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The Environmental Apocalypse

Early in the morning, while most are still sleeping, groups of elderly Chinese women spread out across city streets. They tear open trash bags, pick through the litter and sort out bottles and cans that come with a deposit. And then they bring them to the local supermarket to a machine that scans and evaluates each can, accepting and rejecting them one by one, and finally printing out a receipt.

The interaction between the elderly immigrant who speaks broken English or the homeless man who is barely holding it together... and the machine is a stark contrast between what the new smart clean green economy is pretends to be and what it actually is. The machine, like so much else that we design, is impressive, but its existence depends on someone digging through the trash with their hands for much less than minimum wage to extract a generally useless item.

The entire bottle economy, which has more than a passing resemblance to the trash sorting operations in the Third World carried out by despised and persecuted minorities, like the Zabbaleen in Egypt, is artificial. The United States is not so poor that it actually needs to recycle. It recycles not under the impulse of economic imperatives, but of government mandates.

The elderly Chinese women dig through the trash because politicians decided to impose a tax on us and an incentive for them in the form of a deposit. All those useless 1980s laws created a strange underground economy of marginalized people digging through the trash.

Every time politicians celebrate a recycling target met and show off some shiny new machine, hiding behind the curtain are the dirty weary people dragging through the streets at the crack of dawn, donning rubber gloves and tearing apart trash bags. They are the unglamorous low-tech reality of environmentalism.

These are the Green Jobs that aren't much talked about. They pay below minimum wage and have no workplace safety regulations. They are the Third World reality behind the First World ecology tripe. It's not that the people who plan and run the system don't know about them. But they don't like to talk about them because they come too close to revealing the unsavory truth about where environmentalism is really going.

Environmentalism, like every liberal notion, is sold to the masses as modern and progressive. It's the exact opposite. It's every bit as modern and progressive as those sacks of cans being hauled by hand through the streets to the machine.

Prince Charles, that avid idiot and environmentalist, visited a Mumbai slum a few years ago and said that it had some lessons to teach the West.

“When you enter what looks from the outside like an immense mound of plastic and rubbish, you immediately come upon an intricate network of streets with miniature shops, houses and workshops, each one made out of any material that comes to hand,” Prince Charles wrote in his book, Harmony.

The Prince of Wales is quite the author. In addition to Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, he has written Shelter: Human Habitats from Around the World, The Prince's Speech: On the Future of Food and The Illustrated Guide to Chickens: How to Choose Them, How to Keep Them.

One might be forgiven for assuming that the royal brain twitching behind those watery eyes is preparing for some sort of apocalypse. And it is. The apocalypse is environmentalism. Or from the point of view of the environmentalists, who spare some time from their public appearances and their mansions to pen tomes on the future of food and how to choose chickens, the apocalypse is prosperity.

People of that sort think that instead of getting the slum dwellers of Mumbai into apartments, we ought to be figuring out how to build shelters out of random garbage. Think of it as the recycling can solution as applied to your entire life.

“The people of Dharavi manage to separate all their waste at home and it gets recycled without any official collection facilities at all," a marveling Charles, who probably never took out the trash once in his life, wrote. It's easy to get people to recycle without any mandates or collection facilities at all. All it takes is grinding poverty so miserable that you either make the most of every last thing you can get your hands on or you die.

That is the sort of lifestyle that environmentalists think of as sustainable. Or as Hobbes put it, "In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth... no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society." That is the natural state to which environmentalists would return us to.

More recently another deep thinker, Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett's son, took to the editorial pages of the New York Times to denounce Third World philanthropy.

"Microlending and financial literacy — what is this really about?" Buffett asks. "People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?"

To the slum dwellers, the beast isn't capitalism, it's that gnawing feeling in your stomach when you haven't eaten for a day. But Peter Buffett, who lives a life almost as privileged as Prince Charles, bemoans the idea of getting people to the point where they aren't worried about where their next meal is coming from because it just turns them into capitalists and consumers. And before you know it, they're buying big screen televisions and writing op-eds in the New York Times on the futility of philanthropy.

"There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff)," Peter Buffett wrote, probably unaware that he was sniffing down the same trail that a thousand communes had gone. But the experimental farm is old hat. The new model is the Third World.

Instead of helping the Third World live like us, the perverse children of the rich dream of making us live like the Third World.

Those working hard to make our society function like Charlie's favorite slum aren't moving to their own collective farms. Instead they are transforming our society into the collective farm while pretending that their calculated destruction of our prosperity is smart and modern.

