Talk about dodging a bullet. When armed, explosives-laden eco-terrorist James J. Lee took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, we watched on TV as police evacuated small children from the building’s daycare center and we feared the worst. Fortunately, a SWAT team killed Lee before he could create pools of blood and tears.
Most environmentalists have remained quiet about the incident and hope it will soon be forgotten. Most would no doubt argue that this gunman who claimed inspiration from Al Gore was a lone nut. They would say that the reasons he cited for his actions do not represent their philosophy. But they would be wrong.
Many of you who claim to be “moderate” or reasonable environmentalists in fact base your beliefs on the same premises that Lee was trying to follow consistently to their logical conclusion. It was you who enabled him.
Let’s start with the obvious. The eco-terrorist’s manifesto had one central theme: the extermination of the human race. He wanted the Discovery Channel to broadcast shows about “how people can live WITHOUT giving birth to more filthy human children since those additions continue pollution and are pollution.” He wanted the channel to “stop glorifying human birthing.”
He proclaimed, “It is the responsibility of everyone to preserve the planet they live on by not breeding any more children who continue their filthy practices. Children represent FUTURE catastrophic pollution whereas their parents are current pollution. NO MORE BABIES!” He wrote of “parasitic human infants” and “disgusting human babies.” And in case you missed his point: “The planet does not need humans.”
It used to be that “baby-killer” was about the worst thing you could say about a person. Now this guy’s proclaimed it as the highest virtue.
Perhaps you’re uncomfortable with Lee’s crude language and straight-as-a-bullet approach to solving the perceived problem of too many people. But where are you so-called moderate environmentalists when the same sentiments are expressed in more moderate tones?
The eco-terrorist’s manifesto had one central theme: the extermination of the human race.
There has long been a movement to convince potential parents to forego the joys of having children because the environment should come first. It’s one thing for individuals to remain childless because it doesn’t fit with their life plans. It’s quite another for those who want to be parents to be guilt-tripped into seeing children as exactly how the eco-terrorist described them.
When Gordon Brown was British prime minister, his adviser Jonathon Porritt argued for cutting the country’s population in half , by 30 million, in order to build a “sustainable” society. I suggested at that time that if he could find that many Brits who backed him, they would be acting consistently by putting guns in their mouths, thus ridding the planet of their polluting selves—a final solution of which Lee would certainly approve.
And there’s been a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement for some time, advocating in respectable language what Lee spewed in his manifesto.
I haven’t seen you moderate environmentalists forcefully denouncing these types and distancing yourselves from them.
“But these aren’t our beliefs!” you might protest. Many of you environmentalists argue that your beliefs are more “balanced.” You’ll say that yes, you recognize that humans by their nature harm the environment, but that if the harm can be minimized, then maybe we can live in harmony with the world around us.
Here is your fatal premise. You assume that there are things of value out of any human context. You assume that forests, lakes, ice caps, oceans, mud, insects, and animals have some sort of inherent or intrinsic value. But they do not. Things are of value as far as we are concerned to the extent that they contribute to our human survival and flourishing. A mountain is of value because we can enjoy its beauty, climb it for recreation or inspiration, or mine its minerals to make our machines.
Only humans can make value choices; indeed, all human action is choice, and the choices that are moral are those that benefit us. When you environmentalists imbue the non-human with value unrelated to humans, you set up a deadly equation. Since all human actions somehow affect the environment, by what standard will you judge the morality of an action?
In human society we say that individuals should deal with one other based on mutual consent. But nature can’t “consent.” Only humans can. You might pretend to speak for the environment, but your declarations will simply be arbitrary and baseless. If you imbue the non-human world with intrinsic value, the ultimate conclusion will be that the Earth, your goddess Gaea, would be better off without us.
You try to hold this contradiction in your head, to balance the definable standard of human life with the indefinable standard of some extra-human good. But many individuals in your movement follow the logic of your premises to their antihuman end.
Perhaps you have some sympathy with eco-terrorist Lee when he writes that “Nothing is more important than saving” animals: “The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.”
I will soon become a father of two baby girls, fraternal twins. I look forward in a few years to taking my daughters to a zoo, a forest, and maybe even on a safari. I want to see their excited faces as they see many of those animals. I hope they appreciate what wonders evolution has produced.
But I will never lose sight of the fact—nor let my girls forget—that they are more valuable than any nonhuman or nonliving thing on this planet, that this planet is theirs to use and to enjoy.
Do you moderate environmentalists judge the value of children and humans to be closer to my way of thinking or to the eco-terrorist’s? If the former, then will you take this pledge?
Will you state that human life and flourishing are the standard of all value? And, to be even clearer, will you state that all individuals have the right to their own lives and the liberty that this entails?
If you take this pledge, then we can have intelligent, rational discussion. We can ask whether and by how much certain human activities materially and measurably harm humans; whether the harm should be mitigated through the enforcement of property rights or trespass laws; what government policies are available; and whether those policies would limit individual liberty and create more harm than good. All of these questions would be answered in accordance with standard of human life and individual wellbeing.
If you can’t take this pledge, then know that you are on the side of the eco-terrorists and the human-haters. And don’t be surprised when the next act of eco-terrorism occurs, when humans—whether children or adults—are slaughtered, because you self-styled environmentalist moderates planted the seeds.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.