A Brief History Of Environmentalism

Environmentalism has so thoroughly permeated world culture that the saving-the-planet rhetoric is accepted even by those who don’t really regard themselves as dyed-in-the-skein environmentalists. It is taught as holy writ in public schools, and it’s espoused by poets, priests, and politicians alike.

This monstrous ideology would, given the first opportunity, destroy humankind, a fact of which the leaders of this movement make no secret.

It is therefore of great importance to expose this ideology for what it actually is: a neo-Marxist philosophy that masquerades as something benevolent and life-affirming, but which in reality explicitly calls for humans to be subordinated to nature, via an elite bureau of centralized planners who, as you would suspect, are the ones that get to decide for the rest of us how we must live.

It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who first began propounding the immanent-goodness-of-nature-untouched-by-man ideology. Rousseau also deplored “the corrupting influence of reason, culture, and civilization.” In fact, Rousseau, like many of our current politicians, also preached economic egalitarianism and tribal democracy, the “collective will,” and the primacy of the group over the individual. In a great many ways, Rousseau is the founder of present-day environmentalism.

His so-called Eden Premise was picked up by all the pantheists and transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, John Muir (founder of Sierra Club), Aldo Leopold (who helped found the Wilderness Society), and of course the propagandist Rachel Carson.

When, in 1860, Thoreau wrote that forests untouched by humans grow toward “the greatest regularity and harmony,” he inadvertently changed the life of a biologist named George Perkins Marsh, who in 1864 wrote a book called Man and Nature. In this extraordinarily influential book, George Marsh also tried to convince us that, absent humans, mother nature and her processes work in perfect harmony:

“Man” (said Marsh) “is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discord…. [Humans] are brute destroyers … [Humans] destroy the balance which nature had established.”

“But” (he continued) “nature avenges herself upon the intruder, [bringing humans] deprivation, barbarism, and perhaps even extinction.”

Just as Thoreau influenced George Marsh, so George Marsh influenced a man named Gifford Pinchot, and also a man named John Muir.

Gifford Pinchot was a utilitarian who loathed private ownership of natural resources. He was also the first chief of the United States Forest Service under Republican President Theodore Roosevelt.

Gifford Pinchot was a collectivist who believed in sacrificing individuals and their property for the sake of “the greatest number.”

It was in large part because of Pinchot that the United States’ federal government increased its land holdings dramatically, so that today over one third of America is owned by the federal government — which holdings comprise over half of America’s known resources, including “a third of our oil, over 40 percent of salable timber and natural gas, and most of the nation’s coal, copper, silver, asbestos, lead, and other minerals.”

In his excellent account of American environmentalism, Philip Shabecoff says this:

“Pinchot wanted the forests managed for their usefulness, not for their beauty… He was not interested in preserving the natural landscape for its own sake.”

At the very least, Pinchot, a conservationist, was, however, still semi pro-human.

John Muir, on the other hand, Pinchot’s nemesis, was not pro-human. In fact, he was the diametric opposite.

It was John Muir, a Scottish immigrant, who introduced misanthropy into the environmental pseudo-philosophy, which misanthropy reigns supreme to this very day.

“How narrow we selfish, conceited creatures are in our sympathies!” said John Muir, who said astonishingly racist things against the Indians of Yosemite Valley. “How blind to the rights of all the rest of creation! Well, I have precious little sympathy for the selfish propriety of civilized man, and if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I would be tempted to sympathize with the bears.”

From John Muir, it was only a short step to one Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919), a German zoologist, who told us that individuals don’t actually exist. Human individuals do not possess an individual consciousness, he said, because humans are only a part of a greater whole, and 1866 Haeckel coined that fated term “ecology,” which he defined as “the whole science of the relations of the organism to the environment.”

It was an Oxford botanist named A. G. Tansley who, in 1935, introduced the word “ecosystem.”

According to this same Tansley, individual entities don’t exist but are merely part of “the basic units of nature on the face of the earth.”

Aldo Leopold’s wildly popular Sand County Almanac was published in 1948. It preached “the pyramid of life,” and in order to preserve this pyramid, Leopold told us that federal governments must “enlarge the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals [which] changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”

A Norwegian named Arne Naess (1913 – 2009) also believed that human individuals don’t actually exist. Only ecosystems do. It was Naess who first argued that the “shallow ecology,” as he called it, “of mainstream conservation groups” benefits humans too much. Thus, Naess began calling for “deep ecology” — i.e. “biospheric egalitarianism with the equal right [of all things] to live and blossom.”

These are just a small handful of the phrases and catchphrases that have now frozen into secular dogma, and which Rachel Carson, with her puerile pen, brought to the mewling masses. Her book Silent Spring opens like this:

There once was a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of a checkerboard of prosperous farms, with fields of grain and hillsides of orchard where, in spring, white clouds of bloom drifted above the fields. In autumn, oak and maple and birch set up a blaze of color that flamed and flickered across a backdrop of pines. Then foxes barked in the hills and deer silently crossed the fields, half hidden in the mists of the fall morning… The town is almost devoid of robins and starlings; chickadees have not been present for two years, and this year the cardinals are gone too… ‘Will they ever come back?’ the children ask, and I do not have the answer.

