The Environmental Apocalypse

An Indian ragpicker searches for re-cyclEarly in the morning, while most are still sleeping, groups of elderly Chinese women spread out across city streets. They tear open trash bags, pick through the litter and sort out bottles and cans that come with a deposit. And then they bring them to the local supermarket to a machine that scans and evaluates each can, accepting and rejecting them one by one, and finally printing out a receipt.

The interaction between the elderly immigrant who speaks broken English or the homeless man who is barely holding it together… and the machine is a stark contrast between what the new smart clean green economy pretends to be and what it actually is.

The machine, like so much else that we design, is impressive, but its existence depends on someone digging through the trash with their hands for much less than minimum wage to extract a generally useless item.

The entire bottle economy, which has more than a passing resemblance to the trash sorting operations in the Third World carried out by despised and persecuted minorities, like the Zabbaleen in Egypt, is artificial. The United States is not so poor that it actually needs to recycle. It recycles not under the impulse of economic imperatives, but of government mandates.

The elderly Chinese women dig through the trash because politicians decided to impose a tax on us and an incentive for them in the form of a deposit. All those useless 1980s laws created a strange underground economy of marginalized people digging through the trash.

Every time politicians celebrate a recycling target met and show off some shiny new machine, hiding behind the curtain are the dirty weary people dragging through the streets at the crack of dawn, donning rubber gloves and tearing apart trash bags. They are the unglamorous low-tech reality of environmentalism.

These are the Green Jobs that aren’t much talked about. They pay below minimum wage and have no workplace safety regulations. They are the Third World reality behind the First World ecology tripe. It’s not that the people who plan and run the system don’t know about them. But they don’t like to talk about them because they come too close to revealing the unsavory truth about where environmentalism is really going.

Environmentalism, like every liberal notion, is sold to the masses as modern and progressive. It’s the exact opposite. It’s every bit as modern and progressive as those sacks of cans being hauled by hand through the streets to the machine.

Prince Charles, that avid idiot and environmentalist, visited a Mumbai slum a few years ago and said that it had some lessons to teach the West.

“When you enter what looks from the outside like an immense mound of plastic and rubbish, you immediately come upon an intricate network of streets with miniature shops, houses and workshops, each one made out of any material that comes to hand,” Prince Charles wrote in his book, Harmony.

The Prince of Wales is quite the author. In addition to Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, he has written Shelter: Human Habitats from Around the World, The Prince’s Speech: On the Future of Food and The Illustrated Guide to Chickens: How to Choose Them, How to Keep Them. 

One might be forgiven for assuming that the royal brain twitching behind those watery eyes is preparing for some sort of apocalypse. And it is. The apocalypse is environmentalism. Or from the point of view of the environmentalists, who spare some time from their public appearances and their mansions to pen tomes on the future of food and how to choose chickens, the apocalypse is prosperity.

People of that sort think that instead of getting the slum dwellers of Mumbai into apartments, we ought to be figuring out how to build shelters out of random garbage. Think of it as the recycling can solution as applied to your entire life.

That is the sort of lifestyle that environmentalists think of as sustainable. Or as Hobbes put it, “In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth.” That is the natural state to which environmentalists would return us to.

More recently another deep thinker, Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett’s son, took to the editorial pages of the New York Times to denounce Third World philanthropy.

“Microlending and financial literacy — what is this really about?” Buffett asks. “People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?”

To the slum dwellers, the beast isn’t capitalism, it’s that gnawing feeling in your stomach when you haven’t eaten for a day. But Peter Buffett, who lives a life almost as privileged as Prince Charles, bemoans the idea of getting people to the point where they aren’t worried about where their next meal is coming from because it just turns them into capitalists and consumers. And before you know it, they’re buying big screen televisions and writing op-eds in the New York Times on the futility of philanthropy.

Instead of helping the Third World live like us, the perverse children of the rich dream of making us live like the Third World.

