Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The "Story of Stuff" is the Stuff of Evil

3 Ring Binder (HT: Gus Van Horn) has an excellent post regarding an environmentalist propaganda film, "Story of Stuff", that is now being shown to grade schoolers. Quoting the post:

The New York Times reports "Story of Stuff" is the next big thing in environmentalist propaganda in the classroom. Of course, they don't report it that way; the Times actually calls it "cheerful" as its simple drawings and friendly presenter are accessible to even the very young. I don't think that the shaking, desolate line-drawn individuals standing on their little piece of destroyed earth – who have no alternative but to work in nasty factories and poison their own babies through their toxic breast milk because you had to have an iPod – is "cheerful" even if the presenter refers to it in scare quotes as the "beauty” of the system.
This film is purely evil in every sense of the word. It is predicated on a willful evasion of the most basic facts of reality and perhaps, more disturbingly, appears designed to appeal to young children who do not have the power to conceptually grasp the material presented, i.e., it is purposefully designed to scare children into adopting the environmentalist religion's anti-human, anti-freedom, anti-technology credo.

A proper discussion of the ideas presented in this film would include advanced concepts and theories in the physical sciences, basic philosophy, ethics, politics, economics, finance, law, and history. To assume such a discussion is appropriate for young children presumes that the material can be inculcated at a pre-conceptual level, i.e., by emotion, which is exactly the purpose of the propaganda. In other words, the belief that discussion of these topics is appropriate implies that these ideas have the same epistemological status as admonitions to not get in cars with strangers or drink poison, i.e., it implies that the ideas presented in the film are unquestionably true.

The fact that the film is factually inaccurate, philosophically false, and contains ideas beyond the conceptual level of children are grounds enough to prohibit this film in public schools. But, there is an even deeper reason why it should be prohibited. This film should be banned from public schools on the same grounds that any religious material is prohibited in government run schools. Just as intelligent design and creationism have properly been prohibited in schools on the grounds that teaching unscientific ideas would constitute a state sanctioned promotion of religion in violation of the First Amendment, this film and all environmentalist propaganda should also be prohibited.

As this film demonstrates and as I have argued in dozens of past posts, environmentalism is indeed a religion, i.e., it has all the essential characteristics of any modern day religious movement [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. The essential distinguishing attribute of religion is belief in the absence of evidence which perfectly characterizes the environmental movement. The hysterical, apocalyptic propaganda of the environmentalists is groundless [1, 2] and not only ignores but actively flouts the basic facts of reality such as the fact that there are more human beings living longer than ever before, that there can be no shortage of "natural resources" as long as there are no price controls on commodities, and their policies to restrict growth, technology, and freedom lead to a negation of human life - not its furtherance.

To further see the religious nature of environmentalism, consider that environmentalists worship a deity, "Mother Earth", or "Gaia" and regard it as an intrinsic value. That is, this movement holds that the earth is valuable apart from human life and must be preserved for its own sake. In other words, the essence of this movement, their rhetoric notwithstanding, is not to save the earth for man but from man as all of their actual actions prove unequivocally. This doctrine has profound consequences.

Man, by his nature, must use the earth to survive, i.e., he must reshape the earth to build fires, build homes, computers, automobiles, antibiotics, etc. However, if the earth is deified and held to be intrinsically valuable, any impingement upon nature must be regarded as inherently destructive of the true "value", i.e., earth and therefore evil. Therefore, logically, the environmentalist must view man, "the builder", as an innately evil creature. This fact could be likened to an environmentalist version of the concept of Original Sin, the view upheld by Christians that man by his nature is sinful. In this context, it is man's "carbon footprint" which serves as his Original Sin. It is therefore not surprising that famous environmentalists have called for the widespread death of human beings and that they routinely restrict human progress in favor of snails, mosquitoes, and swamps. Consider the following
quote by biologist David Graber:

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet....[The ecosystem has] intrinsic value, more value to me than another human body or a billion of them....Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989, p. 9)
In a speech which I have quoted before, noted author Michael Chrichton eloquently states:

"Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe."

