In his oft-quoted tome on the history of ancient Rome, Edward Gibbon identified the rise of Christianity as a key factor in the fall of empire--degrading it’s martial readiness just as the barbarians approached the gates. Doug Casey wonders if today’s west might be going the same way.
Casey identifies a new religion—environmentalism—as playing a similar role in the downward spiral of the United States, as well as many of the large democracies. In this Guest Post, David Galland from Casey Research summarises Doug Casey’s argument.
In a nutshell, in the same way that the early Christians—adherents to a much more passive form of the religion than today's "Kill them all and let God sort them out" version—degraded the martial readiness of the Roman population just as the barbarians approached the gates, the wildfire spread of environmentalism around the globe is tearing down the last ramparts of capitalism, leaving the walls undefended against the onslaught of socialism and worse.
In support of Doug's thesis, I think it's safe to say that only the least-attentive dear readers would fail to recognize the fundamental truth that extreme environmentalism is as accepted as doctrine by the masses. In fact, you'd have to have been hiding in a dark cave for decades to not have noticed the widespread propaganda campaigns permeating virtually every corner of society, most importantly school curricula, to the point where it is accepted by the majority as fact that the global environment is teetering towards collapse. Leading to the further belief that only purposeful government intervention will save the oceans, prevent warming, save the polar bears, honeybees, stop hurricanes, etc., etc., etc.
Further proof that the religion of environmentalism has been widely adopted comes from the fact that even the Tea Party now has affiliated green organizations.
To use a personal example, thanks to daily doses of indoctrination in her school, a friend of my 14-year-old daughter openly frets about global overpopulation. While it was largely an exercise in futility, I tried to ease her mind by pointing out that I've travelled to almost every corner of the globe and, with the exceptions of the big cities where people voluntarily cluster to pursue economic advantages, the world is pretty much deserted. If you doubt that statement, just drive 20 minutes or so outside of London or Paris—the capitals of countries that have been populated for millennia—and you'll find yourself in rural countryside.
Or, consider New York City and its densely populated environs. Drive just 15 miles from the dead centre of Manhattan and you'll be dodging deer (the state ranks 18th in the nation for deer collisions).
But I drift, because what I really wanted to get to is the notion that environmentalism is like a deadly toxin to capitalism and, by extension, economic success. Or, viewed conversely, per Doug's thesis, why its endemic spread ensures dark days ahead for many of the world's largest (and not so large) economies.
Let's start by breaking environmentalism down into its working assumptions.
1. The presence of mankind is bad for the environment. Yet, despite all the arm-waving, the notion that humans cause global warming or whatever on a grand scale is not scientifically supported. A scientist friend at the very apex of the climatology pyramid once told me that termite farts had, by an order of magnitude, more impact on the environment than humankind.
2. Growth in the human population is bad. This attitude along with the downward trend in personal wealth is a big contributor to the trend for smaller and smaller families. To the point where a number of countries, Japan most notably, have literally entered a population death spiral, with more deaths than births. The economic consequences are as profound as they are dire, given that the trend means a smaller and smaller ratio of workers to retirees. Given the growth in socialism, the remaining workers will increasingly be made tax slaves of the state.
3. Industry and business are evil. Who's most responsible for all the toxic gases and seagull-choking plastic bags bringing the new/old god Mother Gaia weeping to her knees? Why, greed-maddened capitalist industry, of course! Remarkably, despite the obvious flaws with this meme—for starters, that it's industry that provides jobs, not to mention all of the goods that people require to avoid returning to the dark ages, literally—it has gained solid footing around the world.
Though I could retrieve any number of examples of how deep this idea runs, I'll use one that I know is near and dear even to the hearts of many of our own dear readers, because I hear it come up time and again as a great fear. And that has to do with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially GMO foods.
There may be a few good reasons to be concerned by GMO technologies, for example, the idea that a company can patent common crops or that the use of GMO technologies will lead to the growth of a monoculture that is then at risk of an unforeseen pestilence. Yet hard science shows no material difference in the nutritional value of GMO foods and those of the more natural sort. And though many decry the fact that plants have been engineered to be more resistant to pesticides, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because in many cases this allows for the use of less, not more, pesticides.
Regardless, that may be a moot point. In his excellent presentation at our recent Tucson Summit, Alex Daley pointed to a compelling investment opportunity, a company selling automated, driverless farm equipment that in addition to harvesting crops can hit individual weeds with small spurts of spray, greatly reducing the need for (and cost of) widespread spraying.
But the greatest defence of GMO technology is in the increased productivity of agricultural land—productivity that, as the chart below demonstrates, has greatly contributed to the disappearance of widespread famine. Note the rise in population versus the decline in famine deaths, and you'll be noting a waterfall decline in global famine. For the record, GMOs first hit the market in 1994.
Of course, if one accepts the idea—as the environmentalists most certainly do—that humankind is bad, then it is only logical for them to pressure governments to prohibit technologies that reduce mass starvation. And so it is that a number of countries, especially in Europe, have done just that by banning GMO crops or food made of those crops. Just last month, members of the Los Angeles city council proposed a ban on all GMO food.
There's a very close corollary to the ban on DDT in the early 1970s, largely because of Rachel Carson's scientifically flawed book, Silent Spring, that subsequently has cost literally tens of millions of lives due to the pandemic of malaria and other insect-spread diseases. And how many lives were saved by the ban? According to any credible scientist, not a one.
