Environmentalism

Did Conservatives Replace a 'Red Scare' with a 'Green Scare'?

"I believe that the color of radicalism today is not red, but green."

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Venimo/Dreamstime

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, conservatives saw environmentalism as replacement for the bogeyman of communism—or at least that's what FiftyThirtyEight science reporter Maggie Koerth-Baker declared on NPR's Science Friday. In the '90s, she noted, some conservatives started calling environmentalists "watermelons": "green on the outside, red on the inside." Host Ira Flatow chuckled disbelievingly.

But Koerth-Baker has her history backwards: Lots of reds did turn green in the 1990s. Unmoored socialists cast about for some other theory explaining how capitalism would destroy itself. They began adopting and expanding upon the arguments of radical environmentalists, who had been arguing that capitalism will collapse because the pollution produced by its heedless overconsumption will build to an ecological breaking point.

And that line of argument is still with us today. For example, activist Naomi Klein asserts that climate science is "the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism" ever.

First some background. In a June 1 article titled "The Paris Agreement Would Have Been Less Partisan 30 Years Ago," Koerth-Baker pointed out that environmentalism in the 1970s and '80s was much more bipartisan affair. Data from the League of Conservation Voters shows that the spread between congressional Democrats and Republicans on votes for environmental legislation was not all that big in that period. That wasn't just because the parties themselves were more of an ideological mix back then: In 1990, according to General Social Survey data, 75 percent of both self-described conservatives and self-described liberals thought national spending on the environment was "too little."

Since then it's been all downhill for environmental bipartisanship. "After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, the conservative movement replaced the 'Red Scare' with a new 'Green Scare' and became increasingly hostile toward environmental protection," according to the researchers that Koerth-Baker cites. Those same researchers point to a 2008 Environmental Politics article, "The Organization of Denial: Conservative Think Tanks and Environmental Scepticism," that surveyed 141 "skeptical books" published since 1992. The researchers found that 92 percent of those texts "are linked to conservative think tanks." (For what it's worth, their list includes four books either written or edited by me.)

So what was going on at the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century?

In her prescient 1990 article "The Green Road to Serfdom," Reason's Virginia Postrel probed the ideological foundations of environmental politics. She carefully dissected environmentalism as "a full-fledged ideology" that is "every bit as powerful as Marxism and every bit as dangerous to individual freedom and human happiness."

As the early '90s wore on, you could see that ideology starting to step in for the Marxists. In a 1990 Z Magazine article, activist Brian Tokar—now a lecturer in social ecology at the University of Vermont—noted that Green political activists were aiming to build "a hopeful alternative voice in a period characterized by a distinct shortage of idealism on the left." In 1991 another social ecologist, the left-anarchist Murray Bookchin, announced that "the immediate source of the ecological crisis is capitalism," which he pointedly called "a cancer on the biosphere." (He added, "I believe that the color of radicalism today is not red, but green.") At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Worldwatch Institute's Chris Flavin declared that with socialism in disrepute, environmentalism was now the "most powerful political ideal today."

Even a relatively conventional politician like then-Sen. Al Gore, in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, made the totalistic claim that "we must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization."

Yet green ideologues have also been haunted by fears that human ingenuity will solve the environmental problems they're counting on to destroy the socioeconomic system they abhor. As climate activist Bill McKibben wrote in his 1989 book The End of Nature, "It's not certain that genetic engineering and macromanagement of the world's resources will provide a new cornucopia, but it certainly seems probable. We are a talented species." He didn't say this with relief—it was a lament. (As it happens, the World Bank reported in 2015 that for the first time in history less than 10 percent of the world's population lives in absolute poverty.)

As I noted in my review of Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, the author "acidly dismisses reliance on science, technology, and markets to address the problems of climate change as embodying the attitude that 'We will triumph in the end because triumphing is what we do.' Well, yes. And that's a much better bet than imagining the laws of nature mandate a post-capitalist utopia."

The upshot: Conservatives were not conjuring a new "scare" to replace the bogeyman of Soviet Communism. They were tracking the intellectual metamorphosis of many reds into greens after the collapse of "actually existing socialism" in 1991.

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  1. For example, activist Naomi Klein asserts that climate science “the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism” ever.

    Because communist countries had such a good environmental record.

    1. All the ones that didn’t weren’t actually communist.

      1. Preach brother.

        True communism has never been tried. /s

        1. I had a discussion one time with an European socialist about the failure of communism/socialism in the countries it was tried in and that was his counter argument.

          1. That’s always their counter argument.

            1. It’s just coincidence that every nominally communist country has been a totalitarian shit show.

              1. I can’t remember if I read the following quote here or somewhere else:

                Not all capitalist countries have been free, but they have been prosperous.

                No socialist (communist) country has been prosperous and they have all been tyrannies.

                1. “At its extreme, green ideology expresses itself in utter contempt for humanity. Reviewing Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature in the Los Angeles Times, National Park Service research biologist David M. Graber concluded with this stunning passage: ‘Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line?at about a billion years ago, maybe half that?we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.’

