Environmentalism vs. Human Welfare (published in Free Times)

I would like to challenge the assertion of the article “A Look into the Rainforest” (November 3) that we can join in the efforts of the environmental movement to halt the “destruction of the rainforest” from a “firm stance of self-interest.”

Human beings as a species survive by the process of altering nature to serve human needs. Environmentalism, on the other hand, is based on the premise stated by biologist David M. Graber that nature as such, unaltered by human beings, has “intrinsic value, more value to me than another human being or a billion of them.” Therefore, as stated by Maurice F. Strong, the secretary-general of the Earth Summit, “High meat intake, consumption of large amounts of frozen and convenience food, use of fossil fuels, ownership of motor vehicles and small electrical appliances, home and workplace air conditioning, and suburban housing are not sustainable,” representing as they do nature’s “destruction” (i.e., nature’s alteration into new, human-designed and human-benefiting forms). Thus, the long-range goal of the environmental movement, of which each separate campaign is a means, is to do away with all such products, i.e., to undo the Industrial Revolution.

Since the environmentalist aim to “preserve” the rainforest is a narrower campaign within their larger program to leave nature unaltered, the list of human conveniences it would deprive us of is also narrower. As stated by writer Jan Snow, it includes only “foods, fibers, flavorings, woods, rubber and other materials.” Since most people would reject the premise of doing away with such human values only for the sake of leaving wilderness “wild,” environmentalist spokesmen must gratuitously add a pro-human veneer to such campaigns.

Thus the claims such as that cutting down forest means forgoing possible cures for cancer or AIDS, always offered without evidence. Using the same reasoning, one could just a validly claim that cutting down forests could prevent the spread of new diseases carried by some currently unknown species of virus. In fact, however, since both arguments are devoid of evidence, they must both be dismissed as arbitrary and invalid.

If someone honestly discovers a rationally demonstrable reason that preserving rainforests is of benefit to human life, let him buy the land in question for the sake of earning a profit by providing the human benefit he foresees (as drug manufacturers would do if they had grounds to believe that buying such lands would aid in the development of new drugs). Similarly, if the environmentalists wish to preserve nature for its own sake, they should put their money where their so-called “values” are and buy undeveloped land for the sake of leaving it undeveloped. As for the rest of us who value human well-being, let us disassociate ourselves from the environmentalist movement and all of its politicized, pseudo-scientific, “pro-nature,” anti-human campaigns.

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