Environmentalism as Apocalyptic Cult

Terrible film or terrifying prediction of the future? Why not both?

So here's a cheery op-ed to start your day. In it, we learn of the mental struggles of Roy Scranton, a new dad who is sad and mad about a bad fad signaling the end of shad:

I cried two times when my daughter was born. First for joy, when after 27 hours of labor the little feral being we’d made came yowling into the world, and the second for sorrow, holding the earth’s newest human and looking out the window with her at the rows of cars in the hospital parking lot, the strip mall across the street, the box stores and drive-throughs and drainage ditches and asphalt and waste fields that had once been oak groves. A world of extinction and catastrophe, a world in which harmony with nature had long been foreclosed. My partner and I had, in our selfishness, doomed our daughter to life on a dystopian planet, and I could see no way to shield her from the future.

My first thought while reading his essay, which revolves around the idea that by bringing a new child into the world he is not only condemning that child to a harsh, brutal struggle on our soon-to-be-desolate hellscape of a planet, he is also contributing to our collective demise. Meaning that his child is contributing to our collective demise. Meaning he feels that his newborn is just another locust on this dying rock hurtling through space.

Imagine growing up in that family. Yikes.

You should really read the whole thing to get a glimpse into the modern Malthusian movement. And then maybe check out First Reformed, Paul Schrader's recent film about a dying priest, which hits on many of the themes and ideas that this Notre Dame professor is tossing out there. As I noted in my reviewFirst Reformed is most interesting as a portrait of a man who has lost faith and is looking to fill the vacuum in his soul with something, anything—and settles on extremism masquerading as environmentalism after a father-to-be kills himself rather than live in a world he believes to be on the verge of famine and war.

Radical despair is, of course, nothing new; philosophers and scientists and intellectuals and religious figures have been predicting mankind's inability to exist in harmony with the planet, and the ruination this will cause, for centuries. From Malthus to Ehrlich to Mann, doomsday has never lacked for prophets. I merely hope that Scranton will keep his pessimism to himself, for the sake of his new daughter. As another, wiser philosopher put it: "When you become a parent, one thing becomes really clear. And that's that you want to make sure your children feel safe. And that rules out telling a 10-year-old that the world's ending."