                  1. “It is hard to take such notions seriously without sounding like a bit of a kook yourself. But there they are?calmly expressed in the pages of a major, mainstream, Establishment newspaper by an employee of the federal government. When it is acceptable to say such things in polite intellectual company, when feel-good environmentalists tolerate the totalitarians in their midst, when sophisticates greet the likes of Graber with indulgent nods and smiles rather than arguments and outrage, we are one step further down another bloody road to someone’s imagined Eden. All the greens need is an opportunity and a Lenin.”
                    From “Free Minds & Free Markets”, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, 1993, which is a compilation of 25 years of articles from Reason magazine, this one being “The Green Road to Serfdom”, April 1990, by Virginia I. Postrel.
                    (Both of the above come from there)

        2. “Communism is a good idea on paper, but it’ll never work!” – Will Rogers

          Why can’t it work?…..Because there cannot be a classless society because the Bureaucrats running the thing eventually become the royalty & the elite….It is simply unavoidable human nature & even more so than the greed & lack of integrity of some capitalists ruining supposedly democratic nations!

    2. Is there anyone in history that has been more wrong about more things than her? I mean, it’s remarkable.

      1. The other Green Naomi, Oreskes has inverted historical sequences too.

        Ideology apart, some aK-Street ntismoking Mad Men, lke Porter-Novelli principal BIll Novelli morphed into post Earth Day climat hype after they drove cigarette advetising from telvision in the late 1960’s

    3. Hell, governments in general don’t have a good track record. A lot of the Superfund sites are former government run facilities. In fact, while I don’t have data on hand to back it up, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if you were to somehow compare the amount of environmental damage that has been done by EVUL KKKORPORAYSHUNZ vs the wonderful, pure, benevolent government, the government has probably done far more and far worse than the private sector.

      1. Since some of the government sites are pretty much contaminated for the tens of thousands of years because of radioactive isotopes, I would say that it is clear that government has polluted worse than corporations.
        Suprefund sites

      2. In some areas the Military (government) has unfettered rights to pollute.

  2. Certainly the “Environmentalists” became subsumed under the general Leftist / Socialist movements.

    They also completely detached themselves from Conservationist efforts at the same time. Environmentalists no longer make much effort to protect wilderness or open spaces. The Lowell Mountain wind project is a prime example.
    http://www.vtdigger.org/2013/07/04/lo…..t-divider/

    Environmentalists thought it was a cool idea to clear-cut the tops off some mountains to erect bird-shredding turbines. Conservationists thought it was insane.

    Near where I live there are a couple of solar projects on farms. Instead of growing corn or grazing livestock, the fields were plowed, treated with herbicide, then solar panels erected for a dozens of acres. How this is good for the environment is beyond me.

    1. …the fields were plowed, treated with herbicide, then solar panels erected for a dozens of acres. How this is good for the environment is beyond me.

      *Channels Phil Hartman’s Frankenstein monster character from SNL* “Solar & wind GOOD! All other energy sources BAD!”

      Something that just occurred to me about solar panels: in a lot of urban areas the observed temperature is higher (especially at night) due to solar heat being absorbed by roads and buildings. I’d be curious to know if putting up acres upon acres of solar panels might end up causing the same effect. Only since a lot of these massive solar projects are put up in more rural areas – because God forbid the sophisticated progressive urbanites who demand green energy actually have to see the damn things – the increased heating will be seen in more rural areas outside of traditional “Urban heat islands.” I suppose it would all depend on the thermal properties of the panels compared to the fields they replace. My guess is that there would be an effect, but how big of an effect I don’t know.

      1. Actually, I think that is a very good question.
        Solar radiation in the visual and low UV spectrum is absorbed by man-made structures and raising its temperature (with more surface area to absorb, and partially due to materials). It then re-radiates in the infrared, or the heat is pumped out of the building by A/C units. In either case, the temp of the immediate area stays hotter.
        Solar panels transfer some of the solar radiation to electricity via photoelectric effect. But panels are very inefficient, thus most of the radiation is still absorbed by the material, and re-radiated as heat. So it might be close to a wash. I like the comparison someone made regarding farmland vs solar panels. They take a remarkable amount of surface area (by definition).

        1. The microclimate impact of solar cells depends on where you put them- silicon cells are as dark as an aa=sphalt roof, but then, so is deep water. Putting them on white sand is a Bad Idea, covering Black Mesa, not so much.

      2. For edification purposes, and because it’s damn interesting.

        The Urban Heat Island Effect

        And yes, I’m happy to say NOAA uses urban area’s in their temperature record. Adjusted, of course.

        1. That moment when you don’t read someone elses link before posting the same damn thing. ^_-

    2. You don’t rip much of anything to put in a turbine. I would rather see a turbine on a mountain with coal underneath it, rather than the whole mountain removed.

  3. Good article, Bailey.

    I would add that it is easier to get consensus when you are talking about regulating practices that lead to acid rain or smog, which are visible issues with visible ramifications. Much harder to build consensus around regulating carbon, which is based around a hypothesis about possible ramifications that may or may not occur one hundred years from now.

