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Interview With Ron Arnold, March1998

The Conservative Monitor interviews noted environmental activist and author, Ron Arnold

Ron Arnold is the Executive Vice President of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. He is one of the leading proponents of the Wise Use Movement and has written several prominent works on the environment and environmental terrorism.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: Your Book, "Eco-Terrorism" chronicles the story of the Unabomber's last victim. Why is it important to put a human face to the label, "victim"?

RON ARNOLD: It's the traditional answer, "Many deaths are a statistic, one death is a tragedy." I told the story of Gil Murray not only because he was a personal colleague, but also because It brings home the true terror that grips the survivors around an ideological murder victim.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: Your book outlines Ted Kaczynski's ties to the Environmental Movement. It also describes and lists other terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of the environment. How common is this kind of action?

RON ARNOLD: My book details more than 1,000 crimes committed to save nature, many with arrest and conviction records of the environmentalists who committed them. Ecoterror is virtually an everyday event, yet it is the most unreported crime in America. Now that Theodore Kaczynski has admitted his extensive correspondence with the radical environmental group Earth First! and that he targeted Thomas Mosser, his next-to-last murder victim, from an Earth First! Journal article, I think the world needs to turn its attention to ecoterror. Law enforcement is already mounting serious investigations. Congress is also working toward early House hearings on ecoterror.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: Though the Sierra Club is a widely popular organization, it is not loved by those who wish to protect property rights. Yet, as your book points out, the Sierra Club is not necessarily popular among environmental radicals either. What is the reason for their animosity?

RON ARNOLD: Many radical environmentalists feel that the big Washington, D.C. lobbying groups such as the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society have lost touch with their grass roots, have fallen captive to the political coils of compromise, are caught up in internal turf and ego wars of rank, salary and advancement, and for all these reason fail to "save" nature. When radicals see such groups fund-raising on the claim that they are the saviors of the planet, it appears as mere self-aggrandizing and arrogant rhetoric without substance.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: The spectacular scandals going on in the White House is causing much commotion in the press. Do you think it is diverting public attention from more important issues, for example the connection between the Unabomber, Eco Terrorism and the environmental movement in general and what this means to the country at large?

RON ARNOLD: Getting your own news release drowned out in a busy news day is a common experience for authors, but in this instance the commotion coming from the White House threatens to drown out virtually all other news, not just that about the threat posed by ecoterrorism. But a growing network of pro-technology activists is making sure that the message of my book EcoTerror will stay before the public for as long as it takes to produce results. By results, I mean congressional hearings and legislation to protect the public from environmentally motivated violence.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: What do you say to environmental critics who argue that the free enterprise system encourages destruction of the environment for short term gain?

RON ARNOLD: I agree. And add two points: First, there is no human system that does not encourage destruction of the environment. For humans to obtain food, clothing and shelter at even the most primitive level, objects and organisms must be converted by human labor from their original place and condition into usable products, which appears to be destruction from the viewpoint of the converted items, but appears to be creation from the viewpoint of the human whose life is increased thereby. The real question is which of the available human systems is most desirable: hunter-gatherer tribes, slash-and-burn shifting planter tribes, nomadic animal husbandry bands, settled agricultural communities, classical pre-industrial civilizations, industrial societies, or high technology cultures. I promote high technology cultures for their ability to learn and their power to correct mistakes while offering the widest variety of lifestyles and mind-styles to their citizens. The second point is that short term gain includes your meals today and your bed tonight and everything else you use all your life, therefore, short term gain should not be looked upon solely as an evil, because it may well be part of a long-term survival strategy of excellent quality, which is the case in most free enterprise business plans.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: In your new book, "EcoTerror", you chronicle the history of the extreme and radical environmental movement. You point out that the initial driving force of the Earth First! Movement, Dave Foreman, identifies himself as a Republican and a conservative. Can you tell us a little about this seeming contradiction in the man?

RON ARNOLD: There are two parts to the answer. One is that showman Dave Foreman is exaggerating his Republican credentials, and the other is that deep ecologist Dave Foreman may instruct us that conservatism and radical environmentalism are not entirely mutually exclusive.

