How environmentalism turned to the dark side.

Over the best part of the last two decades, the twin delusions that we’re destroying the planet and that we have to completely restructure civilisation to somehow save it, have taken root and gripped the popular psyche of the West.

The first notion had its origins in the early seventies, when people finally recognised and began organised protests against the reckless and all too visible pollution of the environment by various industrial businesses. It was then that nearly all the big environmental organisations of today came into being. In the following decades, the environmental movement mutated drastically. It became something that was no longer simply about cherishing and being a good steward of nature, but about saving the very planet, by the imposition of oppressive social change and what amounted to the deindustrialisation of the developed world.

How did this change come about? The answer, as so often happens, is in the history of the thing, so let’s go back over it.

By the early eighties, after a decade of anti-pollution campaigning, it was no longer socially acceptable for industry to trash the environment, as some sort of unavoidable collateral damage in making a product. That was a remarkable achievement in so short a time. One of the reasons the original movement had been so successful, was that its makeup was essentially bi-partisan; it wasn’t about your own particular politics but the common interest all of you shared in stopping the wanton destruction of the environment. Since the idea that industrial development did not have to come at the price of destroying the environment was now mainstream thinking, then in terms of a change in mindset, the big job had been done.

Any campaigning movement that has achieved its aims, either disbands or sets itself new ones. At that point, a lot of people either quietly resigned from those environmental organisations or slowly drifted away from them, which was the option chosen by most of them. Certainly, the thinking at the time by a lot of people was that the movement had achieved its main aims and there couldn’t be much harm in leaving it to the next generation, to continue pursuing the founding ideals.

You have to bear in mind that in those days, there were few, if any, salaried employees in any of the organisations; they mostly worked on the basis of volunteers giving up their free time to help out with various activities. Personally, I was one of those who thought it was time to move on to other things.

Throughout most of the eighties, the movement looked for something big to fight but there really wasn’t much around, compared to the substantial issues it had championed in its early years. Its campaigns, though on relatively minor issues, became more strident and it looked more like it was generating publicity for itself, rather than any particular cause. Increasingly, it looked like a campaigning movement that had run out of steam and reached the end of its useful life.

What really changed the situation, was the implosion of the USSR in the early nineties. Basically, this cut the more extreme elements of the Left adrift in the West. For seventy years, they’d always had support, both ideological and to some extent financial, from the USSR and now it was all over. The extreme Left, like the extreme Right, have never been that numerous and perhaps because of that, are both good at piggy backing on or subverting other popular movements. The drifting environmental movement by that stage, was a fruit more than ready to be picked.

While it dithered around over what new direction to take, it was slowly hijacked by a new generation of extremist left-wing elements, who’d been left without an ideological home after the fall of the USSR. This subversion didn’t happen overnight but at a certain point, it became obvious to all that it had occurred, even to the founder members of the flagship environmental organisations, such as Greenpeace or the WWF. All the major environmental groups gradually became exclusively left-wing, with anyone of moderate, never mind right-wing politics, forced out of leadership positions. Environmentalism was no longer about the environment but about exploiting the environment as a method to advance what were essentially leftist and anti-capitalist policies.

In a real sense, the environmental movement gradually became the home of people, whose natural political inclinations in previous decades, would have led to them joining parties of the traditional left or extreme left. This tendency was exacerbated by the centrist politics of the nineties. Economic times were very good and in such times, electorates simply don’t vote for parties of any political stripe, who are advocating anything radical. The result of this was that the mainstream parties, of both the left and right, fought for the centre political ground, becoming practically no different in terms of policy.

What has to be recognised, is that the policies being put forward to protect the environment, were in so many cases, indistinguishable from classical Marxist-Leninist doctrine. That may appear to be a harsh assessment, but when you take a hard look at those policies, it’s plain to see. They just changed a few names, but the underlying policies being advocated were and are exactly the same.

Instead of selling the populace the dream of a coming Worker’s Utopia, sell them the vision of getting back to some equally mythical Garden of Eden. Instead of telling them they had to fight Capitalism or be exploited by it, tell them that they had to fight Capitalism, because it was destroying the Earth. Instead of telling them that individual liberty had to be sacrificed in the greater interest of the state, tell them it had to be minutely controlled in the greater interest of the environment. Instead of the state controlling and using all the organs of the media as propaganda outlets, let an overwhelmingly left-wing media, do it for you voluntarily. Any opposition to the movement was never to have a platform.