    1. ^ excellent point

    2. That’s what I was thinking as I was reading… but with even more tangible examples of what the environmental movement used to be. Superfund was established in 1980 and dealt with horrible messes like Love Canal. It’s easy to point at things like that and get a majority to agree that we should do more to clean up the environment.

      It’s a different story to say that there’s too much CO2 in the air and that will cause the temperature to increase a couple degrees over the next hundred years which will destroy the entire planet.

      1. Absolutely. This was my first thought as well. Regulations aren’t the best way. But, if they really were simple, straight-forward protections against gross pollution or serious harm to others, I don’t think most of us would have real heartburn with it.
        But, having 15 years experience in the commercial nuclear power industry, regulatory creep is a HUGE problem. The first regulations were quite simple:
        Make sure the reactor coolant boundary remains intact, make sure you can safely shut down the reactor, make sure radiation, by the plant, at the site boundary is very low (functionally zero for normal operation).
        Now, it is regulation by inspection. Whatever the inspector thinks, that’s is what we are stuck with.
        EPA is even worse. Hell, they have almost completely bypassed public rule making (which is supposed to be the basic protection against overzealous regulators).
        The interveners (Mothers for Peace, Union of Concerned Scientists, et al) have essentially won. Not by proving nuclear is unsafe at one time. They lost that battle. But, by being patient and letting the govt do, what govts do, they are killing us slowly. The death by a thousand cuts.

    3. Agreed. Today’s environmentalists make a big mistake by not distinguishing pollution that actually has direct negative effects from CO2 emissions, whose purported effects are less immediate and aren’t necessarily bad in every way.

      Of course, for those whose real motivation is anti-capitalism, it may be calculated and not a mistake.

      1. It is calculated, in my opinion, since they are completely ignoring those in favor of CO2 by-and-large. Part of that is probably because they were able to get enough people on board the theory that if you regulate CO2, it regulates that too. Industry causes CO2, and if there isn’t any more industry…

    4. Much harder to build consensus around regulating carbon, which is based around a hypothesis about possible ramifications that may or may not occur one hundred years from now.

      It doesn’t help the environmentalist’s case that none of their shorter term predictions have panned out. At one time they were saying that most of NYC was supposed to be under water by now.

      1. Yep. Hell the Maldives aren’t even under water yet, and the Netherlands seem to be doing just fine.

        1. Plus, what tends to get left out of the Maldives story is that the Maldives are actively sinking at a rate about 100 times the rate of sea-level rise. Because it’s a city built on top of a coral reef.

          1. actualy the Maldives destroyed parts of their coral reef to build housing thus eliminating the protection they had from natural ocean erosion with or without rising seas

            1. Actually the Maldives are not sinking due to sea level rise. Two words: VOLCANIC SUBSIDENCE.

              Atolls form on the top of dormant volcanoes. As hot spots move out from under the volcanoes, due to plate tectonics (this is what formed the Hawaiian Island chain) the volcanoes no longer have pressure and heat to hold them up and they sink. A coral reef can build to keep up with sea level in some cases and sometimes it can’t. The Maldives are sinking faster than the reef can keep up. Not a global warming problem. Just simple plate tectonics and geologic ignorance of those who seek to use this as an example of climate change.

      2. This is from so long ago I lost the citation:
        Adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan, notable as a Democrat in the administration, urged the administration to initiate a worldwide system of monitoring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, decades before the issue of global warming came to the public’s attention.
        There is widespread agreement that carbon dioxide content will rise 25 percent by 2000, Moynihan wrote in a September 1969 memo.
        “This could increase the average temperature near the earth’s surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit,” he wrote. “This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.”
        Wrong then (1969), wrong now (2017). “Widespread” agreement does not constitute truth; see flat earth.
        I was taught that carbon dioxide was necessary for plant life; has that changed?

    5. I would add that it is easier to get consensus when you are talking about regulating practices that lead to acid rain or smog, which are visible issues with visible ramifications.

      ^ This.

      Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, has argued that the environmental problems of the 1960s and 70s were obvious to everyone, and were easily addressed through scientific innovations.

      But over the course of the 1970s a political PR machine was built, and the political/PR end wasn’t going to give up what it had built just because the problem they had identified had largely been solved.

      As Moore says, at that point “environmentalism” became less about science and more about political sensationalism.

      IOW, it’s over-simple to just say that conservatives demonized environmentalists because they didn’t have communists to kick around anymore. “Environmentalism” died a natural death, and the communists took it up because Communism died a natural death about the same time.

      Thus, a lot of “conservatives” are not against “Environmentalism,” per se, but are against the bullshit political movement the empty husk of environmentalism has been transformed into.

    6. 120 ppm co2 increase and counting. May not have ramifications? You’ve been smoking too much Fox News.

      1. Parts per million mean anything to you? 40000ppm is ‘lethal’ and it’s been as high as ~1500-3000 in the last breathable 500 million years. It’s at ~350-400 now.

        Idjit.

        1. BYODB|6.6.17 @ 8:39PM|#

          Parts per million mean anything to you? 40000ppm is ‘lethal’ and it’s been as high as ~1500-3000 in the last breathable 500 million years. It’s at ~350-400 now.

          Idjit.

