This week, I was asked to write a blog, on environmentalists as communists (?!?), an accusation made my the new appointee to Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources, for Imagine2050 and the Center for a New Community (http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/). And, since the house and senate are inundated with this beautiful snowstorm, I took the morning to type this up. My blog will be web-published by them in the next few days. But here is a sneak peak for my faithful blog-followers.
In a 2009 radio appearance, Harrison Schmitt called environmental leaders “communists”. Schmitt was appearing on Alex Jones’ radio show when he located the origin of the present environmental movement’s politics in the fall of the Soviet Union. Schmitt suggests: “Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement. … They converted environmental activism to a political movement and some would say a religious movement.”Governor Susana Matinez has appointed Schmitt to be the head of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, placing him in charge of: “Mining and Minerals Division, State Parks Division, Oil Conservation Division and Energy Conservation Management Division.”
When I think of environmentalists, or point to the leaders of the environmental movement, I do not tend to think of them as communists. That, however, may be a failure of my imagination (as a self-proclaimed environmentalist). Environmental leaders, such as Bill McKibben, advocate for immediate local and global action to help stave off climate change and other environmental problems. In the face of climate change, McKibben and others tend to refer to the issue as non-partisan. We are all subject to the effects of environmental degradation, and therefore it knows no party lines. That being said, Schmitt suggests that environmentalists operate outside democracy. Environmentalists are, according to Schmitt, the offspring of Stalin’s movement. As long as the Schmitts of the world keep talking, and people keep listening, the words of environmentalists can be discarded. And when the words of scientists, scholars, passionate tree-huggers, etc. go unheard, the degradation can continue unchecked.
Wendell Berry, environmentalist, farmer and author of The Unsettling of America and many other books, warns that America itself is threatened by pollution and land degradation: “(we) are eroding our freedom along with our soil. … We are destroying our country—I mean our country itself, our land…” Berry suggests that our freedom is at stake when we forsake our landscape. To me, he sounds far more like a patriot than a treasonous commie.
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that is said to be the impetuous for the modern day environmental movement was published some 30 years before the fall of the Soviet Union (1991). So while it is true that environmentalists tend to advocate for some select communists ideals (land conserved for equal, but controlled, public use, e.g. National Parks), it could also be argued that modern day environmentalists and the environmental movement appeal more to Nationhood more than political dissent. So, it seems unlikely that this movement, which began long before the fall of Stalin’s communism, is deeply informed by communist rhetoric. Schmitt uses a now old trick of anti-environmentalists: diverting attention away from the severe environmental problems at hand and instead focusing on the people drawing attention to those problems. If Schmitt can get us liberals in a room for a day to discuss whether Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, is a pinko, British Petroleum (for example) can move forward with a new pipeline without any of us noticing.