The death in prison last week of ecoterrorist Theodore Kaczynski, the notorious Unabomber who in the Nineties killed three people and wounded 23 with package-bombs, is an opportunity to review how an environmental movement that started by focusing on improving human well-being––providing clean air and water, and practicing prudent resource management–– has devolved into an irrational cult replete with terrorist fanatics and Disneyesque fantasies about humanity’s relationship with the natural world.
More dangerous is the transformation of global public energy policies into “net-zero carbon” and “green renewable” energy despite being based on incomplete, if not dubious, science. Worse, their trillions in cost are currently endangering the economies of the rich West, and the economic development of poorer underdeveloped Rest, by proscribing the cheap, abundant fossil-fuel energy that powered the West’s creation of the richest, freest, most well-fed human beings who ever existed.
The Nineties were when the “global warming” crisis ramped-up the justifications for these dangerous policies––a few years after the brief apocalyptic fad of an impending new ice age. From well-heeled professors and celebrities, to politicians and disaffected suburbanites, romantic environmentalism began colonizing academic research, school curricula, and government policy, while propagating numerous corporate grifters exploiting government mandates on recycling refuse and developing “alternative energy” to replace icky energy from cheap fossil fuels.
The Unabomber was the most visible expression of this new, dangerous sensibility, by dint of his murders and blackmailing the New York Times and Washington Post into publishing in September, 1995, his 30,000-word manifesto. A rambling, incoherent, cliché-ridden screed typical of autodidactic cranks, the manifesto encapsulates the mashup of romantic nature-myths, Marxism’s hatred of free-market economies, and the utopianism and antihumanism of totalitarian technocrats––all of which define our current environmental received wisdom.
The Unabomber’s core idea was an antihuman primitivism and neo-Luddism: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.” Life has been “destabilized” and made “unfulfilling,” “remote from the natural pattern of human behavior.” No matter that no people in human history had been as free, rich, well-fed, and, healthy.
The Unabomber’s solution to this alleged “disaster” was “WILD nature; those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature . . . those aspects of the functioning . . . that are not subject to regulation by organized society.”
This naïve, back-to-nature fantasy is as ancient as civilization itself. It flourished in the Sixties and that era’s elevation of the “natural” and the primitive into the highest goods, which became a status-marker for the cognitive elite “brights” and their demonization of America. Of course, these domestic critics, rich by global standards, wouldn’t last five seconds without the benefits of modern technology and improvements, and the political structures founded on unalienable rights like freedom and equality.
Moreover, this dissatisfaction with the trade-offs required to create such freedom and prosperity justified murder, as the Unabomber showed, recalling the apologists for communist slaughter and terror based on the antihuman rationalizations about omelets and broken eggs. In short, the antihumanism, the willingness to murder in service to alleged higher principles, that characterized the 20th Century’s tyrannical mass-murderers.
That’s why so few radical or even mainstream environmentalists condemned the Unabomber, a marker of how extreme and antihuman environmentalism was becoming. Kirkpatrick Sale––in the Nineties a successful popularizer of such environmentalism and anti-Western dudgeon––in the Nation wrote of the Unabomber’s manifesto that it was “absolutely crucial for the American public to understand,” and that it “ought to be at the forefront of the nation’s political agenda.” Sale also announced that he shared “a great many of the Unabomber’s” ideas about the Industrial Revolution, “the evils of modern technology,” and the “inevitability of social and environmental catastrophe if the industrial system goes on unchecked.” Sound familiar?
In addition to endorsing the Unabomber’s hodgepodge of bad history and juvenile pique, Sale said that the Unabomber is a “rational and serious man, deeply committed to the cause”––the latter phrase another stock justifier of murder. He faults this “rational” murderer of innocent strangers only for taking a “utilitarian” anthropocentric view of nature. That is, for not going far enough to protect nature at the expense of human life.
