Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them (Hardcover)
Review By Fritz R. Ward "dayhiker" (Crestline, CA United States)
It was not that long ago that the main complaint of left wing critics of the American economy was that it produced poverty and appalling social conditions. "Capitalism" was simply a code word for the rich getting richer and everyone else getting poorer. And it was certainly true that the "rich" did get richer, often by improving the life of their customers. Rockefeller did not make money by raising the price of oil; he made money by lowering it and improving the standard of living for millions. But, while the original critique was flawed, the sentiment was one of generating wealth for average Americans. Even as late as 1962 when Michael Harrington wrote The Other America this sentiment still dominated left wing politics. How things have changed.
Today, the political left is "green" and their main complaint is not that capitalism produces poverty. They know capitalism produces affluence. And they oppose it. Americans, they complain, consume "too much" and need to make do with less, because the planet is threatened by a whole host of potential ills that require we act now, regardless of the cost. Global warming is only the latest of their concerns, having replaced the completely discredited 'population bomb' threatened in the late 1960s. And their proposed solutions, outlined in their own words, are truly frightening. The old left proposals did not produce affluence, but the new "green" proposals will surely accomplish their goal of impoverishing people if they have their way and increasingly, as Green Hell author Steve Milloy warns, they are.
Green Hell is not a book which discusses in any detail the "science" behind global warming or the actual effects of pesticides, the relative benefits of nuclear power v. coal, solar etc. Readers who are interested in such topics will find an abundance of information on the author's website, Junkscience.com. But what this book does, and does very well, is to outline what "Greens" want for the rest of us, their proposals and what they will cost in terms of freedom and even basic necessities, how they "sell" their ideas, and their hypocrisy. It is a frightening book in many respects, and very well documented with 36 pages of small print end notes.
Before describing some of the Green proposals, one should ask who the "Greens" are. Simply put, they are the leaders of a variety of organizations such as the National Resource Defense Fund, Rainforest Action Network, the US Climate Action Partnership, and a variety of similar groups with non-profit status but which nonetheless bring in millions of dollars from companies with "green products" that they cannot sell on a free market. These companies hope to make money the old fashioned way, by government regulations mandating their products. They also get money from various idealistic individual donors and no small amount of government tax dollars in the form of various grants. Milloy, of course, recognizes that these groups do share identical agendas, and he is certainly not creating a "green" bogeyman. Indeed, he has a great deal of fun discussing the travails of Seattle where one green group will use a variety of lawsuits and public actions to limit the building of new freeways, in favor of "rail" transport, while another green group will work to oppose the building of rail. But the net of effects of all these actions is to lower everyone's standard of living all in the name of an ideology that is basically anti human.
So what are the "green" proposals that Milloy documents in this book. We know several of them. Drive less. Use "smart" "energy-efficient" technology, limit your "carbon footprint" and a host of other platitudes that sound so wonderful you have to wonder how anyone could oppose this sort of thing. Who, after all, is opposed to "smart" and "optimal" lifestyles, "choice" in transportation, and limiting emissions. Well, quite a few people when you read the actual proposals, which is why so many of the green proposals are so vague in the way they are phrased for public consumption. Indeed, as Milloy points out, the manipulation of language is one of the great triumphs of green political activism. But when you examine the details of these proposals, it quickly becomes clear that "drive less" actually imposes significant costs on people, especially when the proposed alternatives are fuel cell buses which cost a mere 3 million dollars a piece, break down frequently, are costly to repair, and do not get you where you need to go. And why not take fewer vacations? Carbon hog that I am, I will leave to go hike Yosemite after I finish this review, but many greens favor centrally planned communities where I need never drive a car, and will certainly not have access to one when I try to visit other places. Virtually no one is talking about the significant impositions of freedom these plans will cost, and few (of the proponents anyway) are honest about rather mundane costs in taxes, both direct and indirect, to subsidize these plans. What's a few thousand per family when we are saving the planet?
