Well, we’ve rolled up on another Earth Day. This Earth Day as on every Earth Day, we are asked to “give one day back to the Earth,” to take one day to “do what’s right” for the Earth (even though according to Earth Day champions, we should be doing these things every day). We are asked to reflect on how mankind is harming the Earth and, if we can’t atone for the “sins” of technology and industry, at least we can take a day to feel guilty about it. It is a day that we are asked to set aside “self-indulgences,” such as toasters, ovens, dishwashers, thermoses, electric light bulbs, plastic bags and bottles, furnaces and cars and instead “think green.”
Back in 1970, just months after the first Earth Day, Ayn Rand spoke about each of these time-saving (and therefore life-saving) items and asked her audience to seriously consider what it would mean to live without them. In that speech, The Anti-Industrial Revolution, Rand begins by painting a vivid picture of what everyday life would look like without the appliances, cheap energy and transportation that the environmentalist movement aims to have us renounce. More than forty Earth Days later, her insights into what was then called the “ecology” movement are just as illuminating about today’s environmentalist movement.
She says that if we understood and took seriously the aims of the ecology movement, we would “scream in protest.” Why does she say that? Because she recognized that environmentalists are not motivated by love for mankind, but by hatred for technology and ultimately for individual freedom.
Don’t believe it? Consider the hundreds of actions environmentalists call on us to take on Earth Day. We are asked to shut off the lights, to switch off our power-consuming computer and phones or to live a day “without using resources.” We are asked to bike or walk to work (no matter the distance), eat no meat, forgo a plastic bag or bottle or make one of the billions of other small sacrifices to the Earth. We are told that cutting back, reducing our energy consumption, and using fewer chemicals are all moral actions.
But Rand recognized that it is precisely these things that keep men safe, healthy and happy. It’s the electric lights that allow us to study at night, the heating and air conditioning that allow us to comfortably bear bitter winter nights and sweltering summer days. It’s the chemical insecticides that keep us safe from malarial mosquitoes, the plastic that keeps food sanitary, the asphalt roads and fossil-fuel-burning vehicles that allow us to escape when nature serves up an earthquake or a hurricane. It is these things that environmentalists scoff at as wasteful luxuries that people should give up. It is these things (and the freedom that make them possible) that environmentalists seek to ban, limit or cut back.
“Make no mistake about it,” Rand says, “it is technology and progress that the nature-lovers are out to destroy.”
Yet people don’t protest. Why?
One reason Rand believes we don’t is that people “take technology — and its magnificent contributions to your life — for granted . . . .” I think this is exactly what environmentalist leaders and politicians, such as Al Gore, count on when they push through laws to limit energy technology and the fossil fuels that power it. In a blog post last year, Al Gore Claims there is No Such Thing as Ethical Oil, I took time to pause and reflect on the value that oil brings into my life. You can bet that this Earth Day, I’ll be reflecting once again on the incredible wealth that technology makes possible.
Another reason Rand thinks people don’t protest when environmentalists tell us to renounce our way of life, is that “[y]ou are unable to believe that some people can advocate man’s destruction for the sake of man’s destruction — and when you hear them, you think that they don’t mean it. But they do.” In No “Footprint,” No Life, Keith Lockitch examines the idea of an “environmental footprint” and concludes: “The only way to leave no ‘footprint’ would be to die — a conclusion that is not lost on many green ideologues.”
Finally, Rand gives insight into the tools that the ecology movement uses to accomplish their campaign: fear and guilt.
In Are Americans Burned Out from Green Guilt Mongering?, Keith Lockitch cites a recent Gallup poll that ranks climate change and environmental issues near the bottom of the list of things Americans are concerned about. In light of that poll, he wonders if Americans are fed up with “[t]he constant refrain from the environmentalist movement . . . that our affluent lifestyle is destroying the planet, and nothing we do to change it is ever enough.”
On the issue of fear, I see activists creating a campaign of fear to try to beat down the technology of genetic engineering. Biotech foods are falsely blamed for a slew of diseases. Activists resort to “vague, scary-sounding pronouncements” and even boots and masks to make people afraid to eat these foods, and farmers afraid to plant them. In GMO Stands for God Move Over? I explain why this particular anti-biotechnology phrase is “[m]ore than just a slogan, it is an attack, aimed at your mind. It says not only should we leave nature alone, but that we should kneel low in fear of it.”
Fear and guilt are exactly what we should shrug off this Earth Day. As Keith Lockitch has said before, “we should have a Be Proud of Being Human Day . . . not a Feel Guilty for Trampling on Mother Earth Day.”
So, this Earth Day, sit down and listen to The Anti-Industrial Revolution, and take Ayn Rand’s advice in that speech to “give a silent ‘Thank you’ to the nearest, grimiest, sootiest smokestacks you can find.” Salute your toaster. Cherish a disposable plastic bag. Savor a biotech food. And for crying out loud, keep the lights on.
Finally, for a little humor to keep us from getting too gloomy on Earth Day, you need to check out Keith Lockitch’s latest editorial on what some environmentalists are calling “the most ethical meat.” Try and guess what it is.