What turns people into environmentalists? There are two different psychological forces at work. On the one hand, there is the human inclination to love nature. It’s not hard to see why humans would love nature. Nature is the only indisputable message left behind for us by God.
Icons might have been painted by humans, the Quran’s origins remain disputable. But nature? Nature was not made by humans. You might argue that nature came into existence spontaneously out of nothing, a spontaneous emergent form of complexity that can be explained through natural laws. But that merely pushes the problem further back.
You can look at some pieces of software, 3D video games like .kkrieger, that were made out of less than 97,280 bytes and you can say “this whole complex world is simply a product of some very simple code”. I would agree with you, but that merely reveals the ingenuity of the creator of said code. You set a handful of physical constants, you let the program run for a while and eventually you and me get to look at eusocial shrimp hiding themselves in an underwater sponge.
From my perspective, the creationists are essentially looking at their computer screen and suggesting that someone carefully handcrafted all of the textures and levels of .kkrieger, whereas the atheists are arguing that the creationists are idiots who don’t comprehend that all of this complexity is the spontaneous result of a very simple code. The real question that atheists tend to skip over is: Where did the code come from?
At its very basis. the code of .kkrieger wasn’t created by someone. It’s a very elegant mathematical formula, that someone happened to stumble upon. When was the number zero invented? It wasn’t invented by humans, it’s a very basic idea that has an existence in its own right outside of the dimensions of time and space, that humans eventually stumbled upon. It’s this realm of ideas, that I would personally call God. With an elegant mathematical formula you can manifest all of those ideas within the constraints of our physical dimensions.
David Attenborough is inclined to disagree with me. He essentially argues that Nature is not sufficient evidence of a God for him, because for every dancing bird in the Papuan rainforest, you can find a baby deer consumed alive by maggots. But if that is your attitude, you skip over one important piece of the puzzle, namely, that you yourself are a product of God as well. And when your mind functions correctly and you are healthy, you’re inclined to listen to the birds and marvel at all of the beauty you can see. It’s not tribal people in the Congo rainforest who are traumatized by all of the suffering that is possible in nature. It’s those of us who live in densely populated sterile cities.
This takes me to the second environmentalist impulse: Fear of nature. Republican rednecks in rural Georgia don’t tend to think of themselves as environmentalists when they’re stalking deer at night in the forest. Rather, ecosocialist Guardian columnists who live in London and write fancy essays about the need for degrowth and a zero-waste economy tend to think of themselves as environmentalists.
The people who fear nature, are those who live isolated from it, who only understand it at an abstract level. They have replaced the landscape of trees and animals with one of plastic and concrete and so in the back of their minds, they fear nature’s wrath. They display a number of peculiar symptoms, that are easy to understand when you consider that they have no genuine intuitive relationship with nature anymore.
To start with, they are always externalizing. The problem is never them. It’s always the other. Who is this other? It’s the white man. Sure, most of them are white men themselves, but they all think of themselves as the exception to the rule, the one good white man who stands in solidarity with indigenous people and fights against racism by writing wordy essays in the Guardian. They create a mythical other, that leaves them scott free. It’s the fossil fuel billionaire, the politician who pursues economic growth, the rural farmer, the old white people who vote for conservatives. They are the ones responsible for all of this, not the urban cosmopolitan who uses their products.
You can be motivated by both impulses. You can love nature, as well as fear its wrath. But those who genuinely love nature never seem to last very long on the left. After a while, they tend to end up as right wingers. A recent example is Paul Kingsnorth, who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.
Sure, you can write a novel about indigenous Britains fighting against the Norman invasion, you can join an ultraconservative religious tradition and you can probably invent a new fancy term for yourself (post-leftist ecosocialist anarcho-nihilist yadda yadda), but at the end of the day, those of us with an IQ above room temperature are not fooled.
This is the same story that has unfolded a thousand times before. It’s what happened to Ted Kaczynski, it’s what happened to Pentti Linkola and many others. A lot of “green anarchists” end up excommunicated by all the other anarchists, because eventually they sacrifice political correctness for nature. If you genuinely love nature, you don’t last very long on the left, because most of them don’t genuinely love nature: They love people. Or rather: They love receiving validation from other people. They will happily sacrifice their own identity, principles and values to receive that validation.
Modern environmentalism is not driven by a love of nature. It’s primarily driven by a fear of nature. Why did the left react so hysterically to COVID-19, back in March? They’re expecting nature’s vengeance. They’re afraid of nature and they saw this new virus as a way of nature exacting her revenge for all of our corruption and greed. You had a handful of radical green types who said back in March “let’s not embark on the kind of authoritarianism we see in China”, but then they realized their peer group was panicking and they rapidly shut up about it, out of fear of being excommunicated.
If you genuinely love nature, then you would understand that the proper response would have been: Bring it on. Rather than isolating ourselves even further from nature, giving our children autoimmune disorders, damaging our social skills and eliminating the bacteria and viruses that we need to stay healthy, we should have seen this as the opportunity to return to equilibrium.