This was published in 1962. Almost fifty years later, robins, starlings, and chickadees continue to flourish, as they always have.

Most sane people see through this sort of pablum like a fishnet. It’s the insane people who have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

The rest, of course, is history.


  • Dirk

    January 3, 2010

    Hate to barge in here too, but when I smelled pomade (sour as usual) and wine cork I knew you had a late night night. Writing your latest polemic no doubt? Sure enough, here you are again, trying to make environmentalists into socialists, once again.

    Let’s say that, for sake of argument, Marx and Thoreau are the founders of these philosophies. (Play along just for a bit). Walden came out in 1845, whereas Marx’s earlier texts regarding economics came out in roughly 1844; so, we see that they were contemporaries and might have been aware of one other’s works. Marx often said that only with the rise of the proletariat (you and me) could a society defeat the absolutism of traditional rule (Dick Cheney). Thoreau was into transcendentalism, a European concept that rejected traditional religion and government and said that man, as an individual, had to live his life according to time-tested principles, not external forces like the Frazier Institute. I will also add that Thoreau loved individual freedom more than anyone. Thoreau was jailed for rejecting taxes (The Poll Tax), and he was especially peeved at the state of Mass. where they had just passed a law stating that all escaped slaves had to be returned to the South. (He was an abolitionist, too, you know?)After all, slaves were private property, part of the free market; Thoreau never accepted that concept. Have you or your huge audience ever heard of “Civil Disobedience” and the concept of self-reliance? These came from Thoreau, the grandfather of environmentalism, the first American to really understand the weight of individual freedom.
    From roughly 1845, Environmentalism (though no one called it that at the time) went one way, while socialism went another. I regret that environmentalism, corrupted by marketing, has become more associated with bungee jumping and knee-jerk urges to run and sing naked among the grizzlies. (It seems to me that what Thoreau required and advocated about self-reliance has long since been jettisoned by those who see environmentalism as some sort of exclusive individual expression. But to suggest, as you do, that environmentalism suddenly popped up when communism began to fail is a joke. Only a true son-of-a-bitch would propose such a thing. My biggest fear is that some of your more gullible audience members might go for it. Let me warn you all, don’t buy what the son-of-a-bitch is selling here.

    I think Ray Harvey, in the wee hours, channeled the late Julian Simon of University of Maryland and together on state funds, with the dead man’s ghastly hand on Ray’d hand, they wrote…

    “There is a million times more clean potable water. There’s instant hot or cold water.
    There’s instant light at the flick of a switch.”

    Not at my house, punk. And, Ray, if it’s potable, then it stands to reason that it’s clean.

    Friends, I realize that the Ray is charming and pretty good-looking; I realize that his blog has been nominated for awards and accolades that I can only envy, but some of the recent stuff he’s selling is just snake oil. I can only hope he wakes up, pulls his head out, and moves on over the winning team.

    Put all of the above in your ass and smoke it.

  • Rye Guy

    January 3, 2010

    don’t mind Dirk, he’s just got sand in his vagina from the Sand River Almanac.

  • Dirk

    January 3, 2010

    Rye Guy:


  • Ray

    January 4, 2010

    Socialism, Dirk, in any form, is by definition the abolition of private property. There’s no getting around that.

    That’s why environmentalism is Socialism.

    Many others before me have connected the dots between The Eden Premise and Thoreau’s and Marsh’s idea of a natural balance — Hegel’s “holism,” for example, and the so-called moral imperatives of Muir’s preservationism, Haeckel’s ecology, et cetera.

    To A. G. Tansley — who, as stated in the article, introduced the fatuous concept of “ecosystem” — to him, individual living entities were not “the basic units of nature on the face of the earth.” Ecosystems were.

    In 1948, Wilderness Society cofounder Aldo Leopold wrote his famous Almanac, sand from which, according to Rye Guy, you have in your vagina. Aldo Leopold argued that maintaining the “pyramid of life” required the preservation of a biodiversity of species. To accomplish this, he promoted a “land ethic” which “enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals” and which “changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”

    The logical end of all this is socialism — i.e. governmental power. And even more specifically in what Norwegian pseudo-philosopher Arne Naess said: “Individuals do not exist. We’re all only part of larger ecosystems. The ’shallow ecology’ of mainstream conservation groups, still aimed at improving the environment only for the benefit of humans, should be done away with in favover of ‘deep ecology.’” This was a terrifying view, now surprisingly mainstream, that he described as “biospheric egalitarianism … the equal right to live and blossom.” All living things, and even non-living, like rocks, have “equal rights.” Don’t believe it? Don’t click here.

    That is socialism. No matter how you want to dress it up, no matter how you want to equivocate it, you’ll never be able to get around the fact that environmentalism is the divestment of the right to private property.

  • Nag Dabbit

    January 4, 2010

    Thank you, Ray, for your sensibilites. It’s up to people like you to keep people like Dork in check on issues like this.