Showman Dave Foreman, like many another college student of the 1960s, became politically aware through Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," joined Young Americans for Freedom (more libertarian than conservative) and registered to vote as a Republican because it was the closest thing to Rand's objectivist philosophy. Ayn Rand, recall, rejected religion and social conservatism while espousing an economic conservatism similar to Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School of economics. Dave Foreman gradually jettisoned even economic conservatism in favor of anarchy (in his rhetoric) and total state control (in his legislative recommendations such as the Wildlands Project that would depopulate and remove civilization from half of the United States to make a nature preserve). Thus, regardless what his voter registration card says, his voting record probably isn't very Republican - witness his loud denunciations of Ronald Reagan's administration. And most Republicans have never entered a guilty plea of felony conspiracy to blow up the power lines of several nuclear generating stations, as convicted ecoterrorist Dave Foreman did in 1991. Deep ecologist Dave Foreman is conservative only in the sense of resisting change, and the only change he resists is man's impact on the natural world. However, today's conservative community also harbors very real resistance to change, both social change and technological change. Many conservatives also approve of government arrangements to preserve nature without asking too many questions about how that affects our life, liberty and property. The "Good Old Days" are an ideal both to conservatives such as Pat Robertson and to radical environmentalists such as Dave Foreman. The difference is that conservatives are thinking about the bucolic America of a century ago and Dave Foreman is thinking about the Early Stone Age. We usually think of "radical" as meaning "revolutionary," but it doesn't, it only means "of the root," as in "going back to the root." Radical environmentalism is not revolutionary, it is devolutionary. It's going backward, not forward. We also usually think of environmentalism as "leftist," with its command-and-control, top-down, you-don't-matter politics. It's not on the left. The Revolutionary Communist Party of Great Britain (an unquestionably leftist organization), for example, absolutely rejects and denounces environmentalism as being opposed to human progress (see my web-site at http://www.cdfe.org/communist.html). Environmentalism has gone so far around the political spectrum it has become that farthest-to-the-right of all ideologies, fascism. But it's a fascism without Hitler or Mussolini. It's a fascism with equally self-righteous zealots absolutely convinced they are right and willing to disregard you if you disagree. Radical environmentalism is not progressive, it's retrogressive, aiming to blast us not to some utopian future, but back to primeval nature or even -- as Dave Foreman's magazine Wild Earth wrote of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement -- to oblivion. Some radical environmentalists are willing to use violence to achieve their goals, which is why I wrote EcoTerror.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: Gordon Durnil, author of "The Education of a Conservative Environmentalist", has hypothesized that conservatives and Republicans could and should take up the environmentalist standard. He believes that it is an issue that resonates with many and that conservatives are the group to handle environmental issues in the most responsible manner. Do you foresee environmentalism ever becoming a "conservative issue"?

RON ARNOLD: Yes. Conservation of resources and conservatism are philosophical cousins, but not brothers. There are some points in common that philosophical conservatives may embrace, but probably not political conservatives. I don't think Republicans will turn environmentalism into their political issue because it requires too much government intrusion. Republicans may try to co-opt the issue as an insincere popularity measure, but are likely to be rebuffed by the environmental establishment because liberal social agenda items necessarily accompany ideological environmentalism.

CONSERVATIVE MONITOR: Environmental standards imposed by the government may be responsible for cleaner air and cleaner water in the 1990s than existed in the 1970s. Taking into account Malthusian fears of population growth and the need to support that population, what do you see as the future for the liveability of our planet?

RON ARNOLD: I see technological civilization overcoming obstacles, solving supply problems by closing the open loops in our resource streams and finding better ways to make more products from less material. The great marvel of technological civilization is its ability to learn and its power to solve problems imaginatively. I foresee Western standards of living extending worldwide in stages as Third World cultures throw off the yoke of environmentalists who have imposed no-growth policies on them. Watch for some determined struggles of the poor to better their lot and a revolutionary awakening of global populations to the negative influence of environmentalism on human life.

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