| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
|Not just a river in Egypt|
|♫ We're not listening ♫|
“”Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor!? Well, maybe she should have thought about that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys! Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she is losing? Well, I say, hard cheese!
|—Mr. Burns, The Simpsons|
Anti-environmentalism is a term referring to the political reaction and industry backlash against the burgeoning environmentalist movement of the mid-20th century. The rhetorical tactics used by anti-environmentalist groups are sometimes referred to as "green-baiting" in reference to the tactic of red-baiting and the style of argumentation is often referred to as "tobacco science" in reference to the tobacco industry's notorious denialist campaigns. The trend is also sometimes referred to as "brownlash," a play on "backlash."
Anti-environmentalist figures and organizations rarely, if ever, use this term. They prefer to either present themselves as "skeptics" or as "concerned environmentalists" trying to refute "alarmist" elements within their ranks, more or less concern trolling actual environmental groups. Anti-environmentalism is, essentially, environmental denialism.
In the United States, there were (and still are) a number of notable anti-environmental campaigns:
- Denial of cancer risks from smoking and second-hand smoke.
- Denial of risks related to DDT.
- Denial of acid rain.
- Denial of the role of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in creating a gigantic hole in the ozone layer.
- Denial of global warming.
- Denial of health dangers from asbestos.
“”"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." … Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
The Sagebrush Rebellion (1970s-1980s) and Wise Use (1990s-present) movements were not denialist per se. The movements opposed federal wilderness designation and National Park expansion, and called for existing public lands to be opened up to logging, mining, ranching, off road vehicles and oil drilling. They were especially popular in western U.S. states, like Alaska during the height of local opposition to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act; Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona; and more recently the Pacific Northwest during the northern spotted owl controversy. The Wise Use name came into usage and replaced the Sagebrush Rebellion name after the 1988 Multiple Use Strategy Conference organized by Ron Arnold, but was essentially a continuation of the same movement. These groups remain active and popular in parts of the west, and it could be argued that something similar is happening in the east as well with such groups as West Virginia's hilariously-named "Friends of Coal."
A few anti-environmentalists are concerned about the suffering of animals in the wild and less about ecological services, biodiversity, scientific and cultural value, and the romanticized idea of "freedom." This, and the presence of predators in the wild, is often used as an argument for "humanely raised meat" and against veganism. Whether it is an appeal to nature, or the idea that mass-domestication as a means for profit/food that destroys forests at an unsustainable rate is actually good for sentient life, is often vague.
Meanwhile, some optimistic transhumanists think animals in the future can be made happy. This value system is sometimes more consistent with environmentalism (and veganism) because long-term technological progress is the main goal, and the wise use of natural resources is necessary for human society to do that. Acknowledging the importance of biodiversity as a resource in a utopia, and a patience based on the (kinda depressing) idea that we've only caused a tiny fraction of the world's total suffering through inaction/conservation, is one way to combine environmentalism and utilitarianism.
If someone discovers the technological equivalent of Noah's Ark that could preserve all memetic, genetic, and scientific information about the biosphere, however, we'd be obliged to make a flood of mass-euthanasia to stop ecological competition.
Many anti-environmentalists are simply anthropocentric thinkers who willfully ignore the many lessons of the environmental sciences. Typical of anti-enviromentalists is to compound the ideas that "short-term environmental destruction doesn't matter in the long run" with conjectures like "exploitation or not, we're already doomed in the long run".
Revealingly — in the sense that a presumed environmental collapse is invoked to justify any and all extreme actions one may please — anti-evironmentalism isn't even all that different from the fringe Hard green mindset.