The Soviet Union pretended that its plans for the country were a modern step forward. In reality, the Commissars took the farmers back to feudalism and then turned much of the country into peasants, coping with harvest labor problems by forcing urban populations to come and pick the crops. And those were the good times. In the bad times, highways and other large projects were built through mass slave labor no different than the way that ancient Egypt built the pyramids.

Communist modernism was a Potemkin village, a cheap tacky curtain and behind it, the sweating slave and the stench of Babylon. The modernism of the progressive the same facade covered in sociology textbooks, New York Times op-eds and teleprompter speeches. Behind it lie the ruins of Detroit, tribal violence in the slums of every major city and an economy in which there is no more room for the middle class except as clerks in the government bureaucracy. And it doesn't end there.

The elderly Chinese woman picking through the trash in search of empty beer bottles isn't the past. She's the future. Recycling is big business because the government and its affiliated liberal elites decided it should be. It's just one example of an artificial economy and it's small stuff compared to the coming carbon crackdown in which every human activity will be monetized and taxed somewhere down the road according to its carbon footprint.

The ultimate dream of the sort of people who can't sleep at night because they worry that children in India might be able to grow up making more than two dollars a day, is to take away our prosperity for our own good through the total regulation of every area of our lives under the pretext of an imminent environmental crisis.

The Global Warming hysteria is about absolute power over every man, woman and child on earth.

"I strongly believe that the West has much to learn from societies and places which, while sometimes poorer in material terms are infinitely richer in the ways in which they live and organize themselves as communities," Prince Charles said.

It goes without saying that the Prince of Wales is not about to take personal advantage of these infinite spiritual riches of living in a house made of garbage, drinking contaminated water and dying before thirty. What he is saying is that while he personally is a little too attached to his lifestyle, he thinks that we as a society would be better off giving up on the materialism of living on more than two dollars a day and embracing the infinite social and spiritual riches that rich people imagine are accessible only to impoverished Third Worlders.

Environmentalism is wealth redistribution on a global scale. The goal isn't even to lift all boats, but to stop the tide of materialism from making too many people too comfortable.

The liberal billionaire who clamors about sustainability likes progress. What he dislikes is the middle class with its mass produced cars and homes, cheap restaurants full of fatty foods and television sets and daily deliveries of cardboard boxes full of stuff and shopping malls. He thinks, in all sincerity, that they would be happier and more spiritually fulfilled as peasants. It's not an original idea.

The Industrial Revolution had hardly begun revolving when the 'Back to Nature' crowd began insisting that it was time to learn a more harmonious way of life by going back to the farm. Centuries later the only new idea that they have come up with is threatening an environmental apocalypse if the middle class doesn't change its mass producing ways. Even its adoration of the Noble Savage is older than the American Revolution.

The modern environmentalism jettisons the idea of moving to a dilapidated farmhouse to spend time being bored while trying to make artisanal rocking chairs to sell to someone, It's done its time searching for the noble savage within through drugs and degradation decades ago. Now it's our turn to tap into the infinity of spiritual riches that comes from just barely getting by.

While the tabloid front pages can't get enough of Weiner, both of the Democratic front runners to
replace Mayor Bloomberg, Quinn and De Blasio, have embraced his mandatory composting plan for the city. New York City is not currently experiencing a compost shortage. There is no reason to force millions of urban residents to hoard rotting garbage except for the moral one. The sustainable logic of the slum that makes us better people by making us more miserable.

The Soviet idea of progress was feudalism dressed up in Socialist red. Environmentalism dresses up feudalism in Green. It seeks to reverse all the progress that we have made in the name of progress. Environmentalism is as sophisticated as a Soviet collective farm, as modern as the homeless people dragging bags of cans along on sticks to feed the machine and as smart as a slum made of trash.

Beneath all the empty chatter about social riches and sustainability is that need to impose progressive misery. Beneath the glossy surface of environmentalism is a vision of the American middle class learning to dig through bags of garbage, the detritus of their consumerism for which they must be punished, to become better people. 


  1. I taught environmental engineering and science at Ohio State for 35 years. I repeatedly warned my students about environmentalism and environmentalists. They and it are products of Romanticism and are explicitly anti-rational and anti-science. Many of their organizations like Green Peace, Earth Liberation Front, Friends of the Earth and People for the Ethical Treatment of animals, are also violent. A great many environmentalists actually want to reduce the human population to a few million paleolithic hunter-gatherers. James Hanson and Paul Ehrlich are examples of such lunatics.

  2. It looks like hypocrisy has become not only acceptable, but a virtue, like homosexuality. We're supposed to take it for granted that these super-rich and privileged elites are made of different stuff than us ordinary 'folks', to use Obama's favorite populist word.