..."With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets. One of the defining features of religion is that your beliefs are not troubled by facts, because they have nothing to do with facts."

Environmentalism relies on pseudo-science [1, 2,] and upholds the the flawed concept of "intrinsic" value, but there is one more salient feature of the environmentalist ideology which is its real lifeblood - the morality of altruism. Just as modern religion calls for self-sacrifice and self-abnegation in service to God, the environmentalist calls for self-sacrifice to its God - the earth. In other words, the environmentalist appropriates the essential ingredient of modern religious ethics but applies it in an allegedly secular framework - the pseudo-scientific framework of the ecologists.

We are admonished to give up a life of mere "consumerism" in service to a higher ideal. Just as priests embody the Catholic Church's virtue of monastic asceticism and the saintly ideals of sacrifice, abstinence, and service to others, the environmentalist calls on each of us "to do his part", to conserve, recycle, restrict, downsize, and simplify (including not eating meat, not sending Valentine's Day bouquets, not using sex toys with chemical plasticizers and not charging I-pods lest you kill polar bears). Just as modern religions warn their adherents of the consequences of their sins on Judgment Day or hold out the ideal of a heavenly afterlife replete with angels and virgins - the environmentalist warns of the consequences of our actions if we do not heed the call to sacrifice; consequences that include boiling to death from a global warming induced hell on earth, increasing natural disasters, and even increased terrorism [1,2] and suicide - all while holding out the supernatural possibility of a Disney-like harmony with nature where man somehow exists and prospers without eating animals or moving a speck of dirt. Quoting Dr. George Reisman:

It is customary for old-fashioned religion to threaten those whose way of life is not to its satisfaction, with the prospect of hell in the afterlife. Substitute for the afterlife, life on earth in centuries to come, and it is possible to see that environmentalism and the rest of the left are now doing essentially the same thing. They hate the American way of life because of its comfort and luxury, which they contemptuously dismiss as “conspicuous consumption.” And to frighten people into abandoning it, they are threatening them with a global-warming version of hell.

Hell is the environmentalists’ ultimate threat... literally to roast and boil the earth.

The effect of this philosophy on the young will be devastating. As I argued previously [1,2]:

Students are being thoroughly immersed in environmentalist propaganda from a young age...

...Just as those indoctrinated into a cult, a religion, or any philosophy which holds that man is evil and that the standard of morality is sacrifice, the budding environmentalist will be racked with guilt, uncertainty, and fear.

Just as Catholics are famous for the adult psychological consequences of guilt instilled at an early age, now environmentalist children will suffer the same fate - for the same essential reason. In other words, the Catholic concept of Original Sin holds that man is a sinner by nature which requires life to be spent in perpetual self-punishment (penance) to atone for this wrong doing. Similarly, as cited above, the environmentalist views man's nature as essentially evil which must lead to the same type of psychological effect

Perhaps, rather than asking why this film is essentially religious, a better question is in what sense is this film scientific and in what sense does it have any value whatsoever? It is, in fact, riddled with fallacies and outright contradictions and betrays a complete and utter ignorance of the physical sciences and virtually all of the humanities. [UPDATE: per Harold, see this thorough critique posted at YouTube]

For example, at one point the narrator of the film asserts:

One third of the planet's natural resource space have been consumed - gone - we are cutting and mining and hauling and trashing the place so fast that we're undermining the planets very ability for people to live here
Even her on-screen graphic literally shows a giant pie slice taken out of the earth as if it has vanished. But, how is that physically possible? As I pointed out in a past post (which should have been regarded as comical), matter can not be created or destroyed. This implies, contrary to the filmmakers claims, that the earth can not just vanish. When we dig up aluminum and use it to make a can, the aluminum does not disappear from existence. It's location changes but it does not get destroyed. For example, instead of being in the ground, the can is now in my refrigerator. In fact, to concretize this point, in the post I proposed that we use the aluminum ore mines as garbage dumps which should assuage the environmentalists as they can pretend that nothing happened to the precious ore.