But the Green proposals do not stop with simply limiting personal freedom and cutting back what people can afford to do. As Milloy documents, they are also busy creating a water crisis by limiting supplies to fresh water. They were markedly successful in California by drastically cutting back the water supply of the California Aquaduct from the Delta River. The ostensible concern was the protection of the 3 inch Delta smelt, but the reality was that the Fish and Wildlife Service found no evidence the smelt was threatened. Oh well. But southern California now faces mandatory water rationing. And rather than honestly admit that the problem is caused by a political intrusion into the water market, these same Greens are blaming drought and our inability to "conserve." So naturally enough, emboldened by their sucess in California, these same green activists are busy opposing desalinization plants along the coast and limiting access to the Great Lakes, where 82% of the fresh water in North America is found. The goal of "conservation" is so important that these activists will actively work to create a crisis event if none exists to further their agenda.
One could go on and on. Perhaps the most frightening element of the Green agenda Milloy documents in this book is the extent to which it costs human lives. From preventing the use of DDT to fight malaria, and other insecticides to combat west nile virus (for which, he now notes, CDC is limited to suggesting century old proposals) to preventing the use of adequate fire retardants, Green proposals cost lives, and the numbers here are growing. Milloy does of course recognize that there is no free lunch. Pesticides are not entirely risk free, though neither is getting up in the morning. But used properly, there is not a single documented case of a child dying from pesticides. There are many cases of diseases born by pests harming children. But the green analysis of protecting our kids by virtually banning pesticides in schools (by the simple expedient of regulating their use to the point of making them too expensive to use on a regular basis) simply does not make any sort of cost benefit comparison in terms of human lives. And the costs of their proposals are enormous.
All of which makes the hypocrisy of the very wealthy green activists even more galling. We all know that Al Gore uses far more energy than virtually anyone else in Tennessee. But what Milloy details is that Gore is hardly an isolated case. Many of the uber wealthy green supporters, including the ubiquitous T. Boone Pickens and Google founders Paige and Brin are equally keen to raise prices for all of us, but quite happy to continue to waste energy themselves. Even President Obama, after lecturing Americans on the campaign trail to give up the 72 degree thermostat setting has found the oval office a bit too cool for his taste, and has actually increased his energy consumption. "Conservation for thee and not for me," would seem to encompass his view of the "leadership" he promised on this issue. Indeed, the World Wildlife Fund, which is forever urging the rest of us to give up our consumerism, is not above offering exclusive wildlife viewing trips for the uberwealthy at $64,500 a pop on private jets. Milloy took great pleasure in using the WWF's own carbon footprint calculator to find the "cost" of the trip. It should not surprise anyone that the "costs" exceed the yearly energy allotment many greens would like to see you and I live with for the rest of our lives.
There is far too much in this book to cover in one review, but the one topic which Milloy did not discuss is how today's "greens" are destroying one of the great accomplishments of modern civilization: the conservation movement. There is a great deal of irony in this. Modern green leaders like to pretend that they are following in the footsteps of Muir, Pinchot, and others, but the reality is if they have their way, we will all lose some of our most precious heritage. One of the great accomplishments of capitalism was to make food so widely available that land could be put aside for aesthetic, and especially recreational uses. In the early 20th century, national parks, monuments and state parks were created to promote recreation and give people an escape from civilization. But the new Green agenda changes that dynamic drastically. In the first instance, it inhibits travel for recreation. But beyond that, the anti human aspect of green thought prevents enjoying these resources to their fullest. Muir once argued no one had fully experienced life until they had camped under the Sequoias. But under pressure from modern activists with dubious scientific arguments, all development of any sort (campgrounds, cabins) are gone from the Sequoia groves, replaced by expensive lodges that are out of financial reach for the average person and located some distance from the groves, access to which may well be increasingly restricted in the future. Many greens applaud these "de-developments" but it is worth noting that in planning their "managed communities" where people live above their work site, rarely travel and never truly experience a wilderness, they are not following in the footsteps of Muir. Instead, they are transporting us to a brave new world where freedom is a thing of the past, and the recreational, indeed spiritual, values of the wilderness are no longer available to any but the privileged wealthy green elites. What Milloy has documented then is not just the "green agenda." He has documented a fundamental change in the American left. It is a change from concern, however misguided, about average people, to an open defense of the wealthy elites, and an economy that is designed to perpetuate this stratification in a way capitalism never could. It is a horrific vision and one which, unfortunately is now guiding American domestic policy.
• Buy Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steve Malloy