More on the theme of my posts over the last two days on the death spiral of environmentalism, this time from my old graduate school landlord, Peter Drucker. In 1972 Drucker wrote an article for Harper’s entitled “The High Cost of Our Environmental Future” (sorry, no link—I only have hard copy):
Everybody today is “for the environment. . .” Yet the crusade is in real danger of running off the tracks, much like its immediate predecessor, the so-called war on poverty. Paradoxically, the most fervent environmentalists may be among its chief wreckers. Many are confused about the cause of our crisis and the way in which we might resolve it. They ignore the difficult decisions that must be made; they splinter the resources available for attacking environmental problems. Indeed, some of our leading crusaders seem almost perversely determined to sabotage their cause—and our future.
Drucker, who mentioned that he was a member of the Sierra Club, nonetheless ran through a list of “delusions” rampant in the environmental movement, culminating with this: “The final delusion is that the proper way to bring about a clean environment is through punitive legislation.” And this: “Despite all the rhetoric on the campuses, we know by now that ‘capitalism’ has nothing to do with the ecological crisis, which is fully as severe in the Communist countries.”
Actually, environmental degradation was much much worse in Communist countries than in the capitalist democracies. And Drucker conceded too much to the early green sentiment that our environmental problems constituted a “crisis.” Still, the always perceptive Drucker should be counted among the first to suggest that environmentalism would destroy itself through its extremism and lack of attachment to reality. And if you’ve never read Drucker’s memoir, Adventures of a Bystander, it’s very much worth picking up if you run across it in a second-hand bookshop.
By the way, it was something of a mystery to us graduate students why the greatest of business management gurus clearly charged us a below-market rent for the house we rented from him.