“Recently I was foolish enough to try to reason with an environmentalist,” wrote Stanford economist Thomas Sowell. “But it became obvious that he had his mind made up and didn’t want to hear any evidence to the contrary. The pope is more likely to have read Karl Marx than an environmentalist is to have read even a single book that criticized environmentalism.”
One might say a lot about the Pope and Marx, but I want to focus on Sowell’s juxtaposition of the ideologies of socialism and environmentalism. Socialism is an economic and political ideology, but surely environmentalism is just a concern for the environment?
Sowell conflated these ideas because socialism and environmentalism have become opposite sides of the same coin. Socialists want to ban private ownership and favor government ownership and control over the means of production. Socialists believe that removing individual freedom of economic and political action results in a reduction of inequity and thereby brings about a just society in which everyone is equal.
But that seems a million light years away from the idea of cleaning up a roadside, protecting rare birds, or concern about polluted water. In such context the word ‘ideology’ seems inappropriate to apply to concern for a healthy environment. Most people, like myself, believe that it is proper to seek a fruitful and beautiful environment. If that is environmentalism then count me in.
Patrick Moore, a founder and past president of Greenpeace who has since left the group, prefers to call himself a ‘sensible environmentalist’ because he appreciates that the environmentalist movement has changed. It is, he says, no longer science based but “a political activist movement.” It has taken on the form of a total ideology erasing boundaries between radical activism and sensible environmentalism.
Moore identifies the point where the ideology of socialism co-opted ‘sensible’ environmentalism. In an interview with the Vancouver Sun he said, “The collapse of world communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall during the 1980s added to the trend toward extremism. The Cold War was over and the peace movement was largely disbanded. The peace movement had been mainly Western-based and anti-American in its leanings. Many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas. To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology.”
Dany Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the group European Greens–European Free Alliance, exemplifies the all-too-common Marxist-Green connection. When he transformed himself from Dany the Red into Dany the Green he surfed the fashionable green political wave onto a deeper Red tide.
Cohn-Bendit said, “We have a project for Europe, an idea—the ecological transformation of our way of production and our way of life.” Says Dany the Green: “It’s for the survival of mankind.”
Self-described socialist activist Tom Athanasiou, director of U.S.-based EcoEquity, wrote “Environmentalism is only now reaching its political maturity.” He explains that there is a wonderful convergence of Red political concerns that Green concerns enable.
President Obama’s short-lived Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones, who self-identifies as a “communist,” explained why he was not on the streets burning down the system but instead working within it. “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends,” said he. He had discovered in environmentalism a means to satisfy his need for both the radical pose and Marxist ends because environmentalism serves policies he already believes in.
The ecosocialist current within the Green movement has become a red tide engulfing the planet. That is presumably why there is often a profusion of hammer and sickle communist party flags proudly flown by Green activists outside climate conferences, while inside leaders like the late Hugo Chavez, the former president of Venezuela, insist that socialism is the path to saving the planet. The last conference he attended Chavez added, “Capitalism is the road to hell, to the destruction of the Earth.”
Edward Said once described environmentalism as “the indulgence of spoiled tree-huggers who lack a proper cause.”
That may be true to a certain extent. However, as I hope you see, for many in the green movement the environment is no longer the cause, but the vehicle. The environment, and climate change in particular, is the big sail at the backs of activists who have hijacked the green movement. They are watermelons—green on the outside, red on the inside.
James Wanliss, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC. He is a Senior Fellow and Contributing Writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, and author of Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed physics articles, has held the NSF CAREER award, and does research in space science and nonlinear dynamical systems under grants from NASA and NSF.