    I wonder if any of these guys even imagine that if they really reduce the middle class to poverty, there will be no more skilled professionals to produce all their toys.

  3. sykes, that's exactly true. They are the products of romanticism and anti-science. Unfortunately they now control much of the scientific establishment, at least in their areas of interest.

    FSY, they prefer handmade work from "artisans". If they reduce everyone to poverty level and wipe out mass production, suddenly there will be a whole lot of artisans.

  4. Anonymous1/8/13

    Once again Daniel, I am in awe....another insight, so eloquently brilliant in your perception of how the elites, especially the progressives see the latest green movement. Like all other movements, i.e. feminist, it really does belong in the toilet as it is no
    less than crap, every stinking part of it.

  5. Anonymous1/8/13

    A brilliant ingenious definitive essay on environmentalism. It was never about "science". It has always been political. The Left worships "models" and "studies" (or the headlines they derive from their bogus studies), and abhors free markets (individual humans making their own decisions and choices) and merit based outcomes. The current political battle is not over the fate of patronage in the 7th Ward of Chicago, it is over the future of civilisation and humanity. Freedom and a life worth living are on the precipice. Your article rivals Churchill in its compelling power and voice for rationality. Thank you.

  6. Anonymous1/8/13

    Daniel you have a gift! Thank You.

  7. thank you to the authors of the three anonymous comments


  8. FSY, they prefer handmade work from "artisans".

    They think they do. Try to get a hold of a handmade laptop after everyone has forgotten how digital logic works.

  9. To be just a bit more specific, "sustainable" is shorthand for "genocidal."

    Agriculture today is "not sustainable" - return it to the way it was in the time of Malthus. Who was correct - if nothing else changed but population, food production and availability would rapidly fall behind and a large percentage of people would starve.

    In England, Henry VIII started to nationalize all forests because wood was so rare and expensive that places like London were literally dying of shortages. Which is when a canny Scot realized he could mine and ship the coal people in his area had used for centuries to wood-poor London and others. Now there is actually a government-subsidized power plant being built which would burn wood - notwithstanding that said wood would have to be imported across the Atlantic.

    The Domesday Boke listed about a thousand commercial windmills (about half of all listed windmills) - if wind is "free" why did they all disappear (I have heard that in 1980 there was one, producing electricity, in London of all places)?

  10. Anonymous1/8/13

    I've always wondered about this. If you look at the numbers the whole collection thing does not make sense. How many cans would you need to make a pittance of money? 200 cans for 10 bucks?

    I've always thought there must be more to it. Maybe an aggregated collection so that some recycler gets impressive numbers and justifies a contract or there is a bonus and these collectors get paid in cash greater than 5 cents per can. After all in the city where people are sorting for collection anyway these people are only picking up bottles that would be recycled anyway. Usually when you scratch a left wing policy you find a system where someone cashes in big and the operation usually is cast along racial lines to provide a workforce and political cover.

  11. Anonymous1/8/13

    Thanks to Americandigest.com for linking this eloquent column so I could read it 6 months after it was posted.

  12. LFMayor1/8/13

    Personally I'm a HUGE fan of Prince Charle's love poetry. "I wish to be your Tampon" is my favorite and I feel this is without a doubt his most definitive work.

    As for the environmentalits, I plan to grow vegetables on them post collapse.

  13. The real money is being made by those who run recycling plants, not the collectors

  14. FSY, they think Apple laptops are handmade

  15. John, they'll build windmills where there is no wind, because their ideology is right which means it will work

    LFMayor, at least that's one he didn't ghostwrite

  16. It must rile the royals to think honeybooboos live a more pampered life than kings did just 120 years ago. Air conditioning, fridges, motorized vehicles, and on and on.

  17. Anonymous1/8/13

    I would like to make every schoolchild read this essay. Smacks of compulsion I know but it might go some way to counter the endless indoctrination they are getting.
    Once again a superb piece of writing.Dave S

  18. Anonymous1/8/13

    You see the truth in everything, and you give it to us. Thank you,

  19. Anonymous2/8/13

    Screw recycling. They're trying to do that in my apartment building. If a tenant uses the trash bin inside the building she/he must put things in the recycle totes.

    The Dumpster outside is different. We can put our garbage (including empty pop cans) in the garbage.

    How did we get to the point where we believe garbage is anything other than garbage?


  20. FrankS2/8/13

    "Consider the dung beetle...
    And know your place!"

  21. We got to the point through the obsession with the idea that the growing middle class is a threat and is filling the world with strip malls, cheap houses, cheap food and garbage.

