As the debate rages over stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic, most conservative opposition has focused on the damage to the economy, excessive government surveillance, massive increase in government debt, and lost jobs. These are very valid and important concerns.
But the coronavirus’s most enduring damage will be the opportunity for radical greens to impose what they have been dreaming about for decades: permanent “de-development.”
For radical greens, the real cause of our ecological “crisis” is Western Christian civilization. It produced our hierarchical relationship with the natural world and our free-market economy based on private property. Our environmental problems, therefore, are not economic or social or political, but “civilizational.” As Greta Thunberg has said, to fight climate change, we need “system change.”
“The climate justice fight here in the U.S. and around the world is not just a fight against the [biggest] ecological crisis of all time,” explains Miya Yoshitani, associate director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. “We are bound together in this battle, not just for a reduction in the parts per million of CO2, but to transform our economies and rebuild a world that we want today.”
The solution they propose is called “de-development” – the dismantling of our modern economy based on profit and private property. In their 1973 book "Human Ecology: Problems & Solutions," John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich explain:
"A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation....The need for de-development presents our economists with a major challenge. They 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 to every human being.”
Speaking for many greens, anthropologist Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics wrote in the The Guardian that “growth isn’t an option anymore.”
He argues that the real cause of our environmental crisis is not pollution per se, but the Western model of economic growth based on private property, profit, and free-enterprise.
“Instead of pushing poorer countries to ‘catch up’ with rich ones, we should be thinking of ways to get rich countries to ‘catch down’ to more appropriate levels of development.”
Not surprisingly, Hickel’s model country is Communist Cuba, which he regards “not as underdeveloped, but rather as appropriately developed.” Poverty in communist regimes is a feature, not a bug.
Naturally, such radical plans have met with pushback. President Trump’s 2017 withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, a move widely supported by Americans, dealt the green movement a crushing defeat.
Attempts to curtail agriculture have also failed. When the Dutch government tried to force farmers to reduce production last October, protests erupted. Thousands of Dutch farmers drove their tractors into The Hague and other cities, causing massive traffic jams. Polls show that three-fourths of the Dutch population supports the farmers.
Greta Thunberg, the star of last year’s Global Climate Strike, gave a hysterical, apocalyptic speech at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York.
“If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now, is where we draw the line,” she thundered. It was a primal scream for climate action, yet public support for radical green policies barely budged.
Coronavirus and the subsequent government lockdowns have changed the whole equation. Radical greens are seeing it as the best chance to impose their policies on an unwilling public and break through the impasse. Commenting on the pandemic, Rahm Emmanuel, former Chief-of-Staff under President Obama, was so bold as to reprise his famous phrase from the 2008 financial crisis: “Never allow a crisis to go to waste….We're going to have more pandemics, but this has to be the last economic depression.”
Geographer Joel Kotkin wrote that the “mass shutdowns we now experience – likely necessary in a pandemic – could provide a model for imposing harsh actions to curb carbon emissions that activists consider as great or greater threats than the virus itself.”
Pope Francis, arguably the most influential world leader, sees the pandemic as an opportunity to implement the anti-development ideas contained in his encyclical Laudato Si‘. The shutdowns are an opportunity to “slow down our rate of production and consumption” and “to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it.”
Patriotic citizens have raised real concerns about the unnecessary damage to our economy and society in the name of public health. These threats are very real, and we must oppose them. But these issues are a means to an end. The final goal is green “de-development” and the destruction of the Western Christian civilization. Just ask Greta.
James Bascom lives in McLean, Va., where he is the Assistant Director of the Washington Bureau of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.