Compulsive and obsessive control had to be exerted on all individuals, right down to what lightbulbs they were to be permitted to use in their own homes. It was about saving the very planet. Given such a historic mission, any dissent with the official orthodoxy was not to be engaged with, but instead ruthlessly suppressed by any and all means.

Whichever way you look at it, it all adds up to a creeping variety of very old-fashioned totalitarianism.

Climate science was seduced into the environmental movement, with the politically useful role of producing an endless stream of authoritative but increasingly scary predictions. Its most high-profile practitioners gradually became what can only be described as the media stars of the movement, but what actually happened, was the more they sucked greedily on the teat of notoriety, the more they degenerated into nothing more than advocates, masquerading as scientists. The usage of the phrase “the cause” in the Climategate emails, is particularly telling about their mindset.

As the science became more alarmist and came under increasing outside scrutiny, their efforts shifted to not only defending it, but actively suppressing any research that wasn’t in agreement with it. They withheld data, conspired with each other to delete emails, perverted the peer review process and intimidated individuals and science journals, who wouldn’t toe the official line. In short, they circumvented the whole scientific method, instead deciding to practice what came to be known as post-normal science.

By the turn of the century, we were locked into a repetitive and escalating spiral of climate alarmism. As each successively worse prediction of doomsday came out, it was fed by the political activists and the scientists to the media, who sensationalised it even more, thus scaring electorates even further. The more the perceived danger to the Earth rose up the list of people’s concerns, the more it came to the politicians’ attention as an issue on which votes could be earned, so they pandered to it more and more, because they had to. In the end, confronted with what was possibly the end of civilisation, the extremist solutions being advocated to avert it looked more than acceptable.

In the midst of an extraordinarily long upswing in the economic cycle, everyone was happy. The politicians were getting votes, the scientists were getting billions of dollars of research money thrown at them, the financial industry was making billions trading carbon instruments, the media had a practically guaranteed stream of sensationalist articles, the people felt virtuous saving the planet and the political extremists looked set to get their policies implemented.

For a number of reasons I’ve gone into elsewhere, that upward spiral of hysteria was eventually broken by the end of the decade. The environmental movement, like all populist movements, had to always be moving forward, because once they lose that forward momentum, they start sliding backwards. They’ve been sliding backwards on all fronts for the last three years and it’s accelerating.

The easy explanation for what the environmental movement mutated into, is to say that it was some sort of global conspiracy to subvert Western democracy, but while I’m quite confident that conspiracies at a group level can and do exist, anything global would tear itself apart in the long-term, if only because of the inevitable conflicting interests of the various parties. That’s not to say that tactical cooperation between groups with radically different ideological drivers isn’t possible. It certainly is. When you consider the carbon trading market was an idea being pushed by all environmental organisations, big capitalist financial backers, who stood to make a lot of money, and fundamentally corrupt corporations like Kenneth Lay’s energy giant Enron, you can plainly see such cooperation is possible, just as long as there’s a sufficient overlap of interests.

Around the world, the movement is in retreat and with every passing day, that retreat is turning into a rout, as the political backing and financial support melts away ever faster. There are still a few governments trying to press on with financing the green dream, but they’re running out of money and their increasingly unemployed electorates, are rapidly running out of patience with them too. At some point, the inevitable political correction will be made and a number of careers in politics will be over.

There is the question of what will be the blowback from the eclipse of environmentalism as a significant political force. I fear the baby will get thrown out with the bath water. We need a new name for simply caring about and looking after the natural world in an intelligent way, as environmentalism or being green, are no longer viable labels, because they’re by now and will increasingly become, deeply tainted brands. I think there is a real  danger that what positive aspects there are in both of them, will be pushed to the bottom of people’s priority stack in the second half of this double-dip recession, which I think we’re going to be in for the next three or even four years.

It’s a problem for another generation of people and I wish them luck with it. It would be a crying shame if my grandchildren never have the pleasure of a day’s fishing in an unpolluted mountain stream, for a brace of wild trout to take home and eat.

I’ll pass that baton on to my children and grandchildren. It’s their’s to fight for, or lose forever.


Related articles by Pointman:

The power of dreams and the power of nightmares.

