Sunday, December 14, 2008

The roots of environmentalism

Many environmentalists seem to think that their movement is cool, new, original, and thought-provoking. They think that their "modern" ideas were invented by their widely promoted icons. It is hard to believe that they think so but some of them probably do. Well, the reality is very different. Similar ideas have been around for centuries and their incorporation within the modern industrial society began roughly seven decades ago.

Let me begin with the following quote:
"We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind's own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole... This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of ******** ********* thought."
Beautiful, isn't it? You may ask who wrote these sentences. Was it Jared Diamond in 2005? Or was it Al Gore in 1992? Or Rachel Carson in 1962? Or Alexander Ač in 2007? No, someone else was the author. It was Prof Ernst Lehmann, a leading German biologist.

You may also want to know that he was the leading biologist of the Nazi regime and the asterisks above replaced the words "National Socialist". The words were written as early as in 1934 and I borrowed them from Peter Staudenmaier's insightful essay, Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents. In Staudenmaier's text, you will see that the Nazis were centuries ahead of the contemporary environmentalists in their own discipline.

Of course, we're not talking about one biologist here. Like Rajendra Pachauri, Adolf Hitler was an avid vegetarian. His beloved German shepherd dogs had to become vegetarians, too. ;-) Organic farming in the Nazi Germany flourished and the country was the world's leader in this activity. SS leader Heinrich Himmler had his own organic farm and used the herbs to treat his favorite troops (Hitler preferred homeopathy to achieve the same goal). The national parks in Germany were expanding, especially in the "sacred forests".

Medical experiments on animals were banned by Hitler himself. Unfortunately, the Jewish children were exempt. Incidentally, the previous two sentences are not unrelated. One of the most important Nazis' problems with the Jews was that the Jews were promoting the alienation of man from nature: they were "anti-natural". What a sin! We know quite many ideologues who criticize the "alienation" (and its proponents) even today: these ideologues usually no longer use the word "Jews" for the "anti-natural" people.

You should also notice, as someone has quipped, that people who want to treat animals like humans also want to treat humans like animals - because these two assertions are logically equivalent.

Himmler, the regime's chief mass murderer, was actually a strict animal rights advocate, too. He considered shooting birds or animals as "pure murder" and waxed lyrical about the ancient Germanic "respect for animals" that they may have borrowed from Buddhism. Himmler was impressed by the ancient Germans who put rats on trial and gave them a chance to improve their behavior. :-)

The main person who prevented Hitler from imposing much more radical environmentalist regulations may have been Goering who liked fishing and shooting. Nevertheless, even Goering had to be politically "correct" in the 1930s so he assured Prussia that the years of maltreatment of animals under the democracy were over and anyone who flouted the Nazis' concern for animal rights would be imprisoned. Oh, he was so nice - almost as politically "correct" as Heidi Cullen.

At this moment, many green hearts among the readers must feel very jealous but let me assure you that you first have to take over the military, police, and courts, and only later, you will be able to do the "great" things that your predecessors did in the 1930s.

Hitler needed to abolish trade unions at the very beginning of his reign but there was one ban that was even more urgent and occurred earlier: in 1933, he passed the Enabling Act that regulated cooking of lobsters (this great friend of Nature hated their screams when tossed into boiling water). A few years later, hunting with dogs (and on horseback) was banned, too.

Another activity that kills many people - and that some of the "deniers" tried to justify - is second-hand smoking, right? Well, Adolf Hitler cared about it, too. In 1943, smoking was prohibited in the NSDAP offices. It was banned in streetcars in 1944. However, the great regulator realized that the ban in the Wehrmacht could weaken his military power so it was always allowed to smoke in their military offices.


Now, let me emphasize that the contemporary environmentalists haven't done the same set of bad things as Adolf Hitler and his comrades. On the other hand, it is equally important to notice that the contemporary greens also haven't invented any ideas or views that would be really new. Everything has been around for quite some time.

What many of these people share with Adolf Hitler - and all fundamentalists in the world - is the identification of their own views with the "perfect morality". This "perfect morality" must be imposed upon other people, too. This attitude to ethics is always dangerous. And it may become extremely dangerous if the proponents of the ideology are given the right opportunities.

In his book, The Green and the Brown: a History of Conservation in Nazi Germany, Frank Uekoetter analyzes many aspects of the tight symbiosis between the Nazi and the green movements. He also considers the ordinary greens in Nazi Germany to be opportunists.

Well, many of them have surely been opportunists and there are thousands of opportunists in the contemporary green movement, too. But you shouldn't forget that for the opportunists to exist and benefit, there must also be an opportunity. The desire of a regime, the Nazi regime in this case, to regulate human life and to prescribe everyone his or her values and behavior is an excellent opportunity for everyone whose basic goal can be described in the same words.

So it was not really a coincidence that the most environmentalist major regime in the world's history so far was the Nazi regime. If Adolf Hitler had avoided the war and the mass murder, if he had died in peace, and if the green movement began to contaminate the society in the late 20th century anyway, Adolf Hitler would surely be viewed as one of the classics of the environmentalist movement.

Unfortunately, he has also done other things which is why most contemporary greens are going to pretend that they have almost nothing to do with him, even though 90+ percent of their ideology has really been plagiarized.

And that's the memo.

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