|Another world war would be “a happy occasion for the planet,” he explained in his native language to The Wall Street Journal. This Finnish fisherman wasn’t just having a bad day. Little-known in America, he is Pentti Linkola — amateur biologist, advocate of mandatory abortion and involuntary sterilization, adversary of Amnesty International, the Vatican, and Third-World economic aid. Along with other groups such as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and Charles Manson’s Air, Trees, Water, Air (ATWA), Linkola believes that millions need to die for the environment’s sake. Not surprisingly, Linkola is despised by today’s Green movement — but not just because he wants you and me snuffed out; Pentti Linkola is an untimely reminder of ecology’s dark past, and quite possibly the soothsayer of both the movement’s future, and the planet’s.
Although once confined to the fearful ruminations of flower children and high-brow anarchists, the contemporary environmental movement has eased its way into middle-class respectability. Today, the modern Green agenda is promulgated by suburban moms, fatuous politicos, and in some cases, even multinational corporations like Chevron.
Yet amidst this nature-friendly climate, legions of extremist eco-warriors span the globe. They barely register at first glance, lurking beneath the slick facade of Europe’s Green parties and such media-friendly groups as Greenpeace; yet onward they toil, with their anti-humanistic, biocentric views that send shivers up the spines of their ecology-minded — yet anthropocentric — comrades.
“The Humans have been usefully compared to a cancer or a virus. But it seems to us that the most fruitful way of viewing the Humans is as an alien species.”
Canada’s Gaia Liberation Front (GLF)
These little-known extremists within the ongoing global campaign to preserve the planet hire no lobbyists, draw few followers, and wield little if any influence among the green-conscious public. However, its members stand apart for the sheer volatility of their opinions. Challenging human rights and the sanctity of life, these die-hard ecologists contend that the earth’s ongoing devastation isn’t rooted in some corporate superstructure; it’s being caused by teeming masses of people who must be eliminated if the earth is to be saved.
“When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth’s biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live,” explain members of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). To safeguard the last precious remnants of the majestic redwood forestss of the Pacific Northwest and the lush tropical rainforests, confederates of this Oregon-based cadre have closed ranks around trees and animals to counter what they assert is the planet’s most pernicious antagonist: humans.
While VHEMT (pronounced “vehement”) pays lip service to population control, rejects procreation, and advances other peaceful methods to end man’s global domination, the shock troops of Toronto’s Gaia Liberation Front (GLF) are far more belligerent. The GLF sees involuntary annihilation of the human species as a serious option, and the group is anxious for the entire population to perish.
“There’s no way to preserve a species that’s programmed to kill the planet,” explains their manifesto.
An Unlikely Voice
In sunny California, far from the glorious palm trees and redolent Pacific shore, stand the barbed-wire-and-concrete environs of the Corcoran State Prison. Within these walls, this virulent strain of ecological thought is espoused by the infamous sociopolitical pariah Charles Manson, who fronts the environmental group known as Air, Tree, Water, Animals (ATWA).
“If I have rights, then the trees have rights. Trees are living things just as much as I’m a living thing. Who has the right to chop the trees down? Nobody has the right to take life,” he exhorts ATWA followers on the group’s web site. Taking a totalitarian stance, ATWA adherents demand a one-world government that places the needs of the earth over what they see as the selfish wants of humanity.
ATWA’s position and affiliation with Manson leave them subject to scathing criticism and outright ridicule by their more equable mainstream peers. Yet as polar ice caps melt and tropical rainforests burn, the vituperative harangues of this small niche of activists grow harsher each day.
These dissidents represent one side of an ongoing tactical debate that remains unanswered among environmental experts: ideological determinism vs. forced coercion. Is the sheer power of ideas enough to save an oblivious public from global disaster, or are harsher measures needed?
Social ecologists such as ivory-tower anarchist Murray Bookchin hold fast to the former strategy and believe that the problem of humans killing nature can be corrected through anti-authoritarian political reform and advanced technological wizardry.
Conversely, the band of eco-centric true believers argue that the only viable method for slowing the earth’s deterioration lies in forcefully changing the behavior of the irresponsible masses — by any means possible. At the forefront of this movement is the cynical visionary, Pentti Linkola.
