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The discussion group is over now because we've completed the series, which was created by the Northwest Earth Institute. They offer other discussion courses too, but the globalization course is new and this was either the first time (or one of the first times) a group has gone through it. Due to its newness, they're eager for feedback from participants, which I will definitely provide to them… and to y'all as well. :)
The overall tenor of the discussions was that the people present were extremely open to suggestion. I only met one person there (and only in one meeting) who had any economics background at all. The reading material was, true to its own announcement, heavily biased. In every meeting I pointed out facts and arguments that I thought obviously relevant but were totally overlooked in the reading material. Ironically, one of the discussion topics was media bias — and I take some pride in the fact that one of the attendees said he's become more aware of the bias in all his sources of information, including the discussion group reading material itself!
I confirmed, happily, one of my suspicions — popular environmentalism has no serious intellectual foundations. No one reading those articles with a focused, critical mind would find them convincing. They're the sort of fluff pieces that can do nothing more than stir up the emotions of the already-converted: they merely preach to the choir. They do not argue the important issues, they presume them, and actually seem unaware that there are opposing points of view. (Most of the authors came across as so ignorant that I do not accuse them of dishonesty.)
I consider myself immune from environmentalist nonsense because I reject its fundamental premise — that nature has intrinsic value — at a philosophical level. I reject it root and branch (pun intended) because it is fundamentally arbitrary: there is no way to know which things have intrinsic value and how much they have. On those grounds, disagreements between people are irreconcilable in principle.
I adopt a position of objective values based upon the philosophically sound and scientifically testable standard of human life. (I think I would enjoy writing about this subject in much more detail at a future time.) When I'm in a flippant mood I'll describe myself as an anti-environmentalist, but it's more accurate to say I'm anti-environmentalism. I do not hate the environment or go around polluting streams in my spare time — after all, a clean environment is valuable from a human life perspective — but I do hate the people who advocate the destruction of industrial civilization in order to protect the environment.
Capitalism has dramatically improved the environment — the environment that's relevant to human life, where people actually live, i.e., our homes and workplaces. Cities are cleaner too: We no longer dispose of trash and sewage (including from horses) in the street, almost everyone has indoor plumbing instead of getting water from a well, and almost nobody heats their homes directly with wood or coal anymore, which produced lots of waste ash.
Environmentalism's concern isn't about human well-being, but about preventing the development of areas that might be used to improve human well-being — environmentalism is opposed to human well-being. For example, they staunchly oppose using oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the fact that only 2000 acres of ANWR would be developed out of 19 million total acres. The environmentalist position is that ANWR should be totally closed to development forever, that this land should never be used to improve the lives of humans. They would surely oppose developing a beautiful area so that people can enjoy it. (Only a few thousand people visit ANWR as tourists each year, do you suppose environmentalists would be happy if this number increased 100-fold?)
Environmentalism is renunciation. It is nihilism. It is poison. Yet the earth is a giant ball of natural resources, and we ought to be proud every time we use those resources to improve human life.