By Dick Barendregt, CEO
What does it mean to be pro-human? When I use the term pro-human I am not talking about professional athletes. Rather, I am simply speaking of being “for” humans. This might seem like an odd question to ask, but over the past couple decades it’s become abundantly clear that we live in an environment that is growing ever-increasingly hostile towards humans. If you think that sounds ridiculous, then you have not been watching the news or listening to political pundits closely enough.
Most people would never come out and say that they are anti-human, but when you look at what they encourage (often insist) other humans do, or stop doing, in the name of the environment, it is clear that they are not pro-human, and often actively anti-human. (Check out this fantastic interview on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnzJ72gxVjM&t=27s)
Is it ok to be pro-human? Is it ok to be anti-human? Are humans more important than plants? How about animals? Rivers? If you think these are “overly-simplistic” questions, you are very mistaken. I guarantee that you know at least some people that are convinced that we (as a society) need to stop using fossil fuels completely, and soon. Anyone who thinks this way certainly isn’t alone. There are several energy proposals currently circulating in the US that ask for this very scenario to become a reality. But what would this mean, and what would it look like if we adopted this thinking as official policy? What would it mean if we stopped using fossil fuels, or reverted all the dams to their natural state? What impact would it have on people and would it be good or bad? What would you do without being able to drive your current car to work, or charge the electric car you might be required to buy? Many of these “innocent” and “harmless” ideas found in these proposals become very malicious policies that place environment above human flourishing or health. The “earth-first” ideology, when taken from the bumper sticker and put into practice, can do very real damage. Eco-terrorists (blowing up pipelines etc.) are an obvious example, but what’s not so obvious are the policies that would place millions upon millions of people at risk and cause certain harm. Ironically most of the proposed energy policies seek to make the human environment a less safe and healthy place, in the name of improving the natural environment. Priorities matter, and understanding that your life and the life of your friends and family is more important than changing the natural environment is key.
But isn’t the health of the environment equal to the health of the individual? Put another way, isn’t it true that placing the environment first, is placing ourselves first? Although this sentiment has a good ring to it, it is just simply not the case. It is vital to first understand that, at the heart of the green ideology, is the core principle of thou shalt not modify nature. A “healthy environment” is one that is unchanged, or untouched by human progress. In both the short term and the long term we are faced with development decisions that require a modification of the environment to improve human conditions. All industry pollutes and modifies the earth, even “green” technologies. Another key to understanding this argument, is that like many scientists (most of whom believe in manmade climate change) I don’t believe the impact humans are having on the environment is either alarming or catastrophic. Warming and cooling is part of the natural cycle, and it appears that humans are aiding in this present warming trend. However, the data is clear that the amount of warming we have enjoyed over the past 100 years is neither alarming nor is cause for serious concern. This is not climate change denial, this is simply looking at the actual climate facts and then drawing reasonable, un-hysterical conclusions. The media rarely reports on boring facts, and if they do, it is their job to make those facts look and sound fantastic. Hysteria or hype is their stock-in-trade. Also, lest we forget, this whole climate thing, is also big business, very big. (Great breakdown of the “97% consensus” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSrjAXK5pGw ) Let me say it again, so that I am completely clear on this point. This is not a denial of climate change or a rejection of the collected data, it is simply a less hysterical, more reasonable way of looking at what everyone knows to be true.
At its core this climate disagreement is an ideological one. The foundational beliefs you hold about what the “greatest goods” are, will completely drive this discussion. One side’s foundational belief is that the earth exists for man’s benefit and not the other way around. The other side’s chief ideological good is that humans have minimal impact on the environment. In other words, one side’s hierarchy puts the environment above the good of humans, and the other puts the good of humans above the environment.
In practice, just about every human has accepted the premise that human flourishing is more important than keeping nature untouched, or (by their own definition) unharmed. The most potent environmental groups are all based in very large manmade cities. These groups take advantage of these large, polluting infrastructures to effectively collaborate and communicate their ideas to the masses. The landscapes of New York, San Francisco and Chicago, to name a few, have been forever changed and stripped of their natural beauty (harmed) to make way for human progress and productivity. Those exploiting this progress know, in practice, that this is a good thing. However, on paper most, if not all, of these people would say that they are “earth-firsters”. On paper, they are champions of returning nature to an untouched state. On paper, they are heroes, striving to keeping anyone else from building or maintaining another New York, or San Francisco, because the creation and perpetuation of these cities is, by their definition, immoral. Thankfully these “morals” rarely get much further than paper, since in practice no one actually wants to give up the very apparatus which empowers them to propose destroying the apparatus. Some call this an addiction problem. “We are addicted to oil,” they say. In once sense this statement is correct, but it’s not the oil we are addicted to. We are addicted to flourishing. We like life and we like being able to enjoy it without the constant fear of dying because we don’t have access to cheap, plentiful and reliable energy.
Would you let a person die to save an endangered species? Would you ask your wife, your husband or daughter to die to save that same animal? In the name of reducing carbon emissions, would you cut access to power knowing that people will die of heat-stroke in the summer? Would you destroy a dam to save a few fish, knowing that the loss of power will result in real deaths? This isn’t theoretical, as much as we would all like it to be. When access to power is restricted and brownout and blackouts occur, people die. Real people; mothers, fathers, brothers, someone’s loved ones die. In 2003 one single blackout in New York is credited with the deaths of 90 people. Access to cheap, reliable, and plentiful energy really is a matter of life and death. (http://environment.yale.edu/yer/article/the-true-cost-of-power-outages#gsc.tab=0)
Access to cheap and reliable energy means humans can live life longer, enjoy it more and generally are empowered to flourish as should be everyone’s desire.
The next time someone tells you they want to take away your ability to flourish, I hope you understand that you and your life are more important than their fears and insecurities.
The earth was made for you to flourish, not the other way around.