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April 21, 2000


Philosophical Underpinnings of Environmentalist Movement


<br /> Philosophical Underpinnings of Environmentalist Moveme<br />

Prof. Deepak Lal <dlal@ucla.edu>, an
internationally acclaimed economist who holds a chair at  UCLA,
delivered a spell-binding lecture tracing the historical and
philosophical underpinnings of the NGO movement at a seminar in
Seattle during the WTO meeting.

Prof. Lal made a brilliant analysis of the
environmentalist movement, and dissected its philosophical
roots. Lal offered an intriguing thesis that increasing
reverance for nature and the ensuing ecofundamentalism is a
consequence of the 'death of the Christian God'!. In other words,
environmentalism resulted from the void created by the decline of the
religion."The guilt evinced against sinning against God has been
replaced by that of sinning against Nature. Saving Spaceship Earth
has replaced the saving of souls!"

Prof. Lal kindly sent me a text of his
lecture which now appears at
http://agbioworld.org/articles/deepak.html. ; Excerpts appear
below. An understanding of these thoughts is very important for us to
put the current opposition to GM food, especially in Europe, in

- Prakash

color="#000000">-------------------------------------------- >

Excerpts ......

Global Governance: A Recipe for Global

By Deepak Lal

(This speech was given by Deepak Lal, professor of economics at UCLA,
in Seattle, Washington, Nov. 29, 1999 at a conference on
"Ensuring Open Trade for Global Prosperity.")

"Numerous non-governmental organizations (NGO's) are currently
in the forefront of various issues" .......... "they pose a
serious threat to the prosperity of the peoples of the Third World.
Thus the environmental NGO's are in the vanguard in attempting to
stop growth (and the poverty alleviation it entails) in the Third
World by seeking to limit their carbon emissions; the consumer NGO's
-- not I hasten to add this one -- are seeking to prevent imports of
goods from developing countries produced by means which do not meet
their moral standards, in the name of ethical trading; the human
rights NGO's are attempting to legislate a new extra-territorial
principle based on western moral values categorized as 'human rights;
the health NGO's have taken on a crusade against GM foods,which
promise the same hope for the hungry of the world that the Green
Revolution (which too was based on the genetic modification of
plants) delivered in the last three decades".


"The rational arguments against most of their prescriptions have
no resonance with these groups, even when they claim they are
concerned with alleviating poverty. Some sense can be made of their
views if it is realized that they are the latest manifestation of the
various secular religions in the West once the Christian God died for
so many after the Scientific and Darwinian

.......... As I have argued elsewhere from the Enlightenment to
Marxism to Freudianism to Eco-fundamentalism Augustine's vision of
the Heavenly City has had a tenacious hold on the Western mind.
............. But once as a result of Darwin he was seen to be blind,
as Neitzsche proclaimed from the housetops at the end of the 19th
century, God was Dead, and the moral foundations of the West were
thereafter in ruins.

"Marxism like the old faith looks to the past and the future.
There is a Garden of Eden -- before "property" relations
corrupted "natural man". Then the Fall as
"commodification" leads to class societies and a continuing
but impersonal conflict of material forces, which leads in turn to
the Day of Judgment with the Revolution and the millennial Paradise
of Communism. This movement towards earthly salvation being mediated,
not as the Enlightenment sages had claimed through enlightenment and
the preaching of good will, but by the inexorable forces of
historical materialism. Another secular "city of God" has
been created".

"Ecofundamentalism is the latest of these secular mutations of
Augustine's "City of God" . It carries the Christian notion
of contemptus mundi to its logical conclusion. Humankind is evil and
only by living in harmony with a deified Nature can it be

"The environmental movement (at least in its "deep"
version) is now a secular religion in many parts of the West. The
historian of the ecological movement Anna Bramwell notes that in the
past Western Man was able to see the earth as man's unique domain
precisely because of God's existence... When science took over the
role of religion in the nineteenth century, the belief that God made
the world with a purpose in which man was paramount declined. But if
there was no purpose, how was man to live on the earth? The
hedonistic answer, to enjoy it as long as possible, was not
acceptable. If Man had become God, then he had become the shepherd of
the earth, the guardian, responsible for the oekonomie of the
earth.(Bramwell, p.23)"

"The spiritual and moral void created by the Death of God is,
thus, increasingly being filled in the secular Western world by the
worship of Nature. In a final irony, those haunted natural spirits
which the medieval Church sought to exorcise so that the West could
conquer its forests, are now being glorified and being placed above
Man. The surrealist and anti-human nature of this contrast between
eco-morality and what mankind has sought through its religions in the
past is perfectly captured by Douglas and Wildavsky who write:
"the sacred places of the world are crowded with pilgrims and
worshippers. Mecca is crowded, Jerusalem is crowded. In most
religions, people occupy the foreground of the thinking. The Sierra
Nevada are vacant places, loved explicitly because they are vacant.
So the environment has come to take first place"(p.125). The
guilt evinced against sinning against God has been replaced by that
of sinning against Nature. Saving Spaceship Earth has replaced the
saving of souls!"

"Eco-fundamentalism and the other forms of ethical imperialisn
are the inevitable mutant, which will continue to cause the world a
good deal of grief for some time to come".