Excerpts below are from the chapter “Why I Am Not An Environmentalist” in economist Steven Landsburg’s book “Armchair Economics: Economics and Everyday Life,” where he explains why naive environmentalism is like religious fundamentalism:
The naive environmentalism of my daughter’s preschool is a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition, and ritual that has much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious Fundamentalism.
Like other coercive ideologies, environmentalism targets children specifically. After my daughter progressed from preschool to kindergarten, her teachers taught her to conserve resources by rinsing out her paper cup instead of discarding it. I explained to her that time is also a valuable resource, and it might be worth sacrificing some cups to save some time. Her teachers taught her that mass transportation is good because it saves energy. I explained to her that it might be worth sacrificing some energy in exchange for the comfort of a private car. Her teachers taught her to recycle paper so that wilderness is not converted to landfill space. I explained to her that it might be worth sacrificing some wilderness in exchange for the luxury of not having to sort your trash. In each case, her five-year-old mind had no difficulty grasping the point. I fear that after a few more years of indoctrination, she will be as uncomprehending as her teachers.
In a letter to his daughter Cayley’s teacher, Landsburg wrote:
Just as Cayley’s teachers in Colorado were honestly oblivious to the fact that there is diversity in religion, it may be that her teachers here have been honestly oblivious that there is diversity in politics.
Let me then make that diversity clear. We are not environmentalists. We ardently oppose environmentalists. We consider environmentalism a form of mass hysteria akin to Islamic fundamentalism or the War on Drugs. We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights.
The entire program of environmentalism is as foreign to us as the doctrine of Christianity (Note: Landsburg is Jewish). We face no current threat of having Christianity imposed on us by petty tyrants; the same can not be said of environmentalism. My county government never tried to send me a New Testament, but it did send me a recycling bin.”
In a footnote at the end of the chapter:
My friend Alan Stockman has made the point that there seems to be general agreement that it is better to transfer income from the relatively rich to the relatively poor than vice versa. It seems odd then to ask present-day Americans to make sacrifices [e.g. recycling, etc.] for the benefit of future generations who will almost surely be richer than we are.