Review of Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Robert Zubrin (Encounter Books, 2013), 312 pp., ISBN-13: 978-1594034763; $11.93.
There have been many excellent books recounting how environmental zealots have worsened human welfare and the environment, but few meticulously present the philosophical inner-workings of these radicals.
In his book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, recently reprinted by The Heartland Institute, author Robert Zubrin presents a must-read explanation for why environmental activists believe in their anti-human agenda.
Zubrin gets right to the heart of the matter, by showing readers how many radical environmentalists believe humans are essentially a cancer for Earth, making it impossible for them to practice good stewardship. After all, cancer cells can never be good stewards of the human body.
Zubrin probes the ideology of anti-humanism, showing some of today’s most fashionable political and social ideas are essentially replays of earlier ideological fads that were used to justify oppression, tyranny, and genocide. Because it has widely been acknowledged that those without a knowledge of history are condemned to repeat it, this book is vitally important.
A Rogue’s Gallery of Tyranny
Zubrin says the effort to dissect this monster so it can be understood and debunked is long overdue, and he is able to accomplish this feat with this elegantly referenced, scholarly work, in which he traces the roots of anti-humanism from Thomas Malthus in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to Paul Ehrlich in recent years, and on to Al Gore today.
Malthus argued population growth is a blight on Earth and harms rather than benefits the human condition, but Zubrin brilliantly disproves this philosophy using writers, both present and from the past.
As Zubrin shows, in Henry George’s 1879 book Progress and Poverty, George outlines a better view of the human interaction with the environment, writing, “Human beings are not simply the consumers of a preexisting gift of nature; they are also the cultivators of the bounty on which they live.”
The twentieth century economist Julian Simon agreed, observing that as the world’s population has increased, the standard of living has also risen at an accelerating rate, facts which Zubrin illustrates graphically.
On the other hand, Malthusians Ehrlich and President Barack Obama’s science advisor John Holdren jointly said in 1971 mankind was “so many bacteria in a culture dish, doomed to quick extinction unless our appetites can be controlled by wise overlords wielding sterilants to curb our excessive multiplication.”
Their predictions of a catastrophic collapse in the human condition by the turn of the twenty-first century proved to be the exact opposite of what occurred.
Path to Genocide
Zubrin’s brief chapter on Charles Darwin will be very enlightening for many readers of this book. Most people today recognize Darwin’s contribution to the understanding of evolution of species, but many are unfamiliar with his dangerously wrong theory that societies advance entirely based on genetics. The theories presented in his deeply flawed book The Descent of Man has become a source of much anti-humanism since its publication.
Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, expanded upon Darwin’s bad ideas by developing the terrible theory of eugenics. According to eugenics, manipulation of the gene pool, often through harsh and barbaric methods, benefits human “breeding” and ultimately human evolution. Such a theory casts leaders who attempt to breed “master races” as moral heroes rather than genocidal villains.
The story of eugenics in the United States through much of the 20th century will astound you. Zubrin shows how both Nazism and environmentalism sprang from the same seeds and were based in great part on a commitment to eugenics.
Population Control Debunked
More than any writer before him, Zubrin clarifies the impetus behind virtually every wrongheaded population-control idea and anti-ethnic activity this nation has ever undergone. This includes the suppression of DDT, which received significant opposition despite the fact it had successfully wiped out malaria.
As enlightening as any segment of the book is Zubrin’s discussion of population control. Trends indicate Earth’s population will likely stop growing shortly after the year 2060. Yet, anti-humanists continue to push for population-control measures, arguing we cannot afford to allow more humans to live on the planet.
Zubrin says China’s one-child-per-family requirement serves as a lurid example of the nauseating lengths to which population-control advocates will go. Shamefully, mainstream environmental activists who claim to be liberal thinkers frequently praise China’s population-control policies.
A more modern campaign to reduce population comes from the environmental organizations that make every effort to eliminate the use of genetically modified grains, which offer the world abundant, safe, and healthy food. This situation is well-documented by Hassan Adamu, the Nigerian minister of agriculture.
“To deny desperate, hungry people the means to control their futures by presuming to know what is best for them is … paternalistic and morally wrong,” said Adamu. “We want to have the opportunity to save the lives of millions of people. … The harsh reality is that without the help of agricultural biotechnology many will not live.”
I believe no one has so clearly explained the threat of the anti-human movement throughout history as Zubrin has done in Merchants of Despair. To read this book is to become a warrior on the side of humanity.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.