Our VoiceNews & Politics

New Mexico conservation official compared environmentalists to communists

Guest Blogger • Feb 03, 2011

by Catherine Amelia Craig

In a 2009 radio appearance, Harrison “Jack ” Schmitt called environmental leaders “communists.”

Schmitt was a guest on Alex Jones’ radio show when he attributed today’s environmental movement’s politics to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Schmitt stated, “Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement. … They converted environmental activism to a political movement and some would say a religious movement.”

New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez has appointed Schmitt, a former U.S. Senator and NASA astronaut, to be the head of that state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, placing him in charge of “Mining and Minerals Division, State Parks Division, Oil Conservation Division and Energy Conservation Management Division.”

When I think of environmentalists, or look at leaders of the environmental movement, communism doesn’t come to mind. That, however, may be a failure of my imagination (as a self-proclaimed environmentalist).

Take for example well-known environmental leader Bill McKibben; like many other environmentalists he advocates for immediate local and global action to help stave off climate change and other environmental problems. When discussing climate change, McKibben and others tend to refer to the issue as non-partisan. We are all subject to the consequences of environmental degradation, and therefore it knows no party lines.

Schmitt suggests that environmentalists operate outside democracy. Environmentalists are, according to Schmitt, the offspring of Stalin’s movement.

As long as individuals like Schmitt continue to try to undercut the credibility and findings of scientists, scholars, passionate tree-huggers, etc. when it comes to climate change, the words of environmentalists can be discarded and degradation continues unchecked.

Wendell Berry, environmentalist, farmer and author of The Unsettling of America and many other books, warns that America itself is threatened by pollution and land degradation: “(we) are eroding our freedom along with our soil. … We are destroying our country—I mean our country itself, our land…”

Berry suggests that our freedom is at stake when we forsake our landscape. To me, he sounds far more like a patriot than a treasonous commie.

Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book that is said to be the impetuous for the modern day environmental movement was published some 30 years before the fall of the Soviet Union (1991).  So while it is true that environmentalists tend to advocate for some select communists ideals (land conserved for equal, but controlled, public use, e.g. National Parks), it could also be argued that modern day environmentalists and the environmental movement identify  with nationhood more than political dissent.

It seems unlikely that this movement, which began long before the fall of Soviet Communism, is deeply informed by communist rhetoric.

Schmitt used a now old trick of anti-environmentalists: divert attention away from the severe environmental problems at hand and instead focus on the people drawing attention to those problems.

If Schmitt can get the media and environmental community distracted by whether Obama’s science and technology adviser John Holdren is a Pinko, British Petroleum (for example) can move forward with a new pipeline without much notice.

Catherine Craig is a junior at Hampshire College and is presently an intern with Rural Vermont, working as an advocate for Vermont farmers in the State House.
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