          I understand ppm well. Do you understand whyy your statement isn’t really relevent?

  4. Ira Flatow needs to get away from proggies occasionally.

  5. Lots of reds did turn green in the 1990s

    Not surprising. Capitalism basically solved most of the environmental problems that lingered through the 70s and 80s to the satisfaction of most people. Only cranks were left to continue the fight.

    1. with gov lead

  6. The only problems I have with environmentalism is the aspects that are authoritarian and socialist. I see people fault it as a religion–which isn’t really a fault to me. A religion with values is what environmentalism should be. Libertarian environmentalism, of course, isn’t about seizing the reigns of government and using its coercive power to force solutions on an unwilling populace. It’s about getting people to care to make the necessary sacrifices willingly or using the liberty enhancing power of markets, technology, etc. Getting people to care about your values–yeah, that’s evangelism.

    There is a real problem with people on the right–and libertarians–coming to believe that the cause of environmentalism itself is fundamentally awful.

    Care about whatever you want, and I bet that libertarianism and capitalism offer superior solutions–if only because people are less likely to resist things that aren’t being forced upon them. The reason people don’t spend hours of their lives arguing against string theory is because regardless of whether that theory pans out, no one is trying to use string theory to come after our liberty or our standard of living. If environmentalists weren’t coming after those things, hardly anyone would care about the scientific consensus on climate change either.

    1. Good points, Ken. There does seem to be a tendency among a lot of libertarians and conservatives to dismiss environmental concerns because of the sorts of people who generally push those concerns.

      1. It’s their means to the end.

        The term “watermelon” has become a household term for someone who’s green on the outside but red (communist) on the inside.

        People have come to believe that there are no solutions to climate change that aren’t socialist or authoritarian–on both sides of the debate. There are only a few exception–with Bailey being a notable example, God bless him!

        If the only thing we have protecting us from socialist and authoritarian solutions is people’s reluctance to believe in the science, then we’re in a lot of trouble IF IF IF and when the scientific evidence becomes more persuasive to average people in the future.

        And I wish some of my fellow libertarians were more cognizant of the fact that if their opposition to authoritarianism and socialism would remain–even if the scientific evidence were undeniable–then arguing about the science is a red herring.

        Even if Saddam Hussein had WMD, that didn’t mean we had to invade Iraq.

        Even if the glove didn’t fit, that didn’t mean OJ wasn’t a murderer.

        And even if AGW is a serious problem, that doesn’t mean we have to embrace authoritarian socialist solutions.

    2. Religion is a belief system based on faith and outside of the realm of scientific proof. Belief relies upon faith that can’t be scientifically proven or disproven. Athiesm is as much a religion as Christianity or Islam. It is as impossible to scientifically prove God does not exist as to prove he does.

      Environmentalism is the 70’s was science. The evidence for things like acid rain was clear, the solutions clear, and political support ready at hand.

      Environmentalism today is a religion that pretends to be science. Environmentalists don’t want to be subject to independent validation, or want to share original data, or source code for models, or anything that would allow their work to be critically reviewed, but they wish to be regarded as science. They want blind acceptance of religion with a mantra of “the science is settled”, totally missing the irony that everything in science is forever open to being tested.

      Believing any, or all of this is within each person rights. The problem is that environmentalists today have picked up one more trait of the older religions, the need to forcibly convert the non-believers. They plan to use government to do it, for the same reason the other religions claimed to do it … for our own good.

      1. ^This^

        And I think it is/was the case among many libertarians that the issue isn’t/wasn’t explicit anti-environmentalism or even anti-gaiainism as much as it was against ‘belief as fact and fact as policy’ government-run scientism.

      2. “Religion is a belief system based on faith and outside of the realm of scientific proof”

        Uncertainty is the human condition, and everything we believe–including scientific theories–contain a measure of uncertainty. See the problem of induction for evidence.

        Meanwhile, religion isn’t just assumptions made in the face of uncertainty. The values Christians, Hindus, and Muslims espouse have survived a terrific amount of scrutiny over the centuries, and those beliefs have survived that scrutiny because people found them useful in the real world. That’s why anthropologists study religion as an adaptive product of evolution.

        Butterflies don’t migrate north and south because they’ve read and understand the weather report. They’ve evolved certain instincts that have helped their ancestors cope with the real world around them and survive to procreate. The taboos of uncivilized tribes are often adaptive. Given the evidence of that, thinking otherwise is irrational.

        1. There is uncertainty in ANY axiomatic system, as proved by Kurt Godel. There are infinitely many true statements in mathematics (usually sitting atop the Peano Postulates) that cannot be proven to be true.

          1. Faith certainly isn’t outside the realm of scientific proof if those beliefs (like the instincts of butterflies) are adaptations to the natural world.

            And that shouldn’t be surprising to people who understand Adam Smith’s invisible hand or that altruism arises from the natural world as an evolutionary adaptation that confers benefits.

            If making sacrifices for the benefit of others had no measurable benefits in the natural world, that idea just miraculously arose from nothing, that would be one hell of a good argument for the existence of God.

      3. “Environmentalism today is a religion that pretends to be science.”

