Would you describe yourself as an ‘environmentalist’? I would, mainly to annoy greenies, but also because it’s true. If your definition of an environmentalist is someone who loves immersing himself in the natural world, makes a study of its ways and cares deeply about its future, I’m at least as much of one as David Attenborough.
But I can see why many fellow nature lovers might balk at the term, especially now that it has become so grievously politicised. That would explain the recent Gallup poll — it was taken in the US but I suspect it applies to Britain too — showing how dramatically this label has plunged in popularity. In 1991 the majority of Americans self-identified as environmentalists — 78 per cent of them. Now, it’s just 42 per cent: less than half.
Why has the term so fallen out of favour? Well there’s perhaps a clue in the fact that the decline has been far more precipitous among Republicans (down to 27 per cent) than among Democrats (down to 56 per cent). In other words, where 25 years ago the environment was considered everyone’s domain, it has since been hijacked by the left and turned into yet another partisan issue.
If you believe the greenies, the blame for this lies with an intransigent right so imprisoned by ideology that it stubbornly denies ‘the science’. Actually, though, I’d say it has more to do with the militant left exploiting environmentalism as a fashionable cloak for its ongoing war on liberty, free markets and small government.
Note the tactics. Like the Viet Minh or the Taleban, the environmental movement has become hugely skilled in the art of asymmetric warfare. The number of true believers is much smaller than you’d think — but they’ve managed in recent years to punch massively above their weight by infiltrating all the key positions of influence and by terrorising those who disagree with them.