Downeast Coastal Press
August 19, 2003

Blackout Sheds Light on
Environmentalism’s Opposition to an
Advanced Industrial Society

by Erich Veyhl

During the major blackout of New York City in the mid 1960s, people stood across the Hudson River in New Jersey staring in awe at what was then regarded as a freak once-in-a-lifetime failure in modern industrial society. Since then, blackouts and inadequate supplies of energy, such as those occurring regularly in California in recent years, and the dramatic breakdown this week in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada, have become more routine.

Failures and shortages in electric power generation and breakdowns in its distribution grid are still regarded as major inconveniences, but their cause is now shrugged off as one of those things that “just happen”. New York Mayor Bloomberg called the recent blackout a “natural occurrence”. Another typical reaction is “maybe terrorists did it,” which along with yet another layer of permanent government intrusion and restrictions since 9/11, is also becoming accepted as “just part of life”.

Public assessment – and rejection – of the causes of a pattern of failure illustrated by this week’s blackout is long overdue. The electric power industry suffers under New Deal era regulations, while environmentalist restrictions and prohibitions prevent new development of energy production and distribution across the board. Attempts to partially reform control over the industry have been tied up in the Senate for two years, mostly by environmentalist pressure groups and their allies and apologists in government.

The environmentalist ideological war against industrial civilization, including its opposition to energy production – and in particular energy consumption – as well as a culturally well-established anti-business, anti-producer mentality in general, are all taking their toll.

Superficial explanations in terms of specific events and personalities of the moment, not policies and philosophical outlook, are a smoke screen. One example is Hillary Clinton’s latest shrill attack pointing to the corruption in Enron as if it were a basic cause, not an effect, while blaming the blackout personally on George Bush for favoring privatization instead of seeking further controls and nationalization of the energy industry. As a supporter of the discredited policies of Gov. Gray Davis, Clinton also blamed the blackout on the current recall election in California, as if any of this had anything to do with the decades of government policy and philosophy leading to the state of the industry today.

It all reminds me of the events portrayed in a novel I read and enjoyed long ago, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. So does the widespread passive public acceptance of progressively worse breakdowns and disasters as now normal, while our political and cultural leaders routinely engage in class warfare envy rhetoric against “the rich,” smugly blaming the producers they seek to control, hobble and exploit. So does the failure of the producers, treated like a persecuted minority, to defend themselves – reluctant to challenge the moral intimidation directed at them as they quietly continue to work at whatever they are still permitted, or gradually drop out, only to be replaced by the less competent or, worse, hucksters and manipulators symbolized by the Enron and MCI/WorldCom scandals.

The political left’s drumbeat of attacks on capitalism, corporations and business as such has been around for a long time. But while the economic failure and unworkability of socialism and statism is increasingly acknowledged, the ideological moral ideal of Marxist “scientific” socialism – and its impossible promise of economic progress by such means – has been replaced by a new goal defined by the environmentalists. They, misportrayed as scientists, hold a vision of romanticized primitivism and economic deprivation regarded in principle as a goal for mankind. The left has finally endorsed this “moral ideal” for which their economic and political methods “work”.

The advanced industrial society we currently enjoy is not the “natural” state of mankind. It took millennia for mankind to rise above its original, “natural” state as primitive, tribalist hunter-gatherers living short, brutal lives made possible at all only by back-breaking labor and a perpetual physical battle against an unpredictable and often harsh “nature”.

Rising above that level of existence is possible only under certain conditions. It requires an advanced culture of individualism, rationality, creativity, and political and intellectual freedom from the tribe. It requires a culture in which the individual’s “pursuit of happiness” is widely accepted as a moral ideal, with the purpose of government being to protect the rights of the individual. It requires leaving the individual free to use his mind and to create, obeying and altering the natural environment for his benefit in the pursuit of his dreams of a life on earth that is not provided automatically by nature. We can only “enjoy nature” within the context of advanced civilization, which that makes possible; otherwise “nature” becomes a perpetual nightmare in which we struggle for our very survival – as illustrated by man’s original life in the cave and his descent into the Dark Ages, where cold and dark were “natural”.

We cannot artificially produce energy supplementing primitive muscle-power on the industrial scale required for advanced human life if the logging of trees, the mining of coal and uranium and the drilling of natural gas and oil, as well as the production and delivery of energy in the form in which we use it, are prohibited on principle everywhere the environmentalists can get away with it for the sake of yet another “unique” area in a “natural,” “pristine environment”. But that is now almost everywhere in the United States. This rhetoric misleads a gullible public into thinking that every barren, forsaken area they want to preserve from man’s “artificial tampering” is the Grand Canyon. To their anti-human, nature-worshipping minds, everything is the Grand Canyon, not to be touched except by wilderness hikers.

The energy we use does not fall out of the sky for free, but if it did, the greens would oppose our “unnatural” use of that, too. The only alternative to industrial-scale energy technology they endorse is politically correct “alternative energy” that is not economically practical to actually use – and if someone tries to implement it on some more limited economic scale, he is opposed by enviro activists for obstructing the “viewshed” in the name of the “natural” flight paths of birds (windmills), swimming of fish (hydro-electric), or their equivalent.

The Constitution and the principles of the founding of the (original) American form of government are not compatible with eco-socialism. “Protecting” an “untouched” environment against “exploitation” by mankind – the viros’ vision and goal for our culture at the expense of the individual’s pursuit of happiness and the property rights required to achieve it in reality – is not a function of government proscribed or allowed by the Constitution.

It’s time for those who want to live on earth, not worship it from a dark cave, to reject on principle the alleged scientific and moral superiority of the environmentalists’ ideological “shut it down and lock it up” mentality. Stop granting them the moral sanction of the victim and leave them to argue among themselves in some malaria-invested swamp instead of dictating suicidal national policies to the rest of us.

Copyright © 2003 Erich Veyhl, All Rights Reserved