        Science on climate change is often political advocacy masquerading as scholarship. Science really isn’t about using academic authority to bully people into buying into a list of qualitative preferences.

        Why are polar bears more important than coal miners or my standard of living? There is no scientific answer to that question. It’s a personal question of ethics, culture, and, yeah, why not religion?

        Environmentalists would be much better off persuading people to willingly donate 10% of their incomes to fight climate change. Religions have been living off of that stuff for thousands of years, and when we’re talking about people making willing sacrifices for causes that are bigger than themselves, we’re getting awful close to talking about religion.

        1. The problem is not unique to environmentalism .

          All belief systems face the problem of zeal.

          The larger their demographic, the more cults they harbor

      4. “Athiesm is as much a religion as Christianity or Islam.”

        Bullshit.

        1. I think it really depends on one’s definition of “atheism”. If by atheism, one means that the existence of a creator isn’t necessary to explain the universe, and so I have no reason to believe in that creator, then I would tend to agree. (I don’t agree with the premise, but I do agree that this view doesn’t necessarily constitute religion).
          But, I think some of the “new atheists” (Dawkins, Dennett, etc.) go further than this. It no longer is simply an outcome of Occams Razor as applied to “creation”. It is the positive belief that there is no creator. New atheism contains the same characteristics of most religions: evangelism, charismatic prophets, belief in somethings which cannot be proven (that science will provide the answer to ALL things eventually; and that humans are intrinsically good, and therefore need no religious teachings to create a good society).

          1. I think you are right. You could divide atheism up into hard and soft atheism. The hard atheists tend to have some kind of chip on their shoulder about religion and seem to have more of a positive belief that there is not god or gods. For soft atheists it’s more “why would I believe in a god in the first place?”. And that’s pretty much where I’m at. I grew up going to church, but I can’t remember ever thinking that any of that stuff was actually real or taking it seriously.

            I do think that some people overplay the idea that atheism must be a religion because it’s impossible to absolutely prove the non-existence of gods. There are plenty of things that people disbelieve the existence of. But I don’t see a lot of people claiming that not believing in Santa Clause or Leprechauns is a religion.

            1. I am an atheist the same way that I am an a-unicornist.

            2. ‘Soft’ atheism could be said to be agnosticism, but perhaps you refer to something else. There are shades of gray in that area ‘to be sure’.

        2. “Athiesm is as much a religion as Christianity or Islam.”

          I think what a lot of people mean when they say that is that it also comes with an associated amount of uncertainty.

          I find that people who are absolutely sure there’s no god and people who are absolutely sure there is one should both be avoided–for the exact same reasons.

        3. Atheist is an n-word mystics hurl as an epithet at freethinkers. At UT Austin there was an atheist student organization at which 7 kids voted to put the nuclear symbol on the magazine. Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s son stopped by to give a pep talk, and the idiot spouted looter garble straight out of a Jack London tirade. Bummer. Only recently did I hear Madalyn disinherited a freethinker son who sounded more like Nathaniel Branden. The linguistic deformity is sooooo like the religious conservative penchant for hissing “liberal” (meaning communist) at progressives and prohibition repealers since 1932. The epithet says more about the hurler than the target.

      5. Until 1994, Democrats had a lock on Congressional power and the commies were happy with that. Since then, Republicans have increased their power, both at the Federal and at the State levels of government. Environmentalism is the tool used to thwart the evil capitalists controlling the Republican Party. If you can’t win at the ballot box, use the courts. Socialism – by any means necessary.

    3. The only problems I have with environmentalism is the aspects that are authoritarian and socialist.
      You have just put 2 contradicting terms together here. A socialist and authoritarians are two opposing views of how to have rules to live by.

      Care about whatever you want, and I bet that libertarianism and capitalism offer superior solutions–if only because people are less likely to resist things that aren’t being forced upon them. The reason people don’t spend hours of their lives arguing against string theory is because regardless of whether that theory pans out, no one is trying to use string theory to come after our liberty or our standard of living. If environmentalists weren’t coming after those things, hardly anyone would care about the scientific consensus on climate change either.

      Capitalism is already working. Just take Tesla making the most popular electric car in the world. With minmal support from the government, Tesla is beating the large luxury cars in their home countries. On the other hand Donald Trump is tring to make coal a winner again when it is destined to be a loser.

  7. So, environmentalists have a responsibility to get rid of those among them who would rather not save the planet if doing so required them to embrace libertarian and capitalist solutions, but we libertarian capitalists have a responsibility of our own–which is making it clear to people that there’s nothing inherently wrong with caring about baseball, big-eyed bunnies, fast cars, Chinese food, tattoos, the poor, or the environment.

    The only problem is using authoritarian and socialist means to promote those causes.

    1. which is making it clear to people that there’s nothing inherently wrong with caring about baseball, big-eyed bunnies, fast cars, Chinese food, tattoos, the poor, or the environment.

      Or black people. Or immigrants. Can we add those things to the list of stuff it’s not wrong to care about?

      1. See, you mistook what Ken meant by care about. Ken is talking about leaving people alone to pursue cars, food and private charity for the poor.

        You think care about means government get involved, spend lots of money and enslave the people you “care about”.

