Greens, Libertarians, and Other Environmentalists

I was listening to a conservative interview a libertarian on a podcast recently when it occurred to me that we have far too narrow a view of what an environmentalist is.  We think of environmentalists as those who preserve the natural, biological world against pollution or other insults inflicted upon it by man and his technology.  Technology can be a villain because it so greatly expands man’s footprint on the earth.  We may have to alter our technical ambitions in order to preserve the world as we have found it.

But libertarians are also environmentalists.  They want to protect a freedom of decision and action that they believe is justly natural to the person.  The primary threat to this just and natural freedom is the power of officialdom wielded by other human beings.  This gloss of official power seemingly legitimizes coercion.  Libertarians want to combat a pollution of rules, regulation, and taxation, all of which chip away at freedom in a way that is potentially irreparable.  

Social conservatives, too, are environmentalists.  They believe, one way or the other, that human beings have painstakingly and over long periods of time managed to arrive at structures of manners and family institutions which provide shelter and protection for human beings in the same way an old growth forest does.  They perceive pollution in the form of mass media wielded by a fashionable class that disseminates disintegrating toxins which will dissolve bonds and agreements that are crucial in the right relationship of people to each other.  Something as natural as the nuclear family can be destroyed by the pollution the social conservatives fear.  

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