More Environmentalist Confusions

Tibor R. Machan

The New York Observer reported in its April 15, 2013, issue (B 1) that Leonardo DiCaprio is teaming up with Christie’s in New York City, to hold a “major philanthropic auction.” I am not interested in the details, which appear to me a kind of kiss up to fellow celebrities on the political/cultural Left. But the following statement from the actor is quite instructive:

The Observer reports: ‘’The world’s forests, oceans and biodiversity provide us with innumerable benefits like oxygen to breathe, clean water to drink, and an abundant food supply,’ Mr. DiCaprio wrote in a letter to artists asking for donations, on his foundation’s stationary, the promotional item mentioned above. ‘And yet our planet and these vital ecosystems that sustain life are under enormous pressures from modern civilization’.”

Trouble is that from an environmentalist viewpoint the enormous pressure of which DiCaprio speaks is itself part of the environment, not some independent natural force. In short, modern civilization is part of the system! If it causes harm, that means the system itself is causing harm.

This is an inescapable fact. Environmentalists have no justification for removing people, including the people of modern civilization, from the environment. From their viewpoint, we are all in it together. We are all parts of nature, as well.

Interestingly a good many environmentalists are also animal rights champions and their argument includes the idea that human beings aren’t different from other animals in crucial respects. Tom Regan has argued that non-human animals possess virtually the same level of consciousness as we do and thus ascribing to them basic rights such as human beings have is justified. The other main advocate of treating animals like humans are treated, which justifies “liberating” them, holds that the feelings and interests of non-human animals differ very little from those of human beings, something that once again warrants ascribing to them basic rights akin to those we ascribe to ourselves.

All this suggests that animal rights advocates who are environmentalists place human beings within the realm of nature. So the enormous pressure from modern civilization–i.e., people–is actually just one additional natural pressure, namely, evolutionary pressure.

The bottom line is that for environmentalists the contributions people make to environmental developments are natural ones and cannot be rejected as something alien. Pollution, technology, modern agriculture, etc., etc., are all part of nature as far as environmentalist are concerned (including Mr. DiCaprio). From his point of view, then, even the environmental movement is but an aspect of nature! Its battles are natural battles, no different in principle from hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

I point out all this mainly to reduce the rhetorical heat emanating from too many environmentalists whereby what they like about the world counts as natural but what they do not counts as alien. That just will not do.

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