        Just be honest and say that you want to enslave black people and immigrants for their votes.

        1. I think care about means getting government LESS involved in the lives of black people and immigrants.

          1. How about government being almost completely less involved in the lives of black people and immigrants? How about government being less involved with everyone?

            1. Sorry… government being almost completely out of the lives of people?

              1. I would absolutely approve of getting the government completely OUT of the lives of immigrants and black people. Especially with respect to law enforcement. And laws. Lets have fewer of them.

      2. There’s nothing wrong with caring about things.

        The problem is authoritarianism and/or socialism.

        1. Ken makes the point with subtlety the brainwashee is conditioned to blink out. I wish you success in making the valid point felt and understood outside of the choir, but am not optimistic. Coercion with deadly force is deeply ingrained in the language–especially these past 50 years. It is YOUR taxes, not the government’s exaction… stuff like that that makes doublethink thrive and feed on itself.

      3. Talk to a progressive about race for more than a few minutes, and you’ll soon find that they think opposing authoritarianism and/or socialism is racist–if the problem they want to address features race as a component.

        Under those circumstances, it’s no wonder if others start to think that caring about racism is the problem–like they’ve come to believe that caring about the environment is the problem.

        If they want people to stop thinking that there are no solutions to problems like racism and the environment that aren’t authoritarian or socialist, then they should stop insisting that there aren’t any effective solutions to those problems that aren’t authoritarian or socialist.

        1. It behooves libertarians to put forth solutions to those problems that aren’t authoritarian and/or socialist, not to wait around for progressives to see the light and stop being authoritarians and socialists.

          1. Nobody can keep up with the sheer volume of non-existent problems Progressives obsess over. It is a fool’s errand to do so.

            1. Well put. You can spend hours explaining, say, evolution, to a mystic. Soon the conditioning kicks back in and they’re inspired to formulate a paradigm-shifting “gotcha” conundrum like “but… what about bees?”

    2. Donald Trump is using authoritarian means to destroy environmentalism. If capitalism does not fully embrace environmentalism, it risks destroying itself in the process. We depend on resources to keep our livings going. Total hostility to environmentalism is just cutting off their nose to spite their face.

  8. The argument that conservatives are using fear tactics against environmentalists is rich when you consider that the core argument from modern environmentalists is that unless we take radical action to stop global warming the world will die. In short the backlash against modern environmentalists is not about environmentalism itself, but about the approach to use the environment as an excuse to force more government power. No one cares if you want to take part in recycling initiatives, people growing organic vegetables, or if you drive a hybrid car. Most people would love to see renewable energy sources for a number of reasons. What pisses people off is when federal funds are funneled into politically connected companies and that “investment” doesn’t pay dividends or when the government uses “protected lands” as an excuse to annex land or fine people into oblivion.

  9. Communists and Socialists tried to downplay how many of them were here in the USA.

    Communists and Socialists try and downplay how many of them are in academia.

    Communists and Socialists try and downplay how many of them now worship the angry volcano now.

    I wonder why they are trying to downplay Communism and Socialism if it is so great?

  10. It doesn’t help that many environmental activists advocate socialist policies and adopt left-wing rhetoric about capitalism. At least half of the environmental movement appears to be composed of people are basically are just socialists using environmentalism to justify an anti-capitalist political agenda.
    Only on rare occasions do you run into serious environmentalist policy wonk types who are actually just interested in solving environmental problems such as cleaning the air and water and preventing or mitigating climate change. 90% of the time it’s all just one big rant about capitalism destroying the planet. Maybe that’s because idiots and loudmouths dominate the conversation, or maybe that’s proportional to their actual representation in the movement.

    1. Come to sustainability fairs. It will help you break the stereotype in your head.

    2. When Marx and Engels wrote about “Capitalism” in 1848 the subject was low-tariff Mercantilism exacerbated by the Acts of Navigation (bloody monopolistic interventions which Adam Smith endorsed). “Capitalism and Slavery” attempted to rivet this onto all non-communist worldviews, prompting Friedman to counter with “Capitalism and Freedom.” These Quixotic exercises in linguistic reformation have a poor success record. Most Americans still believe that “liberal” means communist–dictionaries, newsprint. Australia, Canada and the UK to the contrary notwithstanding. Libertarian, on the other hand, has valiantly resisted corruption in most places.

  11. “In the ’90s, she noted, some conservatives started calling environmentalists “watermelons”:”
    I first heard it back in the early 80’s when I was living with relatives in Germany for a semester. I was in Germany in the spring of ’83 when the Greens first were elected to the Bundestag. Many of their detractors were already calling them (in german) watermelons.

    If you look at the progression of the various Green Parties throughout Europe over the past 30plus years they have certainly taken on more collectivist/totalitarian positions and in some cases merge with far-left/communist parties.

    1. I thought I remembered it that way. I was in HS in the 80s, and I was a pretty strong Reagan supporter (all my classmates thought I was a fascist. What a joke!) And I remember it was in West Germany that the watermelon analogy was first used.

    2. Yes, I’m quite sure that “watermelon” predates the ’90s. A Google Books search for (watermelon AND environmentalist) turns up results in English at least as early as 1992.