The Climate Wars revisited or No truce with kings.

Climategate 2 – yes, they’ve been lying to you.

Click for a list of other articles.

23 Responses to “How environmentalism turned to the dark side.”
  1. And, I’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you pesky kids!


  2. kim2ooo says:

    Reblogged this on Climate Ponderings and commented:
    ©Pointman – ON POINT!


  3. Petrossa says:

    Mmm. My dear brother who has only 4 years on me was born an ecofreak. Already at a young age he was pestering the family about the earth and later going on about the Rome report.

    He studied microbiology, was ofcourse member of a left/communist leaning party and progressed into government never touching a labinstrument in his life anymore where he caused lots of evil anti-human pleasure laws to be created. He hates cars with a vengeance, bad for nature, but flies all over the world or the EU giving lectures on how to save the planet from us horrible primates.

    Just to piss him off i bought a Cadillac Eldorado with a souped up 500 block and send him pictures of it with messages like: Just produced enough exhaust gases in an hour to compensate for you not having a car a year.

    Fortunately the monetary crisis put a stop to all the luxury of eco fanatism. Now even Greenpeace gets finally sued for their eco terrorism. The wall has just stopped the runaway train in time..


  4. Blackswan says:


    You’ve offered us a complete and rational account of how our Western Industrialised Economy has come to the brink of collapse.

    It’s going to be difficult to reclaim an anti-pollution/environmental mind-set isn’t it?

    Such sentiments will forever be associated with the rabid Eco-Nazis of the Climate Catastrophe. Those Real Bastards even highjacked our language.

    They invented half a dictionary with buzz-words we had never heard a few decades ago but in common use today – environmentalism, sustainability, eco-tourism, carbon credits, carbon footprints, food miles, renewable energy, bio-fuel and so on … ad infinitum.

    How can we look at a wilderness river that is now a sludge pit of toxic mining waste, completely devoid of life and killing everything around it, and call it ‘pollution’ when people have been bombarded with the term “carbon pollution” to describe a colourless odourless trace gas that’s a building block of life?

    So many people seem to be taking refuge in their ignorance of science, an ignorance that absolves them of taking any responsibility for anything – much easier to be told what to do/think – they’ll just grumble about it costing them anything.

    And cost it will – in so many ways.


  5. NoIdea says:

    Over at omanuel’s site, I spotted an apt quote posted by Brian.

    “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”

    ― Malcolm Muggeridge, Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society

    Remember folks, The Pills Won’t Help You Now.

    Or will they?



  6. neill says:

    Eisenhower foreshadowed it in his farewell speech: “the great danger is that policy becomes captive to scientific-technical elites”. That these elites would turn out to be surreptitious ‘reds’ as well would have floored him.

    Nice treatment, Pointman. I’ve brought up this connection between the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Warmists with my Green sister in a rather vague fashion. Your presentation made the connections with form and coherence. Well done.

    Wonder what the next iteration of the Leftist Zombie cult will be?


  7. orkneylad says:

    Excellent summary of ‘greenism’ Pointman.

    Blue is the new Green . . . . . I see this developing in the design world already.

    The ‘ism’ tag always bothers me, neber fails to make the warning bells go off. Perhaps the term ‘ethical stewardship’ could begin to be seen more, but if it turns into ‘stewardism’ then our decendants will probably have to fight over the same ground all over again.


    • Pointman says:

      Hi Orkney. Like you, “ism” on the end of a word tends to get my caution light blinking. It never seems to be bolted onto good words like democracy! I like your stewardship suggestion; right on the button but the ethical prefix is a bit like an open invitation to get very prissy. How about pragmatic stewardship?



  8. orkneylad says:

    *never* 😉


  9. Twodogs says:

    The bath water ain’t going down without a fight. It will try and drag the baby down with it. Unfortunately environmentalism is valid, so the rabid left will stay there, marginalizing the environment.

    Very well connected and supported, Pointman. The sad fact is however, that to them it’s “business as usual” so they will keep pumping out garbage through our schools, universities, public service and in the case of the UK, even the police. They will have to be dragged kicking and screaming, but so be it. The NSW government in Australia is slashing 10,000 public service jobs, excluding police and nurses, so it looks like they are targeting the political activists within, and not before time. However, the really rabid ones reside in Canberra in droves. Their defence is to mock “reds under the beds!” but the reality is more like hiding in all the holes like rats, trying to infect us and our children at every turn.

