TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

On April 22, Celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day

logo-exploit-the-earthBecause Earth Day is intended to further the cause of environmentalism—and because environmentalism is an anti-human ideology—on April 22, those who care about human life should not celebrate Earth Day; they should celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day.

Exploiting the Earth—using the raw materials of nature for one’s life-serving purposes—is a basic requirement of human life. Either man takes the Earth’s raw materials—such as trees, petroleum, aluminum, and atoms—and transforms them into the requirements of his life, or he dies. To live, man must produce the goods on which his life depends; he must produce homes, automobiles, computers, electricity, and the like; he must seize nature and use it to his advantage. There is no escaping this fact. Even the allegedly “noble” savage must pick or perish. Indeed, even if a person produces nothing, insofar as he remains alive he indirectly exploits the Earth by parasitically surviving off the exploitative efforts of others.

According to environmentalism, however, man should not use nature for his needs; he should keep his hands off “the goods”; he should leave nature alone, come what may. Environmentalism is not concerned with human health and wellbeing—neither ours nor that of generations to come. If it were, it would advocate the one social system that ensures that the Earth and its elements are used in the most productive, life-serving manner possible: capitalism.

Capitalism is the only social system that recognizes and protects each individual’s right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Under capitalism, people are fully free to choose their goals, to identify the means of attaining them, and to act on their best judgment. Accordingly, those who recognize that in order to live well they and their loved ones need abundant energy, clean air, clean water, and the like tend to use the available resources rationally, with an eye to the distant future. Further, under capitalism, if a person (or corporation) spews toxins onto someone’s land, or poisons his water supply, or in any other way violates his property rights, the offender is held accountable in a court of law. But, so long as a person does not violate anyone’s rights, he is free to act in accordance with his basic means of living: the judgment of his mind.

Environmentalism, of course, does not and cannot advocate capitalism, because if people are free to act on their judgment, they will strive to produce and prosper; they will transform the raw materials of nature into the requirements of human life; they will exploit the Earth and live.

Environmentalism rejects the basic moral premise of capitalism—the idea that people should be free to act on their judgment—because it rejects a more fundamental idea on which capitalism rests: the idea that the requirements of human life constitute the standard of moral value. While the standard of value underlying capitalism is human life (meaning, that which is necessary for human beings to live and prosper), the standard of value underlying environmentalism is nature untouched by man.

The basic principle of environmentalism is that nature (i.e., “the environment”) hasintrinsic value—value in and of itself, value apart from and irrespective of the requirements of human life—and that this value must be protected from its only adversary: man. Rivers must be left free to flow unimpeded by human dams, which divert natural flows, alter natural landscapes, and disrupt wildlife habitats. Glaciers must be left free to grow or shrink according to natural causes, but any human activity that might affect their size must be prohibited. Naturally generated carbon dioxide (such as that emitted by oceans and volcanoes) and naturally generated methane (such as that emitted by swamps and termites) may contribute to the greenhouse effect, but such gasses must not be produced by man. The globe may warm or cool naturally (e.g., via increases or decreases in sunspot activity), but man must not do anything to affect its temperature.

In short, according to environmentalism, if nature affects nature, the effect is good; ifman affects nature, the effect is evil.

Stating the essence of environmentalism in such stark terms raises some illuminating questions: If the good is nature untouched by man, how is man to live? What is he to eat? What is he to wear? Where is he to reside? How can man do anything his life requires without altering, harming, or destroying some aspect of nature? In order to nourish himself, man must consume meats, fruits, and vegetables. In order to make clothing, he must skin animals, pick cotton, manufacture polyester, and the like. In order to build a house—or even a hut—he must cut down trees, dig up clay, make fires, bake bricks, and so forth. Each and every action man takes to support or sustain his life entails the exploitation of nature. Thus, on the premise of environmentalism, man has no right to exist.

It comes down to this: Each of us has a choice to make. Will I recognize that man’s life is the standard of moral value—that the good is that which sustains and furthers human life—and thus that people have a moral right to use the Earth and its elements for their life-serving needs? Or will I accept that nature has “intrinsic” value—value in and of itself, value apart from and irrespective of human needs—and thus that people have no right to exist?

There is no middle ground here. Either human life is the standard of moral value, or it is not. Either nature has intrinsic value, or it does not.

On April 22, make clear where you stand. Don’t celebrate Earth Day; celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day—and let your friends, family, and associates know why.

Posted in: Environmentalism

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Máté Maszlag

    Using the earth’s sources and exploiting them are two different things. While one means that humans can use these sources in a sustainable way not causing too much damage to the earth the other means that these sources are over-used in a way that it causes the source to not being able to replenish itself and thus causing it to disappear altogether.
    I agree that humans have to use the environment to simply survive but there is a fine line of defining “survival” that you have jumped a mile over in your argument. For example do humans need computers to survive? No. about 60 years ago humans were able to survive without computers or mobile phones or any kind of micro-technology. So saying humans need to produce computers to survive is simply erroneous in that context.
    There is no other being on the planet that uses/modifies/destroys the environment like humans, however other animals are all able to survive nonetheless, some of them were even here hundreds of thousands of years before humans without the need for any computer technology, auto-mobiles ect.
    Do I think we need to go back to the stone age? No. I think that by the creating sustainable goods production, waste management and by using renewable energy sources we can ease the human exploition of the earth and create a much more environmentally friendly earth.
    That is what Earth’s Day is about for me, and it’s not “anti-humanistic” in any way.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, resources cannot run out under Capitalism, as the laws supply and demand don’t allow for such a thing to happen. Secondly, you clearly didn’t read the end of the article where Biddle stated that there is no middle ground on this issue. You either support technological progress or you want humanity to return to the stone age. There is no reason for us slow down our consumption at all. Thirdly, you don’t seem to realize that main point of the slogan “Exploit the Earth or Die” is that any use of natural resources can be considered exploitation, not just creating buildings or making computers and cell phones and that idiots like you have no right criticize how much they are used as a result. Finally, since you rather stupidly attacked the author for claiming that technology was necessary for survival (which he never claimed BTW, lol) I l would love to see how long you would last in the wild without any technology whatsoever. I bet you wouldn’t even last 24 hours.


    “There is no other being on the planet that uses/modifies/destroys the environment like humans” For claiming not to be anti-human, you do rather a godawful job at demonstrating that.