Al Gore is another famous evangelical environmentalist and grifter. He published a best-seller in the Nineties, and is still actively sermonizing and proselytizing today. His 1993 Earth in the Balance––a worn copy of which was found in the Unabomber’s remote Montana cabin––has sold over a half a million copies. Like the manifesto, it is a tissue of bad history, unexamined assumptions, and dull clichés, with a big dollop of New Age therapeutic bromides and recycled myths.
Most revealing about Gore’s diatribe is its combination of self-help clichés and evangelical Christian tropes. Gore tells us that he wrote the book during a midlife crisis or “life change” following his son’s near death after being hit by a car: “The search for truths about this ungodly crisis and the search for truths about myself have been the same search all along.” And somehow those vague “truths” are connected to our looming environmental apocalypse: he wrote the book “to fully search my heart and mind about this challenge to which I feel called––and in the process to summon the courage to make a full and unreserved commitment to see it through.”
Notice how New-Age self-help blends with the rhetoric of the “calling” from evangelical Christianity. We see an early manifestation of the “green” cult, a belief system that functions for a secular age as a political religion, one that clearly identifies an absolute good and evil, the latter fair game for calumny and “cancellation” as “deniers” of the global warming gospel.
For example, Bill Deval, founder of “deep ecology” and “ecocentrism,” indulged analogies with Nazism, what historian of environmentalism Charles Rubin has called “a remarkably repulsive . . . moral equivalence between ecological problems and the Holocaust,” such as the common smearing of “climate change” critics as “deniers.” Deval has also said that “students in natural resources and management . . . are much like the guards in the Nazi death camps,” and compares the cost-efficiency of the timber industry to the “cost-effective” calculations the Nazis used to murder millions. So too the “moderate” Al Gore, who has spoken of an “ecological Kristallnacht.”
The irony of these smears is that the actual Nazis were passionate environmentalists. As historian Simon Schama points out, “It is . . . painful to acknowledge how ecologically conscious the most barbaric regime in modern history actually was––exterminating millions of lives wasn’t at all incompatible with passionate protection of millions of trees.” Hitler’s regime in the Thirties passed laws protecting animals and nature in general, and regulating hunting.
The point here is not to play the “woke” game of calling enemies Nazis and fascists. Rather, it’s to highlight the antihumanism the “green” acolytes exhibit in their polices that privilege the environment and nature over the well-being of poorer underdeveloped nations, who are injured by rich-country fads like “zero net carbon” and the war on cheap fossil fuels. This propensity to sacrifice the well-being, opportunities for improvement, and prosperity of flesh-and-blood human beings while pursuing scientifically dubious policies, has been shared by all technocratic, centralized and concentrated powers like Nazism, fascism, and progressivism.
And don’t forget late-Marxism’s tactical alliance with environmentalism, which in Europe has created political “watermelons”––green on the outside, red on the inside. Communist regimes, of course, have been brutal to their environments, poisoning Lake Karachay in Russia, and creating toxic clouds of pollution in Beijing. But “green” ecology nonetheless shares with communism a hatred of the West for its lead in technological development and free-market capitalism, which have improved the lives of billions across the globe.
Next, as Raymond Aron pointed out in 1957, the Left hates capitalism and especially America, “mainly because the latter has succeeded by means which were not laid down in the revolutionary code. Prosperity, power, the tendency toward uniformity of economic conditions––these results have been achieved by private initiative, by competition rather than State intervention.” In other words, by benefitting billions of people rather than sacrificing them to utopian political superstitions.
Finally, we should not forget the opportunities for profit that “green” environmentalism accelerated in the Nineties. Billions and billions of dollars have been spent on “climate change” research grants, and subsidies for “renewable” energy infrastructure and electric vehicles. That’s how Al Gore ended up being worth $300 million and hobnobbing at Davos with fellow “woke” globalist plutocrats.
It’s important that we remember this history of malign ideas currently threatening the health of our economy, which has flourished in part because of cheap, abundant fossil fuels. And not just our economic interests, but our national security is put in danger by “green” energy policies implemented during the Biden administration.
But one thing we know for sure: the new axis of anti-Western nations like Russia, China, and Iran are not going to follow us down the “green energy” rabbit hole.