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Truth Through Combat

The New Environmentalism

It has seemed to many during the last few years as if it were impossible to be an environmentalist without believing in the anthropogenic global warming argument. Of course, this is false: one can be quite concerned about environmental devastation without buying into the sloppy science of the global warming diehards. To wit:

  • Water shortages existed prior to the AGW argument, and they will exist after that argument has died out. The challenge of supplying water to the future billions who will populate the earth is a daunting one that will have to be addressed by serious people.
  • Rainforest depletion is still occurring at an alarming rate, and that trend has nothing to do with AGW. There might be serious concerns about eliminating such a potent carbon sink, though algal growth is probably a much better sink in any case.

Interestingly, the libertarian position on these concerns might be the best form of non-AGW environmentalism still extant. That position could hold that individuals have a moral obligation to assist in preventing these and other forms of environmental damage, and at the same time reject arguments calling for intrusive government intervention. The chief premise underlying this position is simple: if human beings can’t band together on a voluntary basis in order to “save the world,” then human beings deserve to perish.

This position can be defended:

  • Coercion is undesirable in itself – the default position in human affairs ought to be the rejection of coercion as a model for encouraging desired actions.
  • The claim that without coercion survival will not be guaranteed is, first of all, most likely false on its face: humans will be around regardless of how badly they manage the environment. Even if they were to go extinct, however, it is incredibly unlikely that they would take the whole of Earth’s ecology along with it. No one, not even Al Gore, is prophesying such a calamitous future.
  • If the second claim above is true, then the worst case scenario is the extinction of the human race. Therefore the important question is this: Is the guarantee of human survival (assuming such could be given) worth the consequences of coercion?
  • To answer “Yes” to this question is to believe that there is something special and good about human beings – but what could this be? What could possibly justify the use of violence and/or the threat thereof? Why should one accept that violence against our fellow man is justified solely because we want to survive?
  • In short – what good is man? What is his raison d’etre? If he is to exist solely by virtue of doing violence to other men, what is the point? And if he, in his free, uncoerced, and voluntary state, cannot muster up the desire to save the very planet on which he lives, then what good was he in the first place? Why would we save such a shortsighted creature?
  • Libertarianism offers at least a hopeful answer: Let us try to save ourselves (and the “planet,” if you wish) by relying on what is best in us: a free and uncoerced self-love that bids us to go on with our lives as free men. Let us save ourselves and our habitat because we love life.
  • But to love life — that requires freedom.
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