Reason, Liberty, & Culture

Lewis Loflin view Norton Va.
Webmaster Homepage

Ominous Parallels Between Environmentalism and Collectivism

by Erich Veyhl

Contrary to the predictable hysterical reactions from the environmentalist left, I applaud Jon Reisman and Keep Maine Free for publicly identifying the political philosophy of the environmentalist agenda for massive government land acquisition as neo-communist.

As Reisman puts it, what else do you call the political system in which the government, supposedly on behalf of the "people," owns most of the land and the productive resources? Do environmentalists prefer to be identified as neo-feudalists - which pertains more narrowly to groups like the Rockefeller-funded and financed Maine Coast Heritage Trust?

Environmentalists as Socialists

Many environmentalist leaders today began their activism in the socialist New Left on university campuses beginning in the 1960s.

They hate private industry and capitalism in general. They oppose private property and seek government control over every aspect of the economy, as is shown in their everyday advocacy.

Contemporary environmentalism is in fact a collectivist, anti-private property movement that long ago left the common-sense concern most Americans have with avoiding harmful pollution to individuals and their property, which used to be the meaning of protecting the "environment."

Environmentalism today means government controlling the environment - meaning literally controlling all of our surroundings-which in turn necessarily entails government control over people.

Both the environmentalist movement and Marxism have their roots in pre-20th century German irrationalist holistic philosophy. The environmentalist movement, called the ecology movement in the 1970s, began - whether contemporary activists realize it or not - over a century ago with the followers of German holistic philosopher/biologist Ernst Haeckel, who coined the term Oekologie [ecology] in the 1860s.

The early ecology movement was characterized by its conceptual subordination of the individual to the "ecological" whole in biology, paranoia over human interference with the earth, a philosophically abusive misuse of science as the handmaiden of its ideology, a romanticized notion of human survival under primitive "natural" conditions, and a political agenda calling for rule by a "scientific" elite representing the ecologists' value system.

Their "back to the earth" philosophy became a key platform in the National Socialist Party (Nazis). It is not an accident that the Green Party first flourished in Germany and Europe before being imported here.

In practice there are only two main kinds of socialism, neither of which permits individual freedom and private property: communism, in which the state owns the property, and fascism, in which private property is nominally recognized but is in fact controlled by the state.

The environmentalist movement has favored both approaches - as we see in Maine every day - but the latest calls for massive government ownership of land across rural Maine clearly represent the former.


Contemporary environmentalism and historical Marxism are not, however, identical. They share a common collectivist political premise of government control over individuals, but a major distinction between them is that the Marxists at least claimed to be in favor of people, whereas today's environmentalists want to sacrifice people to nature.

Marxist collectivism did not in fact promote the welfare of real people because its collectivism demanded that individuals be sacrificed to an abstraction called "the people"- in denying the freedom and self-interest of actual individuals it necessarily failed economically.

Contemporary environmentalists have dropped the pretense and now openly oppose nearly any kind of economic development in the name of protecting nature from alterations by man. The collective to which we are to be sacrificed now consists of trees, rocks and species of insects.

Environmentalism has for decades been destroying industry and rural communities in the western states where the government owns most of the land.

In recent years environmentalists, becoming ever more extreme, are opposing all timber cutting in national forests and have tried to regulate private forestry and ranching out of existence, either directly or in the name of a romanticized and totally impractical and uneconomical utopian vision.

They are shutting down mining and hydro-power. In Maine, Bowater has spent over $11 million defending its hydro-electric system against environmentalists and their allies in the federal agencies trying to shut them down (and we wonder why the timber companies find business in Maine to be uneconomical).

Environmentalists have tried to control fishing out of existence beyond a subsistence level, including their attempts to ban lobstering - first on behalf of lobsters' rights, then through an invented connection to rare whales which would have put the Maine lobster industry out of business.

No one needs to be reminded any more that environmentalists are pursuing and coercively imposing all of this through federal regulations, the courts (such as the Endangered Species Act), and lobbying for ever-expanding new environmental laws at all levels of government.

As reported in the DCP article on Keep Maine Free, one of the most recent environmentalist drives targeting private property - with Maine as a prime target - is for a new federal "Trust Fund" in the form of legislation granting environmentalists a permanent off-budget entitlement for federally funded land acquisition-transferring private property into government ownership - starting at $1 billion per year and immune from any reductions by the annual Congressional appropriation process.

This expensive, incrementalist land nationalization scheme is backed by the Clinton-Gore administration and has growing support in a Congress being whipped along by environmentalist pressure groups.

Conspiracy vs. Ideas

Environmentalists, including two letter writers to the DCP last week, evade the principles raised by Reisman and are predictably attacking him and Keep Maine Free with accusations of "conspiracy theories," "sowing distrust" and "paranoia."

A pompous-sounding retired Colgate sociology professor ridicules it as a "Red Scare." A Nature Conservancy spokesman haughtily tells us that "such characterizations may not be useful in a public debate." Letter writer James Frey tells us to find "common ground" - with those who would grind our rights into the ground as they turn our private property into common ground.

Frey tells us we should think of environmentalists as "Neighbor or Friend," and has the effrontery to tell us that it is up to property owners to "demonstrate with logic how the private property ownership will do a better job for the people of Maine" - as if we have to start over from scratch to justify our individual rights every time a collectivist demands the opposite without regard to any knowledge of history, morality or the American form of government.

If a conspiracy is a secret collaboration between two or more individuals to deprive an individual of his civil rights, surely environmentalists have qualified through such actions as their attempts in recent years to grab control over other people's property through the National Park Service and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, to name two local instances in Washington County alone.

But no one has accused environmentalists of a "conspiracy" on the level of Trotskyites secretly planning a murderous Red coup in Augusta, as the environmentalists' hysterical reaction against Keep Maine Free would have us believe.

The trouble with conspiracy theories of such sweeping scope, in any at least semi-free society, is that they vastly overrate the capacity - if not always the motives-of the alleged perpetrators.

No one has suggested anything like this. (Environmentalists do, however, openly permeate state and federal agencies, where they routinely abuse the public trust by using their positions to pursue their own political agendas.)

Reisman's point was that the environmentalist land grab agenda in Maine incorporates fundamental principles that are known to be wrong, and that following them will lead to the same disaster for the people affected by them as they have caused in the past.

Environmentalists don't want this discussed and would rather hide behind such superficial rhetoric as "protecting scenery." Some of them know this; others are "pragmatists" who don't think about the nature of what they are endorsing, where it comes from or where it leads.

Ideas Have Consequences

But ideas do have consequences when put into action, especially with the force of government, and Reisman calls for people to start thinking. His dramatic watermelon slicing - illustrating "green on the outside, red on the inside" - was no meaningless "Red Scare" as environmentalists have hysterically accused.

The left has made any such references at all to "communism" so politically incorrect that no one in his right mind would dream of using it as an offhanded, meaningless "scare tactic." Reisman is a college professor specializing in economics and public policy and is more than bright enough to realize that.

He also knows something about different forms of government and what is being ignored. Slicing a watermelon to expose its innards was a fiendishly clever symbolic device to bring attention to environmentalist basic principles that they obviously do not want to have to defend in public. This is not a debate over the scenery.

Erich Veyhl is a property rights activist. Also see for more on property rights issues.