“To the Green movement in which infantilism is seen at its worst, authority is a far more serious evil than the destruction of life.” — Pentti Linkola, excerpted from “Introduction to the Thought of the 1990s”
Although his exotic name resonates very little on American shores, Pentti Linkola is well-known to those familiar with the more esoteric personalities in the Green movement. Indeed, the amateur biologist is by far the most unmerciful voice in what is referred to as the “deep ecology” milieu. The Finnish native’s polemical writings constitute a bold affront to the collectivist, humanitarian ethos that permeates the PR-friendly environmental lobby. Although few of his many books and articles are available in English, a brief profile that appeared in The Wall Street Journal five years ago is still the subject of heated discussion.
In the profile titled “In his Solitude a Finnish Thinker Posits Cataclysms,” the gloomy nature-lover expressed the belief that the human catastrophe sure to accompany another world war would be a “happy occasion for the planet.” But in the most oft-repeated passage, the advocate of mandatory abortion and involuntary sterilization likened the planet’s population to a sinking ship clumsily attempting to seat 100 passengers on a lifeboat built for 10. “Those who hate life try to pull more people on board and drown everybody. Those who love and respect life use axes to chop off the extra hands hanging on the gunwale,” he ruthlessly advised.
To wield the axes, the onetime pacifist told reporter Dana Milbank, he envisioned the rise of a ruthless “Green Police” patrolling the wilderness, undeterred by what he derisively termed the “syrup of ethics.” The fierce opponent of both Amnesty International and the Vatican advocates an end to economic aid for starving Third World nations and an immediate reversal of open-door immigration policies — specifically so that millions might perish.
Of course, this would constitute a mountain of human corpses unseen since the dark days of Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s People’s Republic of China, or Stalin’s Soviet Union. But to Linkola, a few million deaths are of little importance when the entire planet is at stake. “We still have a chance to be cruel, but if we are not cruel today, all is lost,” he admonished Journal readers.
The article, which continues to be recirculated by those devoted to extreme culture and social Darwinist thought, succinctly outlines the three central tenets of Linkola’s credo: an unyielding skepticism of egalitarian democracy, a strident digital anomie, and an unwavering belief that unchecked overpopulation will sound the death knell for our once-bountiful planet.
The struggle against technocracy
The latter contention is not without merit. Recent estimates by the United Nations Population Division project a growth of over 3 billion people within the next 50 years. If the acceleration of births continues at its current pace, by the year 2150, an additional 6 billion inhabitants will threaten our imperiled ecosystem and obviously limited resources. Therefore, this global Jack Kevorkian would shed few tears if a few billion of us were to meet a quick demise.
His caustic interpretation of the recent crisis in Kosovo typifies his staunch opposition to the rapid surge in human numbers. “Already in Tito’s times [that region] was an overpopulated junkyard. … I feel no sympathy toward Albanians,” he told Helsingen Sanomat, a popular Finnish daily. From Linkola’s pragmatic perspective, NATO’s coordinated effort to end the region’s internecine strife is reprehensible. “In terms of the state of the world it is a horrific mistake to destroy buildings and infrastructure … and save lives of which there is no shortage,” he remarks coldly.
Linkola is equally hostile toward democracy, which he believes gives far too much freedom to a species whose capacity for destruction must constantly be kept in check. “In democratic countries … destruction of nature and ecological disasters have accumulated most. Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen,” he explains in a 1999 article in Suomen Kuvalehti.
As is to be expected, fellow environmentalists are alarmed by the autocratic subcurrent found in Linkola’s pessimistic philosophy. “In the name of conservation … Linkola consigns democracy, conventional humanism, and the principle of nonviolence to the waste bin,” observes Finnish journalist Simopekka Virkkula.
The heretical ideologue is no fan of technology, either.
Echoing Unabomber Theodore Kaczinski, Linkola argues that industrialization has been disastrous for all life on this planet. “The most central and irrational faith among people is the faith in technology and economic growth,” he declares bitterly in a brief online excerpt from one of his books.
