We all know that environmentalists want to force us back into the Stone Age. The fact has been pointed out so many times, with such vehemence, that it’s almost lost its power to shock us.
That’s why we need gifted and inexhaustible writers like Donald J. Boudreaux to inspire us, like Poe’s Raven, to Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance.
When debunking environmentalism, one must always start by provisionally granting a theoretical validity to whatever facts can't be denied outright:
It might well be that humans' "footprint" on the Earth is larger than ever; it might even be true that this larger footprint creates some health risks for us modern humans that our pre-industrial ancestors never encountered.Who can say? I suppose you could look at the change in world population between 1400 and today, and consider the health risks posed by modern technologies like oil refining, air travel, and synthetic pesticides…but that way lies madness. There are some things humanity was never meant to know.
In their lust to return to the days of cave-dwelling and trepanation, environmentalists have failed to recognize that modern life has certain advantages:
Our bodies are cleaner and more free of disease. Our homes are sanitary. We have indoor plumbing and anti-bacterial soap; our ancestors had outhouses. Our clothes are cleaner and, despite recent hysteria, our food supply is safer.Cheers for anti-bacterial soap (despite its role in antibiotic resistance), and jeers for hysteria about multiple episodes of mass poisoning!
So far, this is garden-variety sophistry. But Boudreaux has far more deadly arrows in his quiver:
[T]oo many environmentalists condemn people who don't share their creed. For example, I don't recycle my trash because my time is too precious for me to spend it sorting such items into different containers.If Boudreaux spent half an hour recycling conservatarian gibberish for this column, he spent roughly 27 more minutes than I spend sorting my recyclables in the average month. But who am I to judge how he spends his time?
In environmentalists' eyes, those who unquestioningly disregard the value of one resource (time) in order to spend it on the conservation of other resources (wood, plastic and glass) are righteous while those of us who value and conserve time are sinners.Personally, I don’t think Boudreaux is a sinner so much as an insufferable asshole. But to the extent that the word “sinner” applies, it applies because conserving Boudreaux’s time benefits Boudreaux, while conserving wood, plastic, and glass benefits the society in which he lives and presumably thrives.
And as Adam Smith wisely observed, “when we prefer ourselves so shamefully and so blindly to others, we become the proper objects of resentment, abhorrence, and execration.”
(Illustration: "Vanitas Still Life: Sins of the Flesh" by Chris Peters, 2004.)
(Originally posted on 6/14/07)