Reason and Capitalism, or Unreason and Environmentalism: Choose Wisely


In his book Extinction, Paul Ehrlich insists that “the notion of ‘rights’” applies to non-human creatures and “even to such inanimate components of ecosystems as rocks and landforms” (50). And, he says, human beings, in our “drive for wealth,” violate the rights of these creatures, rocks, and landforms (244). Only if human beings stop producing wealth—that is, stop producing the values on which human life and prosperity depend—can we stop violating their rights.

In his book Defending the Earth, David Foreman agrees that the problem is indeed human wealth creation. And he adds that the deeper problem is the social system based on the recognition and protection of man’s rights, capitalism, which is what enables and encourages wealth creation. Thus Foreman calls for “radical, anti-capitalist social change” (40), which requires abandoning the premise that “human beings are the measure of all value.” That notion, says Foreman, “is stark, raving insanity” (45).

Understanding all of this, however, requires a certain mental approach, explains Foreman. It requires “being non-rational” and using “the good old reptilian cortex” (45). It requires turning away from reason, observation, and inductive awareness—and toward unreason, “intuitive, instinctive awareness” (53). If, however, we are willing to make that leap, we can see not only the fact that rocks have rights, but also its corollary: that capitalism and all of its components must be destroyed.

Because Foreman, Ehrlich, and company have taken this leap and abandoned reason, they are able to see “truths” that rational people are not able to see. For instance, as Foreman explains:

When people talk to me about the destruction of property, about the evils of destroying bulldozers, all I can say is that a bulldozer is made out of iron ore. It’s part of the Earth. A bulldozer is the Earth, transmogrified into a monster destroying itself. By monkeywrenching it [i.e., by destroying it], you liberate a bulldozer’s dharma nature and return it to the Earth. (46)

If the idea of liberating a bulldozer’s dharma nature and returning it to the Earth strikes you as crazy, it’s because you’re not using your good old reptilian cortex or your intuitive, instinctive awareness.

You have a choice. If you want to join the environmentalist movement and its drive for radical, anti-capitalist social change, you must abandon reason and embrace your intuitive, instinctive, reptilian awareness. Only then can you understand the “truth” of environmentalism and be a radical against capitalism.

If, however, you want to defend capitalism, protect man’s rights, enable wealth creation, and foster human flourishing, you must embrace reason, observation, and logic, so that you can see the enormous life-serving values that are man’s rights, freedom, and industrialization.

In sum, your choice is reason and capitalism—or unreason and environmentalism.

Choose wisely.

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