The elderly Chinese woman picking through the trash in search of empty beer bottles isn’t the past. She’s the future.

Recycling is big business because the government and its affiliated liberal elites decided it should be. It’s just one example of an artificial economy and it’s small stuff compared to the coming carbon crackdown in which every human activity will be monetized and taxed somewhere down the road according to its carbon footprint.

The ultimate dream of the sort of people who can’t sleep at night because they worry that children in India might be able to grow up making more than two dollars a day, is to take away our prosperity for our own good through the total regulation of every area of our lives under the pretext of an imminent environmental crisis.

The Global Warming hysteria is about absolute power over every man, woman and child on earth.

Environmentalism is wealth redistribution on a global scale. The goal isn’t even to lift all boats, but to stop the tide of materialism from making too many people too comfortable.

The liberal billionaire who clamors about sustainability likes progress. What he dislikes is the middle class with its mass produced cars and homes, cheap restaurants full of fatty foods and television sets and daily deliveries of cardboard boxes full of stuff and shopping malls. He thinks, in all sincerity, that they would be happier and more spiritually fulfilled as peasants.

Beneath all the empty chatter about social riches and sustainability is that need to impose progressive misery. Beneath the glossy surface of environmentalism is a vision of the American middle class learning to dig through bags of garbage, the detritus of their consumerism for which they must be punished, to become better people.

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  • tonquanglam

    true life is unfair, the fact that rich people are poor people, it is

    kiem tien tai nha

  • Watcher

    Greenies are pagans without conscience or regard for human life. It’s idolatry and we know how they end up.

  • bj affordable

    Excellent article, Mr Greenfield. The Watermelons won’t rest until we’re all living in teepees and singing Kuum Baa Yaa around the campfire. The Watermelons being pinko greenies and commies. They’re green on the outside, but red on the inside. While we’re all wallowing in poverty, they’ll be sitting on their golden thrones in their serviced apartments thinking how noble they are. With the shiny eyes and glad hearts of those who are stupid by design!

    I urge people to read ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. Orwell nailed it.

  • Harry Black

    Regarding the poor and homeless who make a daily pittance recycling bottles and cans picked out of the trash, Daniel Greenfield writes: “They pay below minimum wage and have no workplace safety regulations.” Kudos Daniel. This is the first and very likely the last time anyone pretending to journalism on Frontpage takes a break from his/her conspiracy theories to mount a defense of the rights of labor. I am deeply touched by Mr. Greenfield’s concern.

    • Moto

      “I am deeply touched that you’re for paying out kickbacks to my corrupt informal political group dominance of the “means of production” in accordance with my blind,uninformed,and unquestioning adherence to the opinions of a couple of ignoramuses (and mass murderers) from over a century ago. Thank you very much for not questioning my having inserted myself into the economic activity of others wholly unbidden and uninvited by the majority of those whom my meddling affects negatively.”

      -Shorter Harry Black

      • WhiteHunter

        Let’s hope Harry Black meets The Tiger. And that this time the tiger wins.

        • Harry Black

          According to WhiteHunter, last time I met the tiger, I won. Chances are thus good that next time I’ll win again. WhiteHunters belong to an odious tribe; and despite the outsize blunderbusses they carry–they have to since their masculinity is always in doubt–they’re very frequently eaten alive, if not by tigers, then by their overwhelming sense of failure.

      • Harry Black

        I take it you wrote something Mr. Moto and you thought a Hitler-Stalin reference would clinch your case, but then it seems you put your oh so elegant pensée in a blender and poured out the result in your posting above. It’s a tour de force of incoherence. Or rather a tour de farce.

    • mtnhikerdude

      Harry , maybe we should Unionize the trash pickers. What would you consider fair monthly dues to be ? Two cans and 2 each plastic and glass bottles sounds fair to me. The UTP (United Trash Pickers ).

  • logdon

    I had an interesting conversation with a Friend of the Earther last week.

    She was a pleasant girl, good looking, educated, nicely mannered, well spoken but like them all, indoctrinated to the point of cluelessness.