Techniques and rhetoric
- Heavy use of astroturf: When a scientific consensus becomes apparent, corporations bankroll experts for hire to spread propaganda through front groups. These are often established think tanks or ones set up for the express purpose of denialism, often having Orwellian names like "Science and Environmental Policy Project" or "Friends of Science." These projects tend to fund "research" by the few remaining contrarians who stand against the consensus along with "policy experts," sometimes employing generous amounts of credential-fudging. This is sometimes mockingly referred to as the "denier-industrial complex." One study found that over 90% of books published in the past two decades espousing "environmental skepticism" were published by conservative think tanks. ExxonMobil has played a large role in funding denialist think tanks and political initiatives.
- Use of said front groups to publish their "research" rather than going through the academic peer review process and heavy use of PR tactics and FUD campaigns. (See also uncertainty tactic.)
- Lobbyist groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce (the biggest) buying politicians to vote against environmental regulations and hype their propaganda. This can also involve regulatory capture and the use of "soft money" to help stack governmental regulatory and scientific organizations with industry-friendly "experts" (e.g., Dubya's suppression of climate science.)
- Greenwashing and promotion of dubious "solutions" like "clean coal." Some of the really cranky types will hype abiotic oil.
- Use of SLAPP suits against environmental groups and scientists.
- Conflating actual environmental problems with the nature woo peddled by some environmental groups (e.g., aspartame scares, rejection of GM crops as "Frankenfoods").
- Conflating all environmentalists with dirty effin' hippies, Luddites, or hard greens like Pentti Linkola. This generally involves representing them as a "Gaia worshiping cult" or representing environmentalism as a "secular religion." This tactic works especially well for propagandizing to the Religious Right and social conservatives, as environmental concerns can be portrayed as a bogeyman that will supplant Christianity. This can also play on the belief that gawd will save us from environmental disaster or that the end is nigh. (Creationist propaganda organs like the Discovery Institute have also hopped on board the climate denial bandwagon, which should tell you something.)
- Dismissing environmentalism as a socialist movement in disguise — "red greens" or "watermelons" (a watermelon is green on the outside but red on the inside), who supposedly use environmentalism as to to render anti-capitalist sentiments more palatable. (The film The Great Global Warming Swindle leans heavily on this stereotype.) (Note also that "watermelon" is also used as a snarl word by environmentalists, including members of actual Green Parties, who use it to accuse leftist members of the movement of being more concerned with traditional socialist economic goals than with environmental protection, and many actual socialists, calling people they see as attempting to use green politics to "hide" their true socialist colors "watermelons" to imply that they are cowards.)
- Representing conservation as merely leftist ideology (breaking irony meters for those who remember who instituted the Environmental Protection Agency). This involves conflating ideologies like eco-socialism with environmentalism as a whole — environmentalism equals socialism, communism, Marxism, etc. This also helps to appeal to conservatives who enjoy hippie-punching and old farts that forgot the Cold War ended 20 years ago.
- Attempting to tie environmental advocates to some evil plot by ecoterrorist outfits. Yes, terrorism-baiting even has a play here.
- Any environmental regulations will most assuredly destroy the economy forever. Wonder what a significant amount of economists think about a carbon tax.
- Painting environmentalists as evil misanthropes and "environmental classists." Apparently, they are also all busy-bodies who just want to micromanage your life.
- Common snarl words: Alarmist, eco-fascism, eco-imperialism, eco-Marxism, enviro-Nazi, enviro-weenie (not even trying with this one), warmist, etc.
- Pure ad hominem attacks on scientists, e.g. "Michael Mann and the CRU used 'tricks' to 'hide the decline'" or "Rachel Carson killed more people than Hitler!"
- Framing deniers as objective whistle-blowers working against the "corrupt" peer-review process and scientific institutions. This often involves a heaping helping of persecution complex and creationist-style platitudes like "politicization of science," "the science isn't settled," "academic freedom," "release the data," and "teach the controversy."
- The above tactic also has the advantage of making deniers seem like level-headed skeptics. Who could object to "more research" or "considering uncertainties," ya?
- Representing environmental advocates as always wrong, always. Expect to see Paul Ehrlich's failed predictions cited repeatedly. This often also involves recycling earlier works of denialism, e.g. "The enviro-Nazis were wrong about DDT, now they're wrong about global warming!"