And how exactly is our usage of resources undermining "the planets very ability for people to live here"? Man has been producing and using resources for some time now and the population has grown enormously yet the prices of basic commodities have not risen in real terms and in fact have decreased in many cases. This is an obvious contradiction of her claim. In other words, man's ingenuity and the profit motive see to it that there is never a shortage of anything. If prices rise then the potential for profit increases and it stimulates people to create new methods to extract resources or to find alternatives. If she were right, wouldn't we be running out of "stuff"? Apparently, not because at the end of the film she warns us about the evil corporations plot to brainwash us into buying more goods. But I thought everything was disappearing....

Again, keep in mind, a child would regard this claim as positively frightening. Unable to grasp the above argument, they might actually think that the earth is vanishing beneath them which I imagine could be enough to cause mental distress if not mental illness. (If you think I'm exaggerating see my post
Climate Change Delusion which discussed a 17 year old psychiatric patient in Melbourne who was refusing to drink water because he was convinced that if he drank water, millions would die from drought caused by climate change - a case doctors deemed to be the first known instance of "climate change delusion". I discussed this case and the relationship of psychosis, religion, and environmentalism again here.)

Elsewhere, she claims that "in her area, less than 4% of the forests are left"and that "40% of the waterway have become undrinkable". What exactly does this mean and in what context? "4% of the forests are left" as compared to when and even if that were true, so what? Does she live in an area that contains farms or maybe in Malibu that has been burned to the ground? She states this as if it is prima facie terrifying. First, someone really should tell the lumber market that wood is vanishing since the real price of wood hasn't changed much lately. But, seriously, is anyone really worried there is not enough forest in the United States? If there were a real shortage of trees, the price of wood would skyrocket and PEOPLE WOULD PLANT MORE OF THEM. In fact, I'm pretty sure wood is a "renewable resource".

And what about the "water" argument? Is there a shortage of water? Last time I was at the grocery store, the shelves were stocked with water, soft drinks, teas, and juices, and in fact, I just turned on my faucet and it came out. I'm shocked. Last I heard, we have the technology to clean and purify it (or desalinate it if we use salt water). Again, does water vanish when it goes down the drain? No, I think it goes back into the ground or to a water treatment facility. Also, water has been known to evaporate but then something called rain drops it back on us. Is there any doubt, that as a result of capitalism and the so-called evil "corporations" that more clean water is available to a larger mass of people that at any time in mankind's history? (Ironically, in
this post, I cited environmentalist concerns over water bottles to which they surprisingly seem opposed - but doesn't that imply that we have a lot of water...can anyone seriously argue these people care about people?!)

Consider another typical argument often made by environmentalists - she says that

it's not just that we are using too much stuff but we are using more than our share. We have 5% of the world's population but using 30% of the world's resources and producing 30% of the waste if everybody consumed at U.S. rates we would need 3 to 5 planets. [emphasis mine]
This argument is based on a total evasion of the concept of consumption. In a free market, one can not "consume" without first "producing". In other words, if you go into a restaurant and say "OK, I'm here to consume" do you think they will just give you food for free? Of course, your "demand" is equal to your "supply" meaning that one must first produce something of value and then offer to exchange that value for something else of equal value - a principle known in economics as Say's Law. To say that Americans "consume 30% of the world's resources" is to say that Americans produce 30% of the worlds wealth. Yet, she equates the ratio of the population of America to the population of the world (5%) with "consumption" as if there is some necessary identity between the two.