If Linkola’s haunting visions are realized, he predicts the exalted leaders of the digital church will lay the groundwork for the final call of the wild. Nevertheless, he prophesies that the “priests” of technology will continue propagating the merits of a computerized world, even as they “choke in their gas masks.” What, then, would life be like in Linkola’s Green republic?
Linkola’s vision for population planning can be summed up in one inflammatory concept: eugenics, a field of study publisher and journalist Adam Parfrey has aptly dubbed the “orphaned science.” This shunned approach to phenotypic prognostication, Linkola holds, would suddenly resurface, denying “genetically unfit” parents the right to bear children. For those select families allowed to breed, a strict two-child limit would be enforced on all households. A fierce anti-capitalist, Linkola would insist that fishing and organic farming constitute the two primary occupations. Manufacturing would be overseen by the state, which would openly discourage technological research, and ozone-killing automobiles would be confiscated so that roads could be cleared for additional forest growth.
Consequently, bicycles, and limited public transportation would return as the most popular modes of locomotion. Products would be created to last several lifetimes, with no exports allowed. As he has often stated, individual rights would give way to the rights of the earth, with his “Green Police” punishing miscreants who violate his beloved Gaia.
Although this drastic (and martial) strategy would produce hysterical reactions and a rash of furious recriminations in the oversocialized cocoon of American political discourse, in Finland this literary firebrand is considered a national treasure. “The style, severe clarity, and biting polemic of Linkola’s essays are universally admired. … His work has been recognized with the Eino Leino prize,” writes Virkkula. Despite this widespread acclaim, Virkkula is quick to point out that the introverted activist remains the solitary warrior in his quixotic crusade: “A return, from unthinking consumption to … preindustrial agrarian society is too violent a change for some to envisage.”
A Man in the Wilderness
Nevertheless, the controversial Finn retains a certain public prestige. Although Linkola is diametrically opposed to Finland’s humanitarian Green movement, many activists admit to being influenced by his turgid prose and unbending will.
Leena Vilkke, a well-known Finnish eco-feminist, “Values Pentti Linkola and Eero Paloheimo, who both in their own radical way have shaken Finnish society,” reports a recent publication disseminated by the left-leaning European Vegetarian Union. Possibly a large selling point for the irascible thinker is his sincerity and “anarchy by the deed” lifestyle. As an online sympathizer describes him, Linkola is “one of the few philosophers who lives as they think.” His admirer points out that Linkola resides by a lake in a small cabin in southwestern Finland, subsisting on the fish he catches and the crops he grows.
Linkola’s ascetic lifestyle and embrace of 19th-century self-sufficiency parallel those traits of Unabomber Ted Kaczinski. Like Kaczinski, Linkola’s interest in politics sprouted amidst the turbulent ’60s. As romantic notions of reinventing government and creating a pollution-free planet spread across western Europe, Linkola produced his first work, “Dreams of a Better World.” Hailed by critics as an excellent primer on the ecological crisis, the budding author’s initial success was soon overshadowed by bitter disappointment. By the ’70s, the dramatic changes he foresaw hadn’t materialized, and Finland rushed toward industrialization, electronic gadgetry, and mindless consumerism in lockstep with the rest of Europe and the West.
For Linkola, these disastrous developments unleashed a pessimism that would profoundly affect his future writings. Spurning human companionship, Linkola made the pristine lakes and forests indigenous to Finland his last stop, his ultimate abode. He signaled his growing anomie in 1979 when he dedicated an anthology of his writings to Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the leader and most prominent member, respectively, of West Germany’s terrorist Red Army Faction.
Green Gone Cold
The groundswell of environmental awareness that occurred during the ’80s provided perhaps his last ephemeral glimmer of hope. Shirking his role as perpetual outsider, a heartened Linkola saw hope in Finland’s nascent Green Party.
Unfortunately, his grandiose dreams were quickly dashed. The drastic solutions he proposed were far too severe for the party’s rank and file, and an authoritarian manifesto he poured his heart into was summarily rejected. Left to his own devices, Linkola now sees little compassion for his existential mission.