Those of us for whom returning to balance with nature is impossible, our bodies and minds damaged beyond repair, are liberated from our misery. Do we want elderly people in nursing homes to suffer the last years of their lives alone, unable to comprehend what is happening to them? No, that is cruelty. When she developed dementia, my father used to say about his mother “I hope she’s lucky and hits her head when she falls”.
You can’t ask humans to take control over matters of life and death. Humans want nature to do that for them. What about those who are so obese that they can no longer walk, with kidneys that are failing and toes that are rotting away from diabetes? That’s pointless suffering too.
Nature sought to be merciful, nature sought to enable us to gradually reapproach her bosom with dignity, so what did we do? We shit our pants. We panicked and ran away like traumatized children. Because this is the true force that dominates modern environmentalism: Not love of nature, but fear of nature.
Do you know what happens when the planet begins to warm up? Well, I’ll tell you a little secret. It’s the exact reason modern environmentalists are so afraid of climate change: Nature becomes more powerful. She has an arsenal of weaponry she maintains in her tropical heartlands, that she will export around the world. As the planet warms up, we will welcome the return of malaria to European shores. As the wind comes to a standstill, the toxic pollution we produce will build up in our overpopulated cities instead of being blown into the countryside.
They’re telling you that nature is dying, but that’s a hilarious lie. The Earth is greening. Over the last two decades, we have gained an Amazon rainforest worth of vegetation. Nature knows better how to cope with these new conditions than we do. I’m not arguing that we won’t witness species going extinct and ecosystems collapsing. But nature can cope without birds of paradise and eusocial shrimp in coral reefs. Those were members of her welcoming committee for you. If the generalists survive, which they will, then Mother Gaia shrugs her shoulders and begins to rebuild her world. In a few million years it will be pretty again, but in the meantime we will eat rats.
A lot of what passes as environmentalism, should be recognized as an attempt to control nature. Zebra mussels clean up the lakes that they infest, but they clog our industrial pipes, so we treat them as invasive species. We’re trying to maintain a kind of nature that exists in stasis, even though all our climate models suggest that the old world we once knew is never coming back. When we painstakingly try to maintain nature in stasis, what we’re really doing is preventing nature from adapting.
The Litmus test that I use, to determine whether I’m dealing with a sincere environmentalist or not, is to ask the following question: Is the world overpopulated? If you answer yes, then I’m going to assume you are sincere. If, as most modern environmentalists do, you embark on a rant about how giant corporations cause climate change and most rich people in the first world are responsible and we could fill the world with twenty billion people if we would all simply eat cockroaches and fermented seaweed for dinner, then I know I’m dealing with a hypersocial virtue signaler instead.
Yes, Africa could theoretically sustainably quadruple its population to four billion people by 2100. But who benefits from that? The Africans? No, of course not. They can only quadruple their population, by taking over the kind of lifestyle of people in the first world: Living in isolation in megacities, doing shitty desk jobs that involve spending your wake hours staring at a screen and eating a handful of crops and the factory farm animals that eat those crops.
I live in the Netherlands, a country with seventeen million people. I never hear anyone on the left point out the very obvious reality that this country is overpopulated. We swell our population by 108,000 people through migration in a year, because more people enter than leave the country. We don’t have enough room to build new houses, we only manage to build 69,000 in a year. It should be obvious that every problem we face is going to grow worse, by growing our population: Carbon pollution, nitrogen pollution, housing shortages, andsoforth. But somehow, this happens to be taboo.
I think you shouldn’t call yourself an environmentalist, if you’re unwilling to accept the reality that you’re eventually going to die and that this makes sense within the greater scheme of things. I understand that it’s difficult for a lot of people to accept the idea of their own mortality, because they’ve never experienced an altered state of reality. Almost every indigenous culture makes use of mind-altering plants, as part of their relationship to their own environment. It is through use of these mind-altering plants, that we become able to make peace with our own mortality.
As Terence McKenna has explained, we leave behind traces of our own consciousness within the psychoactive organisms that we consume. You won’t generally encounter entities on Ketamine or LSD. These are synthetic molecules, consuming them is like entering a clean sterile office building. On the other hand, psilocin is where all of the natural world comes together. Why do Psilocybe mushrooms make you feel connected to nature? Because these mushrooms are what all of nature uses to connect together. Plants like Henbane and Datura connect you to the realm of the dead.
It’s our pathological fear of death, that makes us unable to make peace with nature. We live in a culture that delays everything. When you start working for a big Sillicon Valley tech startup like Google or Facebook as a young woman, they will pay for you to freeze your eggs. That should tell you all you need to know about how our culture relates to nature. We are at war with nature. We push it to its boundaries, even within our own bodies. We refuse to accept being subject to nature’s rules. We violate nature’s boundaries, then we call her boundaries oppressive.
Don’t tell me you care about nature, when you declare war on every aspect of human nature. If you isolate children from each other, if you isolate elderly people from their grandchildren, if you reduce social interaction to communication through webcams, if you prohibit people from exchanging their gut bacteria by shaking hands and touching each other, if you close the beaches and the forests, then you are at war with human nature.
Authentic environmentalism begins with one realization: Eventually, you too are going to die.