      1. Yes. It was popularized when Reagan was irritating soviet-infiltrated governments in South America. The expression was simple, the analogy straightforward, and it was catchy–resisting all counterpropaganda efforts to unravel it.

  12. Watermelons–green on the outside, red on the inside.

    Environmentalism is perfect for them because it requires what communists want most–collective, mandatory action overseen by government.

    1. Well, it’s a convenient excuse for the government to exercise centralized control of the means of production.

    2. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring over the issue of DDT. Its intention (DDT) was to kill mosquitoes in the forests to keep it down for the towns. Silent Spring meant, no birds survived in the forests. Every one of them dead.This was from an unlimited marketing campaign of DDT to sell more and more. Its fair game to say to this extreme form of marketing, “You must be safe for people, animals, and the environment.” With libertarian thinking which is more important, the profits of the corporation, the people getting sick from it, the fullness of nature in our forests.

      I’m starting to think some libertarians would side with corporations and put their own welfare at risk for more corporate freedom.

  13. The Progressive Left has invested enormous amounts of energy into selling the idea that the “Red Scare” was an unfounded “Witch Hunt”. This is demonstrable bullshit. The American Communist Party was funded soviet intelligence, and served as a pool of possible communist agents. The “black list” “Victims” were mostly from a circle of die hard Stalinist jerks who may not have actually done much damage to American Capitalism, but probably richly deserved the drubbing they got. McCarthy was such a goddamned gift to the Progressive Left that they should burn candles in his memory; he did more to discredit anti-Communism than all the Progressive arguments combined.

    And while this was going on, the likes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Castro were racking up death tolls that make a certain Austrian Corporal look like a piker.

    The Phrase “Red Scare” needs to be retired.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. After the fall of the Soviet Union, files were released which showed the USSR was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Hollywood types.
      BTW: just as a poain’t of clarification, I believe it was the HUAC that really did the hearings on Hollywood. McCarthy I believe was mostly obsessed with communists in positions of the US government. (While he was a ham-fisted bull charging through the proverbial china shop, he was fundamentally correct).

      1. McCarthy was also a Senator and, thus, had zero affiliation with the HOUSE Un-american Activities Committee. Tragically, most of the people he named actually were Communists.

        1. In school, on videos, McCarthy seemed like the rest of them. I did buy a speech he recorded, on a CD with speeches by Bert Hoover, Lindbergh and other controversial characters, and thought it sounded better than Nixon or the “Firing Line” conservative. Looter ideologies, even when nurtured by conservatives, are anathema to a healthy economy.

    2. McCarthy was such a goddamned gift to the Progressive Left that they should burn candles in his memory; he did more to discredit anti-Communism than all the Progressive arguments combined.

      More accurately, the media’s portrayal of him did that.

      McCarthy acknowledged, from the get-go, that some of the accused would be innocent. He requested to have the names mentioned only in closed session, so it wouldn’t be public.

      The Democrats refused and demanded it be done in open session.

      He tried to minimize the damage. The Dems tried to maximize it.

      1. McCarthy acknowledged, from the get-go, that some of the accused would be innocent. He requested to have the names mentioned only in closed session, so it wouldn’t be public.

        Medieval inquisitors exercised that same sort of “compassion.”

        1. His request to not “name names” publicly before an investigation is what you’d want for an investigation.

  14. Remember when the Democrat Party was for the working man, even to the point of pricing the United States out of the labor market? I have no idea what they’re becoming now. Environmental regulation brings higher energy costs which disproportionately affect lower income families, beyond the jobs lost. I can’t figure out their angle with this.

    1. The Democrats were for the “Working Man” the way a glutton is ‘for’ lunch.

      1. Yes, I should have been clearer. They were for the working man’s vote.

    2. To be fair, Pittsburgh is a much more livable place WITHOUT steel mills.
      Offshoring the resource extraction and raw materials industries which are generally low paying and environmentally hazardous is a good bargain. We get cheap steel from China as an input to manufacturing and we don’t have deal with sludge and slag heaps. generally the more advanced manufacturing jobs pay more than the resource extraction ones.

  15. Great article Ron.

    Look, you’re doing political discourse a disservice if and when you automatically try to link your opponents to Nazis and Communists. At the end of the day you have to deal with each new political issue as it comes.

    In this case, however, the revealed preferences of climate activists, especially how they spend their energy, tell me (and many others) that their priority is not necessarily having a clean environment and an atmosphere that fosters a stable temperature.

    If they were, then there would be a lot less people talking about the politics of climate change and a lot more random people walking through neighborhoods offering to change incandescent floodlights to LEDs for free. Less millionaires flying from their beachhouse to a climate conference and more millionaires sponsoring ordinary people to switch from SUVs to Teslas. Less “the science is settled” and more “here’s a list of home improvements the science says will make you money and help the planet.”

    In short, stop trying to make people do less with less and help them do more with less.

    1. “Look, you’re doing political discourse a disservice if and when you automatically try to link your opponents to Nazis and Communists. At the end of the day you have to deal with each new political issue as it comes.”