    We talked for a bit and then she threw what was meant to be her bombshell.

    ‘What do you think about fracking, then’?

    My answer?

    ‘What do you think about buying our oil from homophobic, mysoginistic, racist, hereditory tyrants who make unearned billions merely because of a fluke of geology’?

    I’d reversed her question with the alternative reality and it wasn’t quite the approval or head on opposing rant she expected.

    In a strange reversal of the usual, she made her excuses of the boss watching and left.

    The sad part is that reality evades these people.

    My reply would not make the slightest difference to her mindset and it wasn’t just the naive nescience of youth.

    I’ve met sixty five year olds with a similar affliction, all public service and educational workers and there’s your clue.

    They inhabit a strange bubble of non productivity.

    They don’t make anything. They don’t sell anything.

    Commerce is an evil. The money wheel which powers the modern world is a complete mystery.

    Profit which pays wages and funds infrastructure is a mere rip off of the poor consumer.

    You’d have thought that they’d have woken up with Glasnost and when the Wall went, rather they’ve doubled down and they’re everywhere.

    • Sussex Girl

      Maybe ten years ago, a friend told me of a documentary she saw about deforestation in the Amazon. A young woman was interviewed, a teary-eyed environmentalist who, when asked about the consequences of continued logging, said, “It’s a problem because it hurts the trees.”

      Yeah. Not an involved explanation about the statistics, or a description of the impact on the ecological balance, or a discussion of the science of bringing change, which my friend said she was expecting, but a weepy, whiny plea to stop hurting the trees.

      It would almost be funny if the ramifications of such thinking weren’t so serious.

      • logdon

        As Descartes may have said…

        If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, was it screaming in pain?

    • bj affordable

      I quote the following from your post;

      “They inhabit a strange bubble of non productivity.
      They don’t make anything. They don’t sell anything”.

      Well said.

      That is the point – nothing is everything to them. Mediocrity is accepted. Failure is success… nothing is everything.

      The ultimate socialist achievement is the ultimate in failure. Nothing is everything.

      I believe it is called creative inertia.

      • glpage

        For the left, mediocrity is not just accepted it is their goal. They have been pushing the acceptance of the lowest common denominator for years.

        • bj affordable

          You don’t need to tell me. My eldest brother is the biggest, blathering leftie ever! Hardcore commie. Lowest common denomination is the goal. The bastard even admits it.

          Something I cannot accept.

    • OfficialPro

      communists are afflicted with the strange belief that all previous attempts at communism failed because the “right people” weren’t in charge. If only the “right people” were in charge (and thus could make it succeed), then it would succeed.

      And here’s where we get to the fact that people who try the same thing over and over expecting different results, are absolutely batfeces insane and belong in a rubber room, not an ivory tower.

      • George

        And somehow, mysteriously, the “right people” are always they themselves. It’s as simple a vision of totalitarianism as any that exists.

      • JoJoJams

        What’s funny is that’s the exact same response I get when debating islam with muslims, and I point out how despotic all the “islamic republic of blah blah blah’s” are – the response is ALWAYS that those in power there aren’t doing it right, and TRUE ISLAM(c) needs to be implemented. Same. Exact. Response. Unreal – but true.

    • alyssa651

      like Gregory implied I am shocked that a mom able to profit $8154 in four weeks on the internet. did you see this web link w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • logdon


    If our jug eared prince is in favour of all things third worldy, I wonder what he would make of this?

    ‘Pakistan, along with other South Asian nations, is facing the
    daunting challenge of providing toilets to millions of people who are
    still practising open defecation. Pakistan, however, has the dubious distinction of having the worst sanitation conditions within the regional grouping…..

