Environmentalist Extermination?

Absurdities in theory will lead to atrocities in practice. – Voltaire (paraphrased).

There is clearly a potential threat to human life and well-being looming on the horizon that is of unprecedented proportions. It is present in the openly expressed hate-filled, murderous ideas of many people. Sooner or later, in response to this or that crisis or series of crises, these ideas will be translated into physical action if not overcome by other, prohuman ideas. – George Reisman, Gun Control: Controlling the Government’s Guns.

I do not think that the majority of environmentalists actually wants to exterminate mankind; but the idea is implicit in environmentalism and sometimes explicitly stated, as in this quote:

Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (David Graber, quoted by George Reisman in The Toxicity of Environmentalism.)

Or in this:

I just wonder what it would be like to be reincarnated in an animal whose species had been so reduced in numbers than it was in danger of extinction. What would be its feelings toward the human species whose population explosion had denied it somewhere to exist…. I must confess that I am tempted to ask for reincarnation as a particularly deadly virus. (Prince Philip of Britain; also quoted by George Reisman in the blog post linked to above.)

Are these just exaggerated statements, meant merely to catch people’s attention? Or do they really mean it? Do they wish for a virus to come along, deadly enough to kill all mankind?

Or do they only want to kill off the “surplus population”, leaving a few people alive (e.g. the British Royal House)?

Arne Naess2Well, there is one prominent environmentalist theoretician who want just that. His name is (or rather was) Arne Næss (1912–2009), and he was a fairly famous and well-respected Norwegian philosopher, who wrote about a wide variety of subject, from semantics to Gandhi’s political philosophy, and he was also an expert on Spinoza. He founded a philosophical school called “ecosophy” or “deep ecology”. And what he called for was a reduction of the world’s population from today’s approximately 7 billion to 100 million (yes, million). 7 billion minus 100 million makes 6.9 billion. 6.9 billion of us will just have to go; otherwise the rest of the planet will not thrive. (My source for this is an obituary published in The Guardian a few days after his death.)

How will this mega-extermination be accomplished? Well, Næss himself believed it could be accomplished (although only in a remote future) by peaceful persuasion: people would just have to be persuaded to stop bringing children into the world. (Being an adherent of Gandhi, he believed in non-violence.) Of course, this is completely unrealistic. Why on earth should people abstain from having children? Of course, some people do abstain from having children; but most people do not; so how could vast numbers be persuaded to change their minds about this? I do not think I will have to elaborate more on this.

So whatever Næss himself might say about this, such extermination could only be achieved by force – and very massive force, at that.

So 6.9 billion of us will have to be rounded up and executed by the remaining 100 million. Or one might choose a slower method and impose forced abortion (as they do in China) or forced sterilization (as was proposed by India’s Indira Gandhi). Peaceful persuasion just will not work.

Is this likely to ever happen – or am I just “painting the devil on the wall” here? Of course I hope I am. But crazy ideas, that no one in his right mind could have taken seriously, have been implemented before. The idea that the Jews are responsible for every evil in the world resulted in approximate 6 million Jews being exterminated by the Nazis. The idea that capitalism is the root of evil accounts for bloodshed in Communist countries. The idea that the US is the “great Satan” accounts for the 9/11 terror attacks. Etcetera.

The danger might not be imminent. But, as George Reisman writes above, it is at least “looming on the horizon”.

And there are other environmental menaces as well. Even if this extermination does not take place, the policies urged by environmentalism and implemented by governments all over the world may drive us back to pre-industrial times. We will not be killed right away, but we will certainly suffer.

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What is Næss’ theoretical groundwork? It is the idea that nature has “intrinsic value”, i.e. a value quite apart from its relationship to man. I quote from the Guardian obituary:

Næss taught that ecology should not be concerned with man’s place in nature but with every part of nature on an equal basis, because the natural order has intrinsic value that transcends human values.

And what about the implications for politics and economics?

Shallow ecology, he believed, meant thinking the big ecological problems could be resolved within an industrial, capitalist society. Deep meant asking deeper questions and understanding that society itself has caused the Earth-threatening ecological crisis.

So even if we all will not be exterminated, capitalism and our industrial civilization will have to go.

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For Scandinavian speaking readers, I have also blogged about this in Swedish, and many years ago, I wrote a rather extensive criticism of “deep ecology”.

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Update August 30: There are other environmentalists than those quoted above who favor extermination of large numbers of people. I found the following in an article by Walter Williams:

Dr. Charles Wurster, former chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was once asked whether he thought a ban on DDT would result in the use of more dangerous chemicals and more malaria cases in Sri Lanka. He replied: “Probably. So what? People are the cause of all the problems. We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them, and [malaria] is as good a way as any.”

According to “Earthbound,” a collection of essays on environmental ethics, William Aiken said: “Massive human diebacks would be good. It is our duty to cause them. It is our species’ duty, relative to the whole, to eliminate 90 percent of our numbers.” [Italics added.]

Of course, the majority of environmentalists are not that murderous. But neither does one see them oppose those murderous views. And why should they, given the premise that nature has “intrinsic value” apart from its value to man?

(On the subject of DDT and malaria, see also George Reisman, Environmentalism’s Malaria Holocaust.)

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Update February 25, 2015: Another horror quote about Arne Næss:

Fast-forward to a conversation I had with the late Arne Næss, the Norwegian father of “deep ecology” and guru of the European Green movement. With a straight face, Næss told me that the eradication of smallpox was a technological crime against nature. For Næss’s deep ecology, the smallpox virus “deserved” and needed our protection, despite having maimed, tortured, and killed millions of people.

This is from Jerry Weinberger’s review of Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels in City Journal, February 23, 2015. (Epstein’s book is highly recommended.)

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