- Toxic sludge is good for you! CO2 is plant food! DDT will eradicate malaria forever! The really cranky radiation hormesis types like Art Robinson take this to ridiculous extremes: Nuclear waste is good for you!
- Use of the terms "junk science" for real science that will inconvenience industry and "sound science" for bullshit. Steve Milloy's "Junk Science" site has helped to promote this usage.
- Use of the "science was wrong before" gambit, especially if said gambit draws on previous denialist tracts to claim that science was "wrong" about something it actually wasn't.
- A communist takeover
- Creation of a police state
- The New World Order/the United Nations/the North American Union
- Pagan/Satanic cults
- Population control
- Genocide against Africans due to a ban on DDT, even though the supposed "ban" left exceptions for fighting malaria.
- War on Science
- Cornucopian vs. Malthusian debate
- Global warming conspiracy theory
- Data Quality Act
- Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
- E. Calvin Beisner
- Frederick Seitz
- Michael Fumento
- Gore's Law
- Shill gambit, basically the flip-side of this tactic whereby woo-meisters claim actual science to be corporate astroturf.
- Useless eaters, related population control conspiracy theories
- Various (un)think tanks such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heartland Institute.
- Fringe groups such as Lyndon LaRouche's organization and the Unification Church.
- Info Pollution - Debunking anti-environmental myths
- Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, UC San Francisco
- Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy
- Anti-environmentalism/Green backlash, University of Wollongong
- Doubt is our product: PR versus science, Lightbucket
- The Denial Industry, George Monbiot, The Guardian
- Enter the Dragon: How Al Gore, the U.N., Earth First!, and an Episcopalian Bishop are All in Cahoots… with Satan, The Revealer
- Science as the Enemy: The Traveling Salesmen of Climate Skepticism, Der Spiegel
- The Manufactured Doubt Industry and the hacked e-mail controversy, Weather Underground
- Tearing Down the Green: Environmental Backlash in the Evangelical Subculture, American Scientific Affiliation
- "12 Things The Tobacco Industry Doesn't Want You To Know", from Huffington Post
- Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore, Reason
- Contrarian, The Skeptic's Dictionary
- Timothy Boston. Exploring Anti-Environmentalism in the Context of Sustainability. Electronic Green Journal, 1(11), 1999.
- Peter J. Jacques, Riley E. Dunlap and Christaofer Richarde. The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism. Environmental Politics, vol. 17, no. 3, June 2008, 349–385.
- Paul Maltby. Fundamentalist Dominion, Postmodern Ecology. Ethics and the Environment, 13(2), 2008.
- Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlap. Anti-reflexivity: The American Conservative Movement's Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy. Theory Culture Society, 2010. 27: 100.
- Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. Merchants of Doubt. Bloomsbury Press, 2011. ISBN 1-608-19394-2
- Chris Mooney. The Republican War on Science. Basic Books, 2006. ISBN 0-465-04676-2
- David Michaels. Doubt is Their Product. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-195-30067-X
- Manipulating Public Knowledge, University of Wollongong
- The Perversion of 'Wise Use', The Brooklyn Rail
- Organized Climate Change Denial "Played a Crucial Role in Blocking Domestic Legislation," Top Scholars Conclude, Think Progress
- The Propaganda Machine and Climate Change, Case Western Reserve University
- Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air, Union of Concerned Scientists
- US Chamber seeks trial on global warming, LA Times
- "Watermelon Marxists", American Stinker
- James Delingpole. "On the anniversary of Climategate the Watermelons show their true colours", The Telegraph
- Oh noes!
- Perhaps nothing exemplifies this as well as the recent "war on light bulbs."
- Watch Rush Limbaugh deny most of the major environmental problems of the last few decades in one fell swoop. (If your a glutton for punishment.)
- Earth Worship: Environmentalism seen as police state precursor, Southern Poverty Law Center