Following the first Earth Day in 1970, the radical environmental movement supplanted the conservationism that stretched back to the progressive policies of Theodore Roosevelt. The deep strategy of this new movement became an anti-technology, anti-capitalist redistributionism, which its leaders viewed as nature’s (and humanity’s) only hope. These same leaders turned a blind eye to the enormous environmental degradation that, under cover of the Iron Curtain, had descended like a plague upon much of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Similarly, radical environmentalists in more recent times have had little, if anything, to say about the fact that air and water pollution levels in Communist China today dwarf those of the United States.
This double standard is rooted in the fact that radical environmentalists typically view free-market capitalism as an economic system that is inherently destructive of the natural world. In adopting this view, they follow the lead of Karl Marx himself, who said that “all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil.”
While presenting themselves as noble defenders of animals, plants, air, and water across the globe, radical environmentalists routinely engage in alarmist rhetoric that depicts the United States (and its capitalist economic structure) as the world’s leading environmental villain. They warn incessantly that the earth’s environment is on the verge of catastrophe, and that capitalist, industrialized nations — most prominently the U.S. — are mostly to blame. The solution that modern-day environmentalists invariably propose is an expansive government that gains ever-greater control over the reins of the nation’s economy. This anti-capitalist, pro-socialist orientation is made plain in the words of many of the environmental movement’s leading radicals themselves. Some examples:
- The late Peter Berle, a past president of the National Audubon Society, said: “We reject the idea of private property.”
- Helen Caldicott, a former leading member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says: “Free enterprise really means rich people get richer. They have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process…. Capitalism is destroying the earth.”
- The late Maurice Strong, primary designer of the 1992 Earth Summit, asked, “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
- Eco-socialist Barry Commoner writes that “capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy.”
- Environmentalist/anarchist Judi Bari, the former principal organizer of Earth First!, said in 1992: “I think if we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have an ecologically sound society under socialism. I don’t think it is possible under capitalism.”
- John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s “Science Czar,” co-authored a 1973 book with biology professor Paul Ehrlich that said: “[Economists] must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable distribution of wealth than in the present one. Redistribution of wealth both within and among nations is absolutely essential if a decent life is to be provided for every human being.”
- Carol Browner, President Obama’s “Energy and Environment Czar,” formerly served as a “commissioner” of the Socialist International, whose “organizing document” cites capitalism as the cause of “devastating crises,” “mass unemployment,” “imperialist expansion,” and “colonial exploitation” worldwide.
- Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, in 2002 was a signatory to a document that blamed globalization and capitalism for “the uneven distribution of … economic gains among and within countries, the growing pressure on natural resources, and increasing pollution.”
- Earth Day Network founder Denis Hayes said in 2002: “Under communism, prices were not allowed to reflect economic reality. Under capitalism, prices don’t reflect ecological reality. In the long run, the capitalist flaw — if uncorrected — may prove to be the more catastrophic.”
- Randall Hayes, former president of the Rainforest Action Network, describes capitalism as “an absurd economic system [that is] rapidly destroying nature.” “The industrial age of economic globalization could also be called the age of extinction,” he adds. In 2012 Hayes collaborated with environmentalist Brent Blackwelder and Center for Food Safety executive director Andrew Kimbrell to establish Foundation Earth, a think tank aiming to help cultivate “an earth-centered economy” by means of “economic system changes and transformation.”
- John Beale, a former top-ranking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official in the Obama administration, worked on a “green economics” project to “modify the DNA of the capitalist system.”
- The late David Brower, who founded Friends of the Earth, said: “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”
- Professor John Bellamy Foster in 2011 blamed the “global production system” of capitalism for “climate change,” “species extinction,” “ocean acidification,” “ozone depletion,” and the “destruction” of “the planetary environment.” Calling for “a radical transformation” of the capitalist system as the only possible way to “turn things around,” Foster advocated a movement “away from a system directed at profits, production, and accumulation, i.e., economic growth, and toward a sustainable steady-state economy.” In sum, “it would require democratic ecological and social planning” that “coincides with the classical objectives of socialism.”
- Foster also says that “ecological degradation, like imperialism, is as basic to capitalism as the pursuit of profits itself.”
- Meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted in August 2018: “The world’s top scientists just gave rigorous backing to systematically dismantle capitalism as a key requirement to maintaining civilization and a habitable planet.”
- Author and social activist Naomi Klein describes “unfettered capitalism” as a “fundamentalist” economic system of “free-market absolutism” whose devotees favor “the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations, and skeletal social spending.”
- Research & Degrowth (R&D), an academic association dedicated to promoting the concept of “sustainable degrowth,” says that capitalism’s “ever-expanding financial and monetary sphere is related to our ever-expanding exploitation of resources and humans.” The group’s anti-capitalist catechism also advocates strict “limits to private property” while championing “communal property rights” over all manner of commodities.
- The Club For Degrowth (CFD) is an anti-capitalist group that seeks to raise public “awareness” about the degree to which the United States and other Western industrialized nations have become “overdeveloped” as a result of their “perpetual pursuit of growth,” their unbridled “consumerism,” and their “environmentally, socially and culturally destructive” predilection for “over-accumulation.” CFD works to promote public policies and cultural attitudes that could help Americans “transition to an economic system in which being sustainable and responsible to future generations is the norm.”
- Christiana Figueres, head of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change, cheered President Obama’s 2015 agreement with China to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and to give the U.N.’s climate fund a $3 billion boost. She told reporters in February 2015: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for the, at least, 150 years, since the industrial revolution. That will not happen overnight…. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation.”
- Earth First! co-founder David Foreman says, “We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects. We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers, and return to wilderness millions of acres of presently settled land.”
- Michael Oppenheimer, former chief scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, says: “The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.”
- Biologist Paul Ehrlich says: “A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.”
- In an opinion piece published by The New York Times in November 2017, Benjamin Y. Fong, a faculty fellow at Arizona State University, wrote: “The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen…. It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault.”
Environmentalism: Return to Eden, or Ticket to Hell?
By Kathleen Marquardt
March 29, 1998
Eco-Socialism Threat to Liberty Around the World
By Fred L. Smith, Jr.
The Bankruptcy of Collectivist Environmental Policy
By Fred L. Smith Jr.
Why Do Environmentalists Hate Capitalism?
By Ed Dolan
April 29, 2011
130 Environmental Groups Call For An End To Capitalism
By Michael Bastasch
July 23, 2014
Got Environmental Problems? Think Government
By Ronald Bailey
July 20, 2010
SOCIALISM AND POLLUTION:
Environmental Problems under Socialism
By Peter J. Hill
Why Socialism Causes Pollution
By Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Socialism Is Bad for the Environment
By The Poverty & Environment Research Center
May 17, 2019
There Is Nothing Green about Socialism
By The Foundation for Economic Education
December 8, 2017
Has Communism’s Collapse Greened Eastern Europe’s Polluted Cities?
By Matthew E. Kahn
June 8, 2002
Communism and the Environment
By Michael Fumento
February 26, 1992
Free Market Environmentalism
By Terry Anderson and Donald Leal