Ron Arnold on Environmentalism and the Wise Use (Anti-environmental) Movement


Environmental Movement Challenges

Dominant Western Worldview

Anti-Environmental Movement Accepts

Growth not= Betterment

Unlimited growth not sustainable

Unlimited economic growth is possible and beneficial

Traditional growth is good and sustainable


Technological Pessimists?

Appropriate Technology


Can technology solve the problems of poverty, starvation, discrimination, crime, species extinction, loss of wilderness, global warming?

Most serious problems can be solved by technology

Technological optimists

Techno-fix mentality?


Solve acidification of lakes by dumping base compound into lakes?  Solve pollution problems by engineering species that can withstand the pollution?

More skeptical of unregulated market’s consequences

Need for Env. Regulations

Free Market Environmentalism?

Environmental and social problems can be mitigated by market economy with some state intervention

Little government regulation of the market







Environmental Paradigm


Yes; aim for Betterment

Growth must be limited


Why restrain science?

Only env. Harmful technologies need to be limited

Environmentally helpful technologies need to be encouraged

Science and technology must be restrained

Don’t believe this


Nature has finite resources

Don’t believe this:  A resource (not finite) is a natural object (finite) + work (not finite)

Nature knows best?

Human intervention in nature is bad by definition?

Nature has a delicate balance that humans should observe 

Balance of nature is a fiction

Nature is not necessarily good


Arnold’s critique of environmentalism:

  • Destroyers of the economy, jobs, and private property (with too much government regulation)
  • Destroyers of material well being (pushing life of simplicity)
  • Destroyers of Industrial Civilization (“Back to the Pleistocene”)
  • Destroyers of individual liberty and rights (favor a totalitarian, eco-authoritarian system)
  • Believe their use of the environment is the only legitimate one (environmentalists have a holier than thou, self-righteous attitude—skiing is better than snowmobiling)