    Doe-eyed university students should be told who runs the agenda on the environment. Very well done.


  10. Twodogs says:

    Speaking of the environment and public apathy from over-exposure, I received some speakers in the mail yesterday, to find that the instruction manual was replaced by a “we are saving the environment” message referring me online. With the difficulty in lumbering around a laptop instead, I yelled out “f$&@ the environment!!!” I felt soooo much better, and I suspect many of us will feel the same once we have let it all out too. I feel liberated, that I can make my own decisions when and where to limit impact on resources.


  11. omanuel says:

    @ NoIdea I too admire Malcolm Muggeridge’s insight:

    “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense.”

    I suspect that we all have a sense of guilt over our abuse of the environment. Those skilled in the psychology of naked apes know how to use that sense of guilt to control them.

    Government use of psychology is less obvious today than it was in the 1940s and 1950s.

    While a graduate student at Harvard, Nobel Laureate Henry Kissinger served as “consultant to the Director of the Psychological Strategy Board. His doctoral dissertation was titled “Peace, Legitimacy, and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich).”


  12. or there is another common denominator

    they ARE pushing Green Solutions to half-bogus problems. Replacing common sense with manufactured gadgets that also greatly enhance their balance of payments, never mind the attempt for ideological supremacy


  13. Droopy says:

    Nice post, but I must disagree on one fundamental point, or perhaps, implication of the piece, and that is that the radicalization mentioned occurred only after the break-up of the Soviet Union. While it is true that in the very early years of the environmental movement, their was a broad consensus that changes needed to be made regarding pollution standards relative to air, water, and land, the radicalization of the movement, and its embedding within the cultural Left should be dated, not from the fall of the Berlin Wall (the second and most intense phase of its radicalization), but from the first Earth Day in 1970.

    Indeed, as a phenomenon of the Left, environmentalism can be dated from the publication of Silent Spring, which set the tone and style of the movement to the very present day. “Watermelon” environmentalism was also present long before the 90s, as the influence of people like Barry Commoner with environmentalism attests.


  14. Brian H says:

    As Monckton and others point out, there is no real “baby/bathwater” problem with deep-sixing the watermelons. It is the inevitable and natural tendency of advanced economies and societies to increase the range and health of the natural environment, because they become more and more efficient at using very select resources, and LIKE to have as much as possible of the rest in a healthy and attractive state.

    Hectoring, force, and totalitarian putsches are neither required nor helpful.


  15. Pointman says:

    A very interesting interview of Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace.



  16. Robin Melville says:

    It’s hard to disagree with the last half of your analysis, but the first part is just plain wrong.

    By the time of the collapse of the USSR hardly any of the UK or US far left had supported it for years. The CPGB had almost entirely vanished from its post-war high of over 300,000 members. It was crushed by the Soviet actions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. By the late seventies it was down to a few hundred — mostly Euro-Communists.

    The majority of the far left were Trotskyites. They were disoriented not by the fall of USSR but by the smashing of the Unions by Reagan and Thatcher. By 1986 “class struggle” was a rare breed. The only game in town was the Green Movement, which had already formulated its “Mankind is a cancer” meme. But, hey, they’re anti-Capitalist, aren’t they? Even if they’re anti-human.

    Even a cursory read of the Communist Manifesto — course 101 to any budding far-leftie — would leave one in no doubt that Capitalist Industrialisation, however painful, is A Good Thing. You don’t get a revolutionary proletariat and the escape from rural “idiocy” without it. Your own estimable “About” page is a pretty good basic Marxist position on why. The recent history of Japan, South Korea, and of course, China is an even better demonstration.

    The Green movement for all its oppositional fervour is actually deeply reactionary. It has more to do with Tolkein than Trotsky. They would prefer those newly upwardly-mobile Chinese factory workers to go back to manual drudgery and starvation on the farm.

    What is remarkable is the unholy alliance which has developed between the Right and the liberal Left since Thatcher’s time. I first wrote about it when the Children Act (1989) was passed, but its apogee is to be found in Brussels were ex-Maoist Barroso has his seat and from whence the Green diktats emanate.

    See what happens when class struggle dips? The middle class gets into bed with the bankers.


  17. jim says:

    Reblogged this on pdx transport.


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