Remarks of Robert W. Tracinski at the Earth Day 2000 Countermarch Press
(Washington, DC) The following are remarks by Robert W.
Tracinski, explaining the motives and goals of the Earth Day 2000
Countermarch sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
and the Ayn Rand Institute.
I’m sure that the first question most people will ask
when they hear that we’re planning a countermarch against Earth Day is:
Why in the heck would anybody be against Earth Day? Earth Day has gone
from being an obscure and little observed holiday thirty years ago to
being a large, mainstream event, with political leaders and movie stars
showing up to pay homage to the environmentalist agenda.
And there’s one main reason why Earth Day is so widely accepted and
uncontroversial. People think that environmentalism just means being for
clean air and clean water—and who could possibly be against these things.
But the actual message of Earth Day is much deeper, and much different. In
fact, we believe that the environmentalists don’t really care about clean
air and clean water. Their real goal is to destroy technology and to
subordinate mankind to nature.
Watch the crowds of environmentalists who will gather on the Mall
tomorrow, and notice that they have never met a form of technology they
liked. Every kind of new technology is attacked, from nuclear power to
genetically modified foods. But they also oppose every old, existing
technology, from fertilizers and pesticides to the internal combustion
engine. And they always place the blame for every problem on one basic
target: the Industrial Revolution.
Now, I think it’s practically self-evident that the Industrial Revolution
was an enormous advance for mankind. All we have to do is look at all of
the products of industrialism that we use and rely on every minute of the
day—and ask ourselves what we would have to do if we didn’t have them.
The essence of the Industrial Revolution was the replacement of human
muscle power with machine power. Prior to the 19th century, most work was
done by the brute physical labor of human muscles. But the Industrial
Revolution replaced that muscle power with power from steam engines, and
eventually from oil, coal and, more recently, nuclear power.
The machines created by the Industrial Revolution are often called
“labor-saving devices.” But that doesn’t go nearly far enough, because in
saving human labor, these machines save time, energy, and effort—and what
that means, ultimately, is that these machines are saving our lives.
Machines give us back all of the hours of our life that no longer have to
be spent scratching out our subsistence through physical labor.
The fact that we are able to eat, without having to spend all day out in
the fields toiling behind a hand plow—that’s what we owe to the Industrial
Revolution. The fact that we can clothe ourselves, without having to spend
all day bent over a hand loom—the fact that we can build houses, without
having to spend all day swinging an ax—the fact that we can have the tools
we need to work, without having to spend all day hammering away at a hand
forge—these are all benefits bestowed on us by the creative minds of the
Industrial Revolution. And even the fact that we can turn on a TV in our
living rooms, or turn on our computers, or open our door and pick up a
newspaper, and we get from these things all the news and entertainment
that we need—these, too, are products of the Industrial Revolution.
So for all of these reasons, I think the real question we should be asking
is not: Why would anyone be opposed to Earth Day? We should be asking: Why
would anyone be opposed to industrial civilization?
We think the environmentalists are opposed to industrialism, not because
they care about any real or imagined harms to human life, but for
precisely the opposite reason. They are opposed to industry because they
do not care about human life. Instead, they want to sacrifice human life
and happiness for the sake of a kind of primitive nature-worship.
That’s a radical claim, but let me cite just a few examples to show why I
think this is the case. Now let’s assume, for the moment, that all the
environmentalists want is clean air and clean water. Then we would have to
assume that their favorite form of technology would be the hydro-electric
dam. These dams produce electricity without burning coal or oil, so
there’s no danger of polluted air. And the reservoirs created by these
dams are an important source of clean water. So the environmentalists
ought to be crusading for more dams.
But what we actually see is that the environmentalists are crusading
against dams. And they boast about how they have prevented the
construction of hundred of dams across the world in the past few years.
They have even been successful at having a few existing dams torn down.
And if you ask them why they’re doing this, they’ll tell you that they did
it to preserve the “free-flowing” river and to protect all of the fish
that live in it. It is the river and the fish that they regard as
important, not any benefits to human life.
Here’s another example. A few years back, scientists discovered a drug
called Taxol, which was highly effective at treating ovarian cancer. But
this drug had to be harvested from the bark of the Yew tree. The
environmentalists immediately protested, because they wanted to protect
the trees. They showed no concern for what happened to the women with
If you think this is just the stance of a few extremists or whackos,
consider what Vice-President Al Gore had to say on the issue. He replied
that, if you think of it in terms of cutting down a single tree to save a
human life, then, yes, there would be no reason to object. But, he said,
when you realize that we have to cut down three trees for every life we
save, the issue gets more complicated.
Well, I don’t think it’s complicated at all. But that’s because I’m on the
side of the humans.
The real message of Earth Day is that technology is evil—and the reason
the environmentalists regard technology as evil is that it allows humans
beings to dominate nature. Their goal, by contrast, is to make man
subordinate to nature.
Here’s how one environmentalist put it: “We are not interested in the
utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to
mankind. [These things] have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than
another human body, or a billion of them.”
In light of these views, the name of one radical environmental group is
admirably exact: “Earth First!” The implication is: humans last. Any
philosophy that has such a disregard for human life can only lead to
If we want to put humans first, where they belong, we have to understand
the value of industry and technology and stand up to defend it. And that’s
our goal this Earth Day.
And as a matter of fact, I have proposed that we go even farther. As a
counter-balance to Earth Day, we should celebrate an Industrial Revolution
Day. We should devote a day to celebrating the achievements of industrial
Isn’t it strange, after all, that we live in a society of heavy industry
and advanced technology—we all use automobiles, airplanes, electric
lights, televisions, and computers—yet we never take a day to honor the
people who made these things possible?
Consider only the basics of life: food, shelter, and clothing. The
Industrial Revolution brought such inventions as the power loom and the
knitting machine—which made a vastly greater abundance and variety of
clothing available to even the poorest people. As for shelter, it was
coal, oil, and natural gas that brought a clean, reliable source of heat
into everyone’s homes, protecting us from the deadly cold of winter. And
it was the logging industry, the arch-villain of the environmentalists,
that made it possible for practically anyone to own his own home.
And what about food? A whole array of farm machinery, not to mention
chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and now genetically engineered
crops—have created such an abundance of food that famine, which used to be
a constant danger, is now inconceivable in industrialized countries.
We should devote one day a year to counting the ways in which machines
make our lives better and easier every minute of the day. We should
recognize how much more abundant, and less expensive, industrial
production has made even the most mundane everyday objects, from
toothbrushes to toasters to cordless phones.
We have a whole day devoted to a crusade against the alleged dangers of
technology. That we don’t take a day to count its benefits is inexcusable.
So we’re not just against Earth Day, we’re for recognizing the enormous
contribution made to human life by the Industrial Revolution. Let the
other side have their day to honor John Muir and Rachel Carson—but we
think people should take a day, instead, to honor the world’s Henry Fords
and Thomas Edisons. And we think if people did this, they would begin to
see through the environmentalist agenda. And once people recognized the
real essence of the environmental movement, once they saw its real
hostility to human life—they would reject it.