable resources, and blasphemy with global warming denial. The result is a neo-Puritanism that denigrates the accomplishments that separate man from beast. The neo-Puritans yearn for a return to a harmonious Eden where humans are just another animal that knows its place.
How did we get here? The birth of environmentalism is actually quite laudable given the extent to which we despoiled our surroundings on the way to becoming both rich and aware enough to start cleaning up after ourselves. Despite some foot dragging, we’ve done a magnificent job of doing just that over the past 40 years—making our air more breathable, our water more drinkable, and our surroundings less cluttered with the cast-off detritus of our material progress. The Chinese will no doubt do the same over the next 40 years as they grow tired of marinating in their own effluvia.
So just as many elements of Judeo-Christian ethics can be adopted as an aid to virtue without a need to accept the extreme dogmas of organized religion, so can many elements of environmentalism aid us in caring for the planet without having to buy into the original sin that derides man as a form of pollution.
If getting along with these people were only a matter of religious toleration it would be manageable, but it is not, as they have supplanted the real threats posed by water and air pollution with the ineffable mystery of opaque computer simulations forecasting doom. And what is the only way to avoid Judgment Day, according to the high priests of our new world order? Surrender the economy. Now!
The political problem, as stated by British blogger James Delingpole, is that, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” As progressive polemicist Naomi Klein points out in her recent must-read attack on both capitalism and climate change skeptics in The Nation, the inconvenient truth about critics who warn that global warming alarmism is being used to lay the foundation for one-world socialism is that, “[T]hey are not wrong.”
After an ad hominem attack on several pro-free market organizations—including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, for which I write—Klein describes the progressive master plan quite clearly.
Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. … In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda.
Indeed, global warming alarmism packs so much power to propel political and economic transformation in a statist direction that if it didn’t already exist, leftists would have to invent it.
So, where does this leave us now? Combine religiously based environmentalism with ideologically driven progressivism, blend in the mindless street agitation of the Occupy movement, use it to slap a fresh coat of paint on a failed president grasping for relevance in the midst of an economic meltdown, and you get a combustible mixture primed to explode some time before November.
The question is: In whose face will this blow up? Will we give a clear mandate to leaders who celebrate man’s exceptionalism, understanding that the incidental problems created as we harness technology to bend nature to our will can be solved using more technology? Or will we cede power over every aspect of our lives to an elite that claims to speak for the inanimate environment and seeks to command us to live with less, redistribute our property, and empower politically appointed central planners to scale down and reshape civilization to appease Mother Nature’s wrath?
The choice will be yours. You have ten months to make up your mind.