    The implications of this disconcerting phenomenon are varied. From an
    economic perspective, the lack of adequate sanitation is estimated to
    cause a loss of over Rs340 billion, nearly four per cent of Pakistan’s
    GDP. This financial implication is calculated on the basis of costs
    associated with water-borne related death and diseases as well as losses
    in education, productivity and time due to lack of access to adequate

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Thanks for the tip

      • logdon

        I was prompted by the unforgettable memory of a documentary from a few years back on this very subject.

        Whether it was walking off into the bush where the excrement seeps into the water table or a hole in the corner of a shack with a chute leading to a stream or river the whole thing was desperate.

        Fortunately I don’t have a smellivision. Watching it alone was enough.


        I have a friend who, as part of his storied cv, involved cleaning planes.

        Apparently the ones from the UAE and Islamabad were the worst mainly because they used the floor rather than the lavatory bowl.

        Old habits, eh?

        • Daniel Greenfield

          Sharia bathroom customs may also be at issue. I would go on, but it’s gross.

          • OfficialPro

            oh man, is it googlable? I have a morbid curiosity. About all I know about Sharia bathroom customs is, the left hand is “dirty”…for a REASON.

        • Raymond_in_DC

          Yes, the floor has deep cultural roots in that region.

          I recall traveling in Iran in 1976. The most modern and educated of Muslim countries in the region, and flush with oil money, new buildings were going up everywhere. Yet when I had to use the facilities in a newly built bank, the stalls had … holes in the floor, albeit with fancy porcelain and flush water!

  • tagalog

    I would venture to say that, shortcomings all to the contrary notwithstanding, recycling as described here has created a new way of making money for people who occupy the bottom of the social hierarchy. To that extent, it ‘s a good thing.

    • seine

      Think of the human energy wasted in mandated recycling programs and one gains a different perspective. The programs are mandatory because the ‘new’ is less costly than the ‘picked up’.
      No bureaucrat thinks that your time is important.
      And about making where we live cleaner? Instead of micro-managing each juice box why not, as individuals, throw a few buck into a fund that pays anyone for a bag of unsorted ‘road pickup’?

      • tagalog

        When your money is spent on dope, alcohol, and cigarettes, and you depend on charity to feed, clothe, and give you a place to sleep, it hardly matters, except to the extent that our derelicts are among the worst offenders in the world of littering.

    • HVD

      They’re green on the outside, but red on the inside. While we’re all wallowing in poverty, they’ll be sitting on their golden thrones in their serviced apartments thinking how noble they are.

  • edlancey

    Whilst in agreement with your broader point about the idiocy of environmentalism, I have long cherished the idea of city-wide campaigns where tramps and thirsty ne’er-do-wells are given a can of strong beer or for every plastic sack of garbage they collect.

    If we are going to hell in a handcart we may as well do it in a nice, clean city.

  • TheOrdinaryMan

    I haven’t tried panning for gold lately; but from what I understand, National Park Service rangers are forcing gold prospectors off of Federal land. Not like it was 20 years ago, when, if you had a bit of gumption, and were willing to work, you might just make enough to support yourself. God forbid that any unemployed person might learn how to process gold, or polish raw gemstones; and as Tevye says in
    “Fiddler on the Roof,” MAKE A LIVING. No, the elitist jerks tell us we must be slaves. Prince Charles? He’s got deep-set eyes; those with this facial feature tend towards insanity. Good article, Daniel. Thanks.

  • mtnhikerdude

    Daniel Greenfield for President 2016 .

    • Everett Vulgamore

      i’d put his name on the ballot


  • Clare Spark

    A Chinese national with an expired visa was arrested because she had been defacing national monuments and the organ in the National Cathedral in DC with green paint. There was speculation that she was homeless. When I saw the title of this article I thought it was about the apocalyptic mood that is sweeping the country. I wrote about it here: “Apocalypse and the escape artist.”

  • Infidel4Ever

    It’s important to understand that caring for the environment makes lefties feel good. Whether or not something actually works is irrelevant to them, as long as they can feel good for caring. And if the human civilization collapses, hey, it’s good for “Mother” Earth.

  • seine

    Very well said. But how to get that message through to the thick of skull?