In “Diary of a Dissident,” a recently published compendium of Linkola’s writings, the frustrated radical bitterly lashes out at the wanton devastation he has been forced to endure at the hands of our allegedly benevolent species. “It has been a terrible thing to follow this change, this destruction, with seeing eyes,” he laments. “It has been agonizing to live among blind, deaf, and uncaring people.”
Today, Linkola stands alone but determined — a one-man force of will who remains undaunted in his quest to end the desolation of the earth. Although branded an “eco-fascist” by detractors and openly despised by the more image-conscious activists, he is actually more of a traditional ecologist than his critics would care to admit. From a historical perspective, Linkola’s books and articles resurrect a legacy of environmental consciousness that began over a century ago in the dark forests of Germany — where the first systemic environmental philosophy was formulated.
The Evolution of Ecology
Today’s Western environmental movement didn’t began in the ’60s; it actually took root in the late 19th century among individuals in Germany, who today would be targeted by watchdog groups dedicated to monitoring the “extreme right.” Whatever their political orientation, these hopeful romantics were no less dedicated than their modern-day standard-bearers.
Perhaps the most influential of these pioneers was scientist Ernst Haeckel. Considered by many to be the father of modern environmentalism, this fierce German nationalist and avowed social Darwinist is credited with introducing the term “ecology” into public discourse. In 1866, he defined this new field of study as “the science of relations between organisms and their environment.”
Haeckel published a number of books articulating his Darwinist view that humans were intrinsically tied to the soil. His ideas resonated beyond his borders and years; the celebrated British author D.H. Lawrence would consider Haeckel an early influence on his thematic development and naturalistic prose style.
Like Linkola, Haeckel was highly critical of Christianity for exalting people above wildlife. He reverently believed that the magnificent forests of his beloved Germany provided an ethereal bridge to a higher state of awareness.
Haeckel’s literary reputation is now in disrepute, thanks to his influential role in the German Monist League. This organization attempted to reform the modern state through scientific rationalism, eugenics, and strident nature worship. Yet his contribution to environmental consciousness cannot be dismissed. In her remarkable work Ecology in the 20th Century, Dr. Anna Bramwell declares that the well-known naturalist “enabled ecology to become a viable political creed.”
The Terrible Toll of the Great War
Haeckel’s earth-centered weltanschauung took on greater importance following the horrors of the first World War, which sent millions of soldiers to the graveyard or horrible permanent disability. It also left massive chunks of sublime countryside barren, pockmarked, and infertile from artillery barrages. Thus did the “war to end all wars” realize the worst fears of the environmentally minded.
For many, technology was the villain in this Greek tragedy of international proportions. The horrifying combat debuts of large-scale artillery fire, the machine gun, the hand grenade, the land mine, poison gas, and other manufactured instruments of death provoked a widespread distrust of both humankind and industry. By the 1918 armistice, many veterans, shell-shocked and reeling from the ghastly images of war, sought redemption the only way they knew how — by turning back the clock to the agrarian life of their grandparents.
This reaction to the war was manifested in Britain by the growth of many back-to-the-land movements, such as John Hargrave’s crypto-fascist “Green Shirt” movement of the ’20s and ’30s. But after unsuccessfully attempting to gain support via the electoral process, the Green Shirts and other like-minded organizations were quickly doomed to obscurity.
This wasn’t the case in Germany, where support for ecological views became widespread as salvation was sought in the anti-cosmopolitian, anti-technological “peasant movement.”
“Blot und Boden!”
Amidst the resentment and disillusionment that marked the inter-war Weimar Republic, a newly aroused Green awareness took hold. This loose amalgamation of new ecologists comprised a cross-pollination of Haeckel admirers, popular German youth movements, and adherents to Rudolph Steiner.
This new “peasant movement” took as its slogan a simple phrase: “Blut und Boden!”, or “blood and soil,” celebrating the virtues of heritage and the nobility of the pre-industrial agrarian way.
Steiner, an influential lecturer, firmly opposed artificial farming methods and served up eloquent encomiums celebrating the peasant’s role in Germany’s glorious future. His writings would greatly influence SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, Hitler confidante Rudolph Hess, and the man Bramwell considers the “Father of the Greens”: German environmentalist Ricardo Walther DarreÚ.
