Of all the movements within the cultural Left that gestated and came to maturity from the late sixties to the present moment, the environmental movement has perhaps represented the single greatest threat to both the classical liberal economic and political ideals of the American Founding as well as to its Judeo-Christian social/moral foundations.
The sociopolitical experiment that came out of England 200 years ago and reached fruition in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the American republic, has never been short of enemies to its core principles.
No assault on the economic, social, and moral fabric of American and Western civilization has perhaps been more aggressively and effectively fought than that waged by the environmental movement upon free markets, property rights, representative government, or Judeo-Christian social and moral philosophy regarding the unique value of the human being and his place in the world
A new video entitled Resisting the Green Dragon, produced by a conservative religious group known as The Cornwall Alliance for Stewardship of Creation, is creating quite a stir among environmental groups whose anthill has now been suitably booted by the “religious right.” The Cornwall Alliance, following upon similar work done in years past by the Acton Institute, bills itself as “A coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, policy experts, and others, that is committed to bringing a proper and balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.”
All well and good – but not for the Left, for whom in all too many cases, the earth and nature itself take priority over human needs, human flourishing, and the “unalienable rights” that are at the root of limited, representative government. As the Cornwall Declaration says, the environmental movement promotes a “nature knows best” philosophy, in which “the earth, untouched by human hands is the ideal.”
The Left has reacted to the new film in predictable and interesting ways. The website Planetsave has a short blurb on the video, and links to another online environmental news magazine and blog called Environment, which contains an essay by one Ben Proffer which severely criticizes the video for, among other things – yes, alarmism. Indeed, according to Mr. Proffer, the 12 minute preview at the group’s website may be “twelve of the most alarming minutes you’ve probably experienced in a while”.
Proffer also links us to David Brock and John Podesta’s Media Matters for America website, in which we are warned of the “fear mongering”, “extremism” and “conspiracy theories run amok” to be seen in the production.
If at this point you are thinking to yourself, “excuse me, but the Left is now deeply concerned with fear mongering, extremism, and conspiratorial thinking regarding environmental issues? Have I missed something?”, you are probably far from being alone in such reflections. The most intellectually serious conservative criticisms of the environmental movement are panned as goofy or unhinged. Proffer dismisses with a snort the very idea that core aspects of contemporary environmentalism can be understood as a kind of displaced revolutionary socialist movement, the red intellectuals of the pre-Soviet collapse days having, chameleon-like, changed not their spots, but their skin tone to what author Peter Huber called “Hard Green“.
Media Matters even dismisses the widely understood (the “Bitter Clingers” just aren’t intellectually sophisticated enough to conceptually digest and comprehend this kind of thing, don’t you know) and equally widely commented upon observation that the film Avatar was, in essence, an open paean to the entire environmentalist ideology.
What is Proffer’s real substantive criticism of the video? We don’t know at this point, because his short essay does not provide us with any clear intellectual critique. We do find out that he believes the video is indicative of a “neo-Feudalist theme” (and no, I don’t know what he means by this either), that it is “self-referential”, “shameless” and “narcissistic.” If you still don’t understand what specific claims, assertions, and arguments Mr. Proffer objects to and, in a philosophical sense, why he objects to them, this author cannot help you at this juncture. I’ll try to keep up with Mr. Proffer to see if he can come up with some actual arguments, or specific substantive criticisms for the future.
One telling aspect of his criticism, however, is this:
The most absurd aspect of this, apart from the ridiculous neo-Feudalist theme, is that there is an enormous movement among Christians and believers of all stripes to be stewards of the planet that they believe is God’s greatest gift.
You see, only leftists care about protecting and preserving a healthy environment and wild places that can be studied and enjoyed aesthetically. Only leftists – only the Annointed – really care.
The real danger of the “culture wars” isn’t as much that the two sides are in substantial disagreement about the world, as that they do not really even intellectually and psychologically share the same world.