4. Therefore, industry and business must be closely regulated. I think it's safe to say that something approximating a majority of people in this world, especially those who are younger and therefore have been subjected to the full radiation of irrational environmentalism by state school systems, would vote in a heartbeat for the government to regulate industries to the point of control, something approximating a de facto reality in the US at this point.
In addition to ignoring the invariable consequences of government controlling the levers of production—i.e., economic collapse—the historical record shows unequivocally that the local environment has been damaged most in command economies.
That's because in a free economy, industry can't force people to buy products but must depend on word of mouth and goodwill to attract buyers. Thus, these businesses have a clear and compelling interest in being good neighbours. This is triply true in the Internet age, when every real or imagined transgression is immediately broadly broadcast. By contrast, in a command economy, bureaucrats with no shareholders to answer to are free to be as inefficient and wasteful as they please: all that matters is meeting production targets.
5. Anything other than "renewables" is bad. Despite providing the bulk of base energy production, coal, oil, and nuclear power are considered by the greenies as fundamentally loathsome. While there was a brief period when clean-burning natural gas was considered in a somewhat neutral light, it didn't take long for the environmentalists to figure out a way to hate it, too.
Again, given a binding vote on the matter, there's little question that a large share of the global population would vote to ban coal, oil, nuclear, and gas power pretty much immediately. Despite the reality that shortly thereafter, the lights would weakly flicker, then go out.
That point is made clear in the following slide-out of the just-released World Energy Outlook report issued by the International Energy Agency.
6. By extension, anything other than renewable energy should be blocked at every turn, and taxed excessively if it can't be blocked. This particular view gains strength in that it syncs up nicely with the political-correctness movement. To wit, it's very much politically incorrect to speak out in favour of a new fossil fuel project or, heavens forbid, a new nuclear plant. Doing so will instantly bring down upon your head a wave of indignant greenies. Thus, even as the struggling global economy is in desperate need of inexpensive energy, the legal, legislative, and economic challenges to bring new projects to market is made nearly impossible by lawyered-up nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and bureaucrats indoctrinated to be entirely sympathetic to their cause.
Of course, as our own Bud Conrad or any economist worth his or her salt will tell you, inexpensive energy is essential for robust economic growth. To state a fairly obvious example of the truth of that statement, back in the day when it took the energy of an ox working with a human to plough a field, the size of the global economy was a fraction of what it is today, and the cost of food as a percentage of income was exponentially higher than it is now.
But at this point, the religion of environmentalism is so entrenched that considering an alternative view, no matter how scientifically sound, is no more likely than an Arkansas Bible-thumper considering becoming a disciple of Muhammad.
While I may have previously run these photos underscoring the hypocrisy, or more likely, the complete cluelessness of rabid environmentalists (in this case, anti-fracking protesters in England), they are so telling I simply have to run them again, with full credit to the award-winning (science-based) website, Watts Up With That?
There are additional counterproductive planks in the environmentalist platform one could point to, but as other tasks left undone by the revelries around here are in need of attention, I'll inch toward something approximating a conclusion.
If you review the above tenets of the disciples of Greenism and accept them as accurate, the logical consequence is a strong, continuing trend toward greater control over the economy "for the good of the people." The United States and much of Europe can now be defined as largely socialist states, but should things continue on the current path, I suspect we'll see experiments in extreme socialism and, when those fail, communism.
That's because there's no room in the gabled halls of Greendom for capitalism, the driving force behind all successful economies and the subsequent advancement of humankind.
This despite the fact that previous experiments with communism have been, without exception, epic failures.
But we humans are stubborn when it comes to the notion that with just a little jiggering on the part of governments, we can somehow have our cake and then help ourselves to the next fellow's as well. That the cake today is baked with all natural, organic, recycled, gluten-free ingredients (and, heavens forbid, no trans fats) is only to the better.
Of course, it's the evil capitalists and their employees who will have to bear the brunt of the growing list of misguided green regulations and the society-wide consequences of those regulations. There is now even a serious movement to award every citizen a basic income each month for life, no strings attached. Nice work, if you can get it. As for who's going to pay for it, if you have a business or a job, then look no further than in the nearest mirror.
As the burden grows too heavy, businesses will shutter and/or move to saner business climates.
In conclusion, I think that Doug's right that the reasons for the eventual fall of the large Western empires will be mostly internal, not external, in nature. When all is said and done, it won't be some mad jihadist triggering a mega-bomb that brings down the West, but rather the consequences of the mass delusion of imminent environmental destruction, inculcated by those in control of the state as part and parcel of assuming even greater power.
It is unlikely to end well.
Doug Casey is a bestselling financial author, international investor, entrepreneur, and the founder and chairman of Casey Research, a provider of subscription financial analysis about specific market verticals including natural resources/metals/mining, energy, commodities, and technology. Since 1979 he has written or co-written the monthly metals-and-mining-focused investment newsletter The International Speculator. He also contributes to other newsletters including The Casey Report, a geopolitically-oriented publication.
David Galland is Managing Director of Casey Research,, and the Executive Director of the Explorers' League.
This post first appeared at the Casey Daily Dispatch.