      Bullshit. The drive of the Progressive Left is fundamentally authoritarian. Making it clear that they have no more moral authority than Stalin or The Austrian Who Must Not Be Named is an essential part of debunking their narrative.

    2. “here’s a list of home improvements the science says will make you money and help the planet.”

      People have stopped believing them after low flow toilets, CAFE standards, and lightbulbs that require toxic handling for disposal.

      1. There is a picture behind all the things you just mentioned. Saving resources or reducing pollution. How would yyou do things better.

  16. Whatever the origins of the modern green movement, it is now clearly a money-making machine. Hence, why Exxon-Mobil and other huge corps are on board with the Paris agreement. The lefties are tolerating this for now, but their end game involves the elimination of our standard of living. For example, they are not happy about fracking even though it is responsible for most US CO2 reductions to date. Natural gas is merely a “bridge fuel” for them until we get to their impossible goal of ZERO emissions. Then, and only then, will they do their happy Smurf dance on our dead bodies.

  17. Did Conservatives Replace a ‘Red Scare’ with a ‘Green Scare’?

    Short answer:

    No.

    1. your right conservatives didn’t it was communist who took over the green movement. calling something what it is is never wrong

      1. I know of no communists in the environmental movement.

  18. I don’t understand the capitalism and profit destroys the environment thing. Communists and socialists with total control over their territory have arguably done far more damage to the environment than evil capitalists.

    1. Communists and socialists with total control over their territory have demonstrably done far more damage to the environment than evil capitalists.

      Fixed it for you.

  19. Green communism is just the latest wave of Marxist ideology.

    – Marx anticipated an almost spontaneous workers revolution to achieve universal proletarian dignity and prosperity. It didn’t work out that way.
    – Lenin recognized the need for the vanguard of the proletariat to lead the revolution to achieve universal proletarian dignity and prosperity. It didn’t work out that way.
    – The Frankfurt School recognized that the proletariat had to be re-educated out of their false consciousness to understand the need for revolution to achieve universal proletarian dignity and prosperity. It didn’t work out that way.
    – Watermelons understand that near-universal poverty inherently attends socialism. They understand that poverty is not a bug, but a feature. With enough propaganda, the proletariat learn to find its dignity in the poverty they suffer for the good of Gaia.

  20. Greenpeace did a guide for environmentally-unfriendly organizations that I came across over 20 years ago. It included the Pacific Legal Foundation because that organization pushed free-market environmentalism. This was a a good indication that top-down government control was at least as important to them as the environment itself.

  21. I’m not sure how helpful it is to make this comparison. The “red scare” and anti-Communism was based on a lot of disinformation. Sympathies with Socialism were never tantamount to being a full-fledged supporter of Communism. That warped inference is what gets libertarians confused about economics. We live in a mixed economy and we always will and yet they still preach about “free” markets. Why? because they buy into dichotomous thinking.

    And so now we have environmentalists vs conservatives. Why? There is nothing inherently anti-conservative or anti-capitalist in caring about the environment. Many people in the spectrum make this mistake, Naomi Klein included. Republicans are equally guilty of taking every environmental concern and making it out to be some kind of anti-freedom plot when in reality, it really is about trying to protect our habitat. Thinking the “free” market is going to always going to protect our habitat is just plain lazy. In many cases there will have to be careful attention to how to achieve things through a mixed economy. Sometimes a free-market approach will work but sometimes the guiding hand of the government will be needed. Why keep muddying things up with these false analogies that just seek to promote more cultural wars?

    1. OK. Show me ONE “environmentalist solution” that does not start with the government ordering men to advance with loaded guns upon the citizenry and begin barking out orders.

      1. No environmentalism requires a gun.

  22. I recall the communist infiltration of the psychedelic movement. Heinlein and Rand were everywhere hotly debated and the commies made themselves useful running underground railroads for draft dodgers ‘n such. Also, since everything else the conservatives said was a lie, all but the Weathermen and Symbionese whatchamacallit got some benefit of the doubt. New Left was definitely a thing in 1971 and by 1974–aided by revulsion with Nixon’s prohibitionist fascism, had invaded and saturated the campus. Everywhere there were genuine communist orators indistinguishable from their econazi spinoffs, and arguing with them was as productive as arguing with Holy Rollers. By 1980 Virginia Postrel, John Hospers and volunteers had set up a Libertarian Defense Caucus which offset/reversed much looter infiltration of the LP. It was fun.

  23. Prior to Islam stealing the show, most terrorism in the US was either proto-Black-Bloc communists or ecofreaks. This is not new. Green was always Red.

  24. What color is fascism? I think she confused the envirocommies with the envirofascists. The envirocommies don’t actually exist. There is not one communist country that embraces environmentalism (it should be apparent that when no one owns anything there is nothing to complain about from pollution or destruction of wilderness-tragedy of the commons becomes the expected condition). The worst environmental standards in the world are among communist countries (most I visited still dump raw sewage and untreated industrial waste). Yet envirofascisim as well as enviroracism is clearly present in the expectations and regulatory demands of major environmental groups. They are not communists. They are fascists, expecting private owners to comply with the rulers of the state.

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