  • Chris Shugart

    Sometimes I think there are radical greens who harbor secret romantic fantasies of a post modern dystopia that looks like something between Blade Runner and Demolition Man. They’re disengaged with reality in any case.

  • nimbii

    Hey Buffett, you become a peasant first and let us know how it works for you.

  • Hank Rearden

    Excellent. Very acute.

  • brossen99

    I watched C4 Under Cover Boss programme about the chairman of Biffa one of the corporates into mas recycling in the UK company said to be struggling financially due to massive debt. Fair play to the guy he was prepared to work on a picking belt full of soiled nappies sorting by hand in the hope of finding a piece of clean paper. The belt was knackered and kept breaking down. there was no proper ventilation for the hot summer, workers paid min wage with no hope of promotion. The UK is now fast approaching third world conditions for those on low incomes except you have to pay to keep warm in winter in the UK unlike most third world nations !

    Another thing which struck me as totally uneconomic was the 32 ton 8 wheeler which only carried 13 tons of food waste after you lost the weight of the equipment to empty 250kg bins which were to heavy for the driver anyway if full. Not even as efficient as Stevenson’s Rocket, the specification for which demanded that the loco was able to pull at least twice its own weight to meet the Liverpool and Manchester Railway specification to adopt steam at all,

    We should be incinerating all our combustible waste, ( fair enough separate the alloy and glass as a part of the process ) and generating 10% of our UK baseload electricity thus reducing consumption of finite fossil fuels !

  • OfficialPro

    The irony is that recycling actually pollutes more, than getting the original resources processed.

  • Raymond_in_DC

    Well, it doesn’t happen often, but I have to take exception with a number of remarks here. Much of what he attributes to generic environmentalism is really a reflection of a market’s failure to accommodate masses of surplus labor.

    More generally, I think it’s important to distinguish between more traditional conservation – what I’ve sometimes deemed practical or real-world environmentalism – and the ideological “Gaia” variety which, as Daniel notes, is closely linked with the centralization of political power.

    Years ago, there was little consideration given for the waste and toxicity associated with industrial practices. Those were the days when rivers would burn with pollutants. Changes have been made, whether spurred on by regulation or civic duty, to such practices, with businesses even finding ways to make money from waste. And we rarely hear today about cities running out of places to dump, because so much more is being recycled in an economic fashion. That’s quit different from the poor in Bombay or Cairo scrounging for bottles to recycle.

    Obviously, though, when we get to the point of crying for trees or beggaring farmers because water is diverted to save the Delta Smelt, we’re in very different territory.


    Who cares, Who cares, Who cares…?

  • Everett Vulgamore

    someday, id like to shake your hand Daniel, this is yet another great article. keep ‘em coming

  • truebearing

    The real goal of the Environmental Religon is facilitating the death of billions of humans. They want a world where the human population is between 100 to 300 million. That means a lot of people have to die — but not them, of course.
    How do they kill off such a huge percentage of humanity? Stop the use of pesticides to kill mosquitos, destroy health care, de-industrialize, reduce access to fuel, create food shortages, etc. Call it existential eugenics. They merely create situations where people are weakened, can’t stay warm, well fed, or safe. Hundreds of millions would die…..and fulfill the misanthropic malthusian fantasies of the human hating Environmental Left. No wonder abortion is sacred to them.

  • m4253y

    Daniel, a superb treatise on a very sad and misguided “feel good” at all costs venture.

    Me, how do I handle it? simple, I refuse to recycle anything. However, being the capitalist I am, if an incentive, such as reduced property taxes, a cut in the profits, etc., were offered, I may consider doing so.

    However, a little story to expand on your story.

    A couple of years ago, I received a letter from the city that informing me that the garbage collectors confirmed that i was not recycling and that if i continued to do so, I would fined, significantly.

    My retort, show me the law that says I “must” recycle. The answer, there was and still is none.

    So, simple folks, don’t recycle.