  • George Clark

    January 5, 2010

    Nag Dabbit, when you’re done sucking Ray’s boots, why don’t you look a little closer at the content of his posts and see just how “sensible” he is. He’s been poluting the internet for a long while with his crap, and if you don’t see that he’s a complete wacko, then you are as wacko as him.

  • Nag Dabbit

    January 5, 2010

    Nice try, “George” (i.e. Dork). Heavy on rhetoric, light on facts as usual.

  • Dirk

    January 5, 2010


    You’re preaching to me about Leopold? How dare you.

    “Too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run…

    “To live with an ecological education is to live in a world of wounds…

    I know the fucking text, and just look at what you accuse him of– asking that we (man kind) consider how we live and how we treat the natural world. Is his question a bad one? Is it possible that he truly wanted to pursue this idea? He was, you know, a trained scientist.

  • Dirk

    January 5, 2010

    Nag Dabbit-

    If you are TRYING to say that I’m “George,” you’re wrong.

  • AndrewL

    January 7, 2010

    Ray –

    You write well and I admit I read your essays and articles with interest, but why do you have to be such a dick?

    I think you do yourself a disservice by adopting such a condescending, cocky tone.

    My 2 cents.

  • Jason

    January 12, 2010

    Hey Dork

    Does it occur to you that since there is no morality, there is no such thing as treating nature right?

    Let’s just eat, drink and be merry while we destroy the environment, because the environment will destroy itself without our help. Either way, tomorrow we die.

  • Tibor Machan

    January 16, 2010

    I light of what I read here I humbly (!) recommend my book, Putting Humans First, Why We are Nature’s Favorite (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).

  • Ray

    January 16, 2010

    Hello Dr. Machan. It’s good to see you here. And I couldn’t agree more about your book. It’s hard-hitting. In fact, that book prompted a question-and-answer exchange on a previous website I once had. I’ve just reposted it here:


    Thank you for dropping by.

  • Vic McClaven

    January 16, 2010

    Tibor Machan, if thats really you and not some troll like Dirk the Jerkoff, I read your book about Ayn Rand a few years and learned alot of things about her. Thanks!!

  • Daniel

    January 16, 2010

    Dear Ray,

    It’s been awhile and it’s good to be back on the streets. Thanks for the cards and the flowers. While I was in treatment I kept up with some of your articles (here and elsewhere) and let me be the first to say, your pertinacity is unparalleled. Your churchwardens and you have blistered the pages with jingoistic garbage for weeks now without a single person taking any of you to the woodshed. (Though I suspect that’s what you’re after.) You are a bunch of dumb son’s-of-bitches. Shame of you for using only the most vulgar and base means to discredit environmentalism; it’s why so many of us regard you all as dull Libertarians (Republican without child).

    Your alarmist articles are so stupid, so unfounded, so utterly arrogant and misleading that I feel I have to shower after reading youo, you creeped me out so.

  • Gil

    January 16, 2010

    Daniel, you’re an idiot and your comment reads like gibberish. Don’t know anything about Ray Harvey, but Tibor Machan has been campaigning for libertarianism a long time now. Agree or disagree, he’s Good at it.

    And I’m positive he’s read a lot more than you have.

  • to ray and the rest of the antienvironmentalists:
    plz go swimming in a pool full of just DDT and
    to dry off after use a towel made from Bisphenol A.
    I want to see u try it just for once, to experience
    the pain our mother Earth has been going through for
    the past 500 centuries!

  • Nick

    November 27, 2010

    Fuck you, hippie.

  • Ray

    November 27, 2010

    During the final rush to get the first shipment of DDT out the door to American Troops, a valve at the bottom of a large vessel of DDT accidentally came open. Chemist Joseph Jacobs, who was standing under the vessel when it opened, was covered with hot DDT. “When it dried,” he says, in his autobiography, The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur, “I had DDT an inch thick all over me. In my hair, in my ears, and in my mouth and nose. I took off my clothes, showered, and scrubbed, but probably ingested more DDT during that one incident than is today considered safe to absorb over many years.”

    Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, which singlehandedly succeeded in getting DDT banned, believed that one touch of DDT could kill you.

    Chemist Joseph Jacobs lived another sixty years with no adverse health effects whatsoever.

    Joseph Jacobs routinely lectured on the utter safety of DDT. In fact, he began each lecture by eating a spoonful of raw DDT at the podium.

    He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his DDT work and was eighty-eight when he died, in 2004.

  • Erin

    November 16, 2012

    So, here I am, in the heartland of conservatism and patriotism, the hotbed of groupthink and (sometimes) infantilization. I’ve taught techniques of writing and composition all semester long, and now, I’ve been voluntold to teach a block on energy and environmentalism. I start the brainwashing on Monday with “Fast Food Nation” and “Consider the Twinkie,” articles that are both bastions of the Michael Pollan craze that has swept “upper middle class, I can afford to go to farmer’s markets” America (a group in which I proudly albeit guiltity call myself a member). On to my point: I needed a counterargument–a foil, if you will–to the easy-to-digest articles about environmentalism, one that would challenge both my students’ ideas on environmentalism as well as their reading comprehension. What better place to turn to that Journal Pulp?

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