To see this more clearly, let's say you lived on a desert island with a bunch of people. Let's say that a couple of guys work really hard cutting down trees, planting crops, domesticating livestock, making tools, etc. while the other people just plant a few bananas and make some beads. Now, the guys that produce a lot have a lot to offer and so they would likely trade with one another meaning that one guy might trade his stock of wood for some cattle while the other less productive people would trade one of their beads or bananas for a smaller portion of the wood. Is this not completely fair? Yet, the environmentalist would say "but the 2 guys are only a small percent of the overall population and yet they are 'consuming' a large portion of the 'resources' and creating all the waste." When put in this light, one can see that this is a ridiculous argument that evades the essential nature of production and its relationship to consumption. One must produce value in order to consume. The more one produces then the more one can consume.

This particular environmentalist argument combines a flawed understanding of basic economics with an egalitarian theory of "social justice" once again derived from their religious ethical view of morality. First, they imply that "resources" are finite which simply exist rather than understanding that goods must be produced. In essence, they regard wealth as a big pie to be sliced up amongst the population in such a way that each person gets his "fair" share of the pie which evidently is equal to his ratio of the population. Who determines this and why? They don't say. In fact, this whole theory that greater population will require "3 to 5 more planets" harkens back to
Malthus, who notoriously predicted that we were running out of food - in 1798!

Of course, it should be obvious that the only real threat to the actual supply of timber, water, and any other essential product are the environmentalists themselves who use government coercion to usurp the right to trade and own property, stop progress, and restrict technological advancement. Consider that technology in a capitalist society has resulted in less land usage to produce a greater amount of food. Consider that technology allows us to air condition or heat our homes which can protect us from "climate change". Technology allows us to MOVE if conditions change and to relatively cheaply and easily construct new homes anywhere including within deserts and on mountains and someday on other planets. Consider that technology results in life saving medicines that lead to longer, happier lives.

If environmentalists were truly concerned with mankind's happiness, wouldn't they study the system that has brought about the greatest prosperity, longevity, and human happiness in mankind's history? Wouldn't they regard capitalism and the principle of individual rights upon which it is based as a bastion of civilization and human happiness? If they were truly concerned about human life, wouldn't they uphold this system and seek to advance it everywhere on earth so that more could enjoy its benefits? If they were truly concerned with alternative energy or "green" technologies wouldn't they become engineers or scientists and seek capital from investors to pursue research and development of products which they could trade on a free market if anyone wanted them?

Don't be fooled - the environmentalists are concerned about human beings - but it is not our happiness that concerns them.

[UPDATE: per Harold, see this thorough
critique posted at YouTube]

7 comments:

Harold said...

Good article. You might be interested to learn that in addition to this post, there's some guy who's debunking this film.

He's a libertarian so, you know, he doesn't get into or (know about) the philosophical origins and implications but it's still pretty good.

Doug Reich said...

Thanks Harold. I will check it out and link my post there.

Doug Reich said...

Harold, technical question - how did you get the hyperlink under the word "debunking" in the comment box? Did you use HTML?

Nielsd said...

You say, "technology results in life saving medicines that lead to longer, happier lives."

Longer I'll grant you, but how do you know they aren't just prolonging the misery? Seems to me people are very good at finding ways to feel unhappy, and this environmentalist-guilt thing is just the latest.

Defining happiness is tricky enough, so I don't see how you could measure it.

Harold said...

"Harold, technical question - how did you get the hyperlink under the word "debunking" in the comment box? Did you use HTML?"
Yes, I used html code a href.

"Longer I'll grant you, but how do you know they aren't just prolonging the misery? Seems to me people are very good at finding ways to feel unhappy, and this environmentalist-guilt thing is just the latest."
Of course they are. When one accepts altruism as an ethical standard, guilt is sure to follow.

Doug Reich said...

Nielsd,

Well, one precondition of happiness is being alive so to that extent, a life saving medicine helps...

Ron Lyons said...

From the post on the "Story of Stuff" environmentalism is a "ism" that is worst menace than communism.

At least the Bolsheviks allowed one to live if they believed in the communist dogma. If some one believes environmental dogma what is to stop them from sabotaging any industrial system.

As a quick example, the "Earth First" movement radicals pounded nails into trees they knew were to be harvested with chain saws thus endangering the lives of loggers.