    It's a lefty idea

  22. Anonymous2/8/13

    Daniel, another brilliant essay. Thank you.


  23. Brilliant and very disturbing. Is there something proactive we can DO about this? I guess forwarding this article is a start toward public awakening... but really, somebody should adapt it to a short rap video on YouTube... Any volunteers?

  24. Anonymous2/8/13

    Great piece, but I lost you at Feudalism. It's nothing like Feudalism. In Medieval times dealing with "power" meant a direct and personal relationship with your local lord; limited in its scope, based on honor and reciprocal responsibilities. It was the opposite of today's mandatory anonimity. Poor peasants were invited to the wedding banquet of their lord.

    Alpha T

  25. Anonymous2/8/13

    Environmentalism is a secular religion whose dogma can be described as follows: if you are going to live in a world without God, then you have to do two things; first, make yourself all-knowing and all-powerful, and second, create your own form of salvation. Environmentalism suits this purpose very well. In the 1970's, the Earth was going to perish from acid rain unless we enacted laws to restrict industry. Later, the same thing happened with nuclear power plants. Then we were all going to die from the ozone hole, then plastic bottles, and now global warming. The environmentalists first invent a catastrophe and then try to convince us that only they can fix it. The "solution" always comes in the form of suppressing individual liberties. This is why secular and atheist societies are the most repressive (the Soviet Union and Communist China being examples; even most Islamic states do not restrict freedom of movement and practice centralized planning as the Communists do). Environmentalism is not about the Earth; it is about the environmentalists trying to build a Tower of Babel and to make a name for themselves in their fight against God.

    Dan S.

  26. The Environmental Apocalypse does not derive from science. It comes from a religion, the faux pagan worship of Gaia, the earth goddess. She is angry and must be propitiated by the sacrifice of human babies. The white liberals who are votaries of this religion have chosen brown and black babies to be the victims of the rituals of "population control", "zero population growth" and "reproductive choice".

    Why has this bizarre cult arisen among what are supposed to be our most intelligent and skeptical class?

    First we must observe the collapse of religious belief in this class.

    They are all Marxists now, not industrial grade Stalinists, but cultural Marxists theorized by Adorno, and Gramisci, and the French lumpen-philosopes such as Foucault and Derrida. But, even those variants of Marxism demands atheism.

    Also atheism, especially, the nasty anti-intellectual atheism of Dawkins et. al., allows them to indulge their favorite passion -- Contempt for the unwashed masses of Americans -- the obese bitter clingers who inhabit fly-over country and cling to their guns and religion.

    Having chosen atheism does not mean that they believe nothing. As Umberto Eco wrote:

    "G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: "When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything." Whoever said it - he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.

    "The "death of God", or at least the dying of the Christian God, has been accompanied by the birth of a plethora of new idols. They have multiplied like bacteria on the corpse of the Christian Church ..."

    The failure of prophecies of the Apocalypse does not invalidate the religion of Gaia anymore than the the failure of the Apocalypse to occur in the 1st Century C.E. (1 Thessalonians) invalidated Christianity. Such failures often cause the faithful to double down, not to give up.

  27. When I used to smoke and flip cigarette filters all over my yard, I would tell people they make good nesting material for birds and I was doing my part to recycle. Maybe this was because where I grew up, in a place called The Bottoms, I was one of the lucky ones who actually had shoes, so I guess some of the rich Liberal social sense rubbed off on me. I was rich in my own way because I had those shoes, which led to my being an adult conserving my cigarette filters for nesting material. You have reached deep into my logic to explain why I even exist. I was born to live in a shack made of garbage.

  28. yes and no to this all.....grew up in concrete jungle of ny, many relatives died of cancer, smog and what not left many with compromised health. the system as it is does turn everything into plastic for money. that's what it does. recently read an article about a peasant in a hut, not sure where, maybe Lithuania, who is 124 and has never been sick. they all don't just die. your writing has some truth in it. but the libertarian, conservative, whatever vision you call it, leaves a lot to be desired. sorry, we've gone to far. the truth is there are no answers any more. not in what you see, or the environmentalists see. living knowing this is what has to be faced. one has to be humbled, that is all that's left.

  29. I live in the city and I know someone who is 107. There are plenty of 90 year olds around here.

    The oldest woman in the world lives in a major Japanese city.

    Not that it means anything. Yes pollution can shorten lifespans, but the industry that creates it also makes possible a medical system that can extend average lifespans for everyone.

    Like most things in life it's a balance. There's good and bad.


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