Environmentalism has an image of being the politics of the left but in reality it is the most conservative political ideology imaginable. Centred on a disgust with the masses, environmentalism’s primary concern is locking the domestic working class and foreign poor into the chains of poverty that keep them from consuming the fruit of their labour. It could hardly be otherwise – after all, environmentalism sees the poor as being of lower worth than abstract, ahistorical and unscientific notions of ‘the environment’.
The American right’s shrill attacks on environmentalism, accusing it of being a left wing conspiracy, are deeply unhelpful. How anyone can cast the likes of multi-millionaire tobacco heir Al Gore as a friend of the working person is a mystery, but unfortunately, his role as poster boy for the green movement has given a propaganda victory to those who seek to restrict the growth in incomes, allowing them to portray themselves as being on the side of those they seek to hurt.
The history of environmentalism is the history of the right. From its beginnings in Romantic opposition to the Enlightenment through the Nazi party of Germany, Europe’s first green party, to the Club of Rome in the 1970s, environmentalism has always been the political expression of the elite’s hatred for the masses.
The Club of Rome, a conservative think-tank founded by industrialists and diplomats, predicted in its 1972 manifesto ‘The Limits to Growth’ that tin reserves would be depleted by 1985, zinc by 1988, that petroleum oil would run out in 1990 and natural gas in 1992. The Club of Rome’s crude Malthusianism proved to be entirely incorrect – and yet its ideology lives on in endless scares about resource scarcity, scares that misunderstand the nature humanity’s relationship with resources: uranium was not a resource to Victorians, for example.
The root of green demands to restrict consumption is a distaste for the ‘lower orders’. British readers will, of course, be familiar with the figure of David Attenborough. Attenborough, brother of film director Richard, was the television naturalist who inspired generations with a sense of wonder at the natural world. His documentary films are the touchstone for natural history, each and every one a classic.
Sadly, Attenborough has now joined the ranks of the bossy greens who want to save the planet from humanity, signing-up to front a repugnant political cause. By becoming patron of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), Attenborough has put his sights squarely on the seething mass of humanity. The OPT opposes immigration, seeking a one-in, one-out policy it calls “balanced migration” and says “there is no unlimited right to have children,” views shared by the loathed British National Party which is regularly pilloried as fascist or even “Nazi” by liberal commentators.
The BNP’s policies of ‘blood and soil’ are anathema to right-thinking people, but strip away the crude racial caricatures and similar prejudices are common dinner party fodder in the leafy suburbs of every city in the Western world. Suburbs, incidentally, that are considered in some essential way different – and superior – to newer suburbs where the working class have settled, finally able to buy their own homes. Screeds against ‘unsustainable development’ are simply warmed-over rehashes of the anti-working class scares over so-called ‘ribbon development’ from the 1920s.
Green assaults on those with no money take on even more overt forms abroad, though. Rich Westerners are greedily buying-up potentially productive land in the Second and Third Worlds, land that could feed people, in the name of saving the planet. Green charity Cool Earth has bought-up 121,713 acres (49,256 hectares) of land in the Amazon despite opposition from local tribal leaders including Davi Kopenawa Yanomami. Cool Earth was founded by Johan Eliasch, the chairman of sporting goods manufacturer Head, and former adviser on ‘green conservatism’ to one-time British Conservative party leader William Hague. Eliasch’s project is colonialism, pure and simple.
No-longer merely a folly of the super-rich, such carbon offsetting schemes are one of the few growth ‘industries’ around today and, like all industries before them, get around the tendency of the rate of profit to all by expanding into new markets. Carbon offsetting schemes now allow the West’s guilt-ridden middle classes to take productive land out of use in order to grow trees, often in developing countries such as India.
Increasingly, that land which is used for production is used in the least efficient way possible. Organic farming, which ignores almost all food science not to mention the amazing humanitarianism of Norman Bourlag’s Green Revolution, is in the process of moving from being a semiotic prejudice of the well-fed to a real danger to the well-being of the starving. By whipping-up an unjustified panic about the safety of genetically modified crops, organic fanatics are condemning millions of people to, at best, lives of penury and squalor – and, at worst, to death.
It is true that greens do rail against capitalism, but not because the anarchic nature of capitalist production is incapable of satisfying human need and desire. Instead, green critiques of capitalism are aesthetic and moralising in nature. Support for ‘local producers’ and ‘small shops’ expose the reactionary and petit bourgeois nature of environmentalism – any student of the twentieth century will tell you that the localist and petit bourgeois agenda is driven primarily by the fear of being squeezed from above by capital and below by the working class. It is on this bedrock of feared immiseration that fascism was built.
However, capitalism isn’t actually anti-green. Nor are greens really anti-capitalist. What they are is opposed to the sole progressive features of capitalism: its tendency to universalise development through the division of labour and increasing capital investment resulting in lower prices for mas produced goods.
The latest green wheeze, carbon trading, is the most astonishing of all: selling thin-air. The inevitable result of carbon trading will be unemployment as it encourages a further retreat from industrial production into the ‘post-material’ exchange of legal titles.
In fact, green scaremongering has given today’s capitalists cover for their ongoing retreat from production. The creation of farcical carbon trading markets is simply the next logical step in the process of deindustrialisation which has seen the creation of increasingly unstable economies built on the replacement of manufacturing with complex but unproductive financial instruments. The defining characteristic of the current global recession is that, unlike those that preceded it, it is not a result of capitalism’s periodic crises of ‘overproduction’. Rather, today’s collapse is a result of the cold, hard reality of underinvestment productive forces – making money from the fantast of the financialised ‘weightless’ economy could only go on for so long.
István Mészáros pointed out as far back as the 1970s that what is now called ‘sustainability’ is merely an apologia for the current socio-economic order and it is becoming increasingly clear that the prejudices that inform the sustainability agenda are just that. No-one wants to live in a polluted environment and nobody should have to, but people must come first – and exaggerating threats to ‘the planet’ do nothing to serve the needs of humanity.