The Green Nazi
Author of The Peasantry as Life Force (1928), and the seminal New Nobility from Blood and Soil (1929), the little-known figure quickly rose to prominence as leader of the postwar volkisch revolution.
While he is now considered suspect at best for his pan-German racialism and links to groups supporting eugenics, Darre’s environmental program is progressive even by today’s standards. Like Linkola, the World War I veteran wanted to see his world transformed into a planned society based on environmental ethics.
Charismatic and possessing a rare gift for organizational ability, Darre’s radical influence among rural Germans quickly gained the attention of deputies of The National Socialist Democratic Worker’s Party (NSDAP) by the early ’30s. Asked to promote national socialism in the countryside, where Hitler then lacked popularity, Darre completed this task with alacrity; his efforts easily gathered peasant support for the Nazi party in North and East Germany. His successes were rewarded in 1933, when he was named Minister of Agriculture and Reich peasant leader.
He hit the ground running. Darre set up a peasant capital in the town of Goslar with progressive measures that empowered the farmer while preserving the soil. However, as the clouds of war loomed, the author/politician soon found himself at the center of the Byzantine inter-party intrigue that was the Nazi Party’s internal legacy.
Although previously skeptical, by 1940 Darre accepted Steiner’s belief in biodynamic farming, and funded several such experimental farms. These efforts greatly alarmed party technocrats, such as Bormann and Heydrich, and his troubled situation was further exacerbated after Steiner advocate Rudolph Hess made his failed, bizarre airborne peace overture to Great Britain in 1941. Because of the Hess connection, anyone remotely linked to Steiner or his beliefs was either arrested or placed under increased scrutiny. Darre was no exception.
Undeterred, Darre continued to espouse the benefits of organic vegetation and soil conservation, but he was soon muzzled. In 1942, completely out of favor with Hitler’s cadre of handpicked advisors, he lost his cherished position as Minister of Agriculture. Nevertheless, up until the end of the war, he continued to criticize German agricultural methods and spoke passionately of creating his envisioned peasant state.
Arrested after Germany’s surrender to allied forces, Darre was subsequently tried at Nuremberg for his demands that his countrymen be allowed to occupy the newly conquered Polish countryside. He was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment by the tribunal, but he continued to urge the merits of organic farming up until his death in 1953. His advocacy was not in vain; our ongoing concern with the detrimental effects of pesticides and artificial fertilizers apparently proves that not only was Darre correct, he was ahead of the curve, espousing these beliefs some four decades before the issue became in vogue.
An Uncomfortable Legacy, a Troubling Future
As is to be expected, today’s liberal-minded Greens show very little admiration for Darre, although they continue to promote his collectivist beliefs and other elements of his agenda. The mere mention of his name provokes a combination of anger and resentment. However, even left-leaning environmentalists must grudgingly pay lip service to his contributions. “It was largely Darre’s influence in the Nazi apparatus which yielded, in practice, a level of government support for ecologically sound farming methods and land use planning unmatched by any state before or since,” notes Peter Staudenmaier in his cautionary Ecofascism: Lessens from the German Experience. In a 1984 History Today article that Staudenmaier describes as “repugnant,” Dr. Anna Bramwell goes further, noting that without Darre, “The ecological movement would have perished in his time and place.”
Fortunately, that was not the case. A modernized ecological movement dramatically resurfaced in the early ’60s, one that paved the way for today’s universal environmental consciousness. Whether this will translate into concrete action toward harmonious coexistence between the earth and its human complement is perhaps too early too discern, but one cannot help but wonder whether elements of Linkola’s immoderate program — and, by extension, Darre’s legacy — will receive a similar posthumous validation from policy-minded eco-historians.
This leads to an even greater question: If our grandchildren one day face famine and a global meltdown, will the determinist argument give way to the anti-human, totalitarian component of this comprehensive political world view? Hopefully, by the time we receive a satisfactory answer, it won’t be too late.
The author wishes to extend appreciation to Portland, Ore., author Michael Moynihan, who provided invaluable insights, suggestions, and research materials for this article.