If the expression 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' has any truth to it, then I'm pretty sure that makes Brendan O'Neill my best mate. (I doubt the feeling's mutual, unless he happens to particularly dislike that bloke who smacked me in the teeth outside Cindies the other night.)

The BNP reckon he's 'exceptionally ignorant’, and top Daily Mail nut-job Melanie Phillips thinks he's just an 'angry little boy.' (She also thinks Obama is a revolutionary Marxist). He's neither. In fact, he's one of the most insightful critical voices in Britain today, and provides a unique perspective on a number of social and political issues.

The editor of Spiked has spent the last five days meandering across Cambridge taking on all manner of ideological opponents. For most people this would be an exhausting task, but for a man who describes himself as a radical-humanist Libertarian-Marxist, it's just another week at the office. Last Thursday he spoke at the Union in favour of popular revolution, and argued that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan represented an infringement of these peoples' rights to national sovereignty. On Monday he took on the contemporary Anti-Zionist movement. When I met him on Tuesday, he had a new target in his sights: environmentalism.

O'Neill is an outspoken critic of the environmental movement, and he doesn't beat about the bush when I ask him why. “'I think environmentalism is probably the most backwards ideology of our time.”, he explains. “It represents an opposition to things like economic growth, progress, and development on the basis of being friendly to the earth – I think it's a really backwards trend. In fact, it has a lot in common with a lot of other earlier, conservative movements, which were always about conserving the present and reining humanity in. It poses as this kind of radical, edgy ideology, but environmentalism is the great conservative project of our age.”

At this point, I was breathing a sigh of relief that we weren't carrying out the interview amongst the Guardian-wielding mob in Costa. I asked him what radical-humanism is, and whether this belief  colours his views on the environmental movement. A radical-humanist, he tells me, “judges things by whether or not they will be good for Humanity, so in some ways it's the polar opposite of environmentalism because environmentalism judges things by whether or not they will be good for Mother Nature. The ultimate question should be what can we do that can benefit humanity.”

“Now if we industrialise the whole of Africa, and build factories everywhere and build cities, and build railways, so that everyone in Africa can live in the same way that everyone in America lives, that would probably be quite bad for the environment – at least in the short term. But it would be beneficial for Humankind without question so I think we should do it.”

But aren't changes necessary I wondered? Global warming and all that? If we don't reduce cow-fart emissions and switch to candles instead of the electric bulb, aren’t we risking turning our children into desert Nomads? My fears were quickly assuaged.

The end of the world scenario so often painted by green 'radicals', O'Neill explains, is nothing more than “a fantasy, and a fantasy entirely in keeping with every other apocalyptic fantasy that's ever existed”. That is not to say global warming doesn't exist, he tells me, in fact he thinks it probably does, but he sees it as a fundamentally social issue, the human effects of which can be overcome through a combination of technological innovation, social change, and improved global living standards. It is due to a loss of faith in human potential, particularly amongst the contemporary left, that environmentalist attitudes have been able to rise to such unquestioned dominance.

“If you read Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto, they spend the first few pages praising the capitalist class for creating wonders that surpass any wonders created by human beings before hand, and they say how wonderful it is... The Left lost faith in that project – they lost belief in the idea of growth, and development, and progress over a long period of time, and the way that gets dressed up and repackaged is by saying 'we're environmentalists, we want to protect the earth, we can't do all those things we used to talk about because it's too damaging to the planet.'”

The claim that unless Mankind ceases its maniaical consumption of natural resources we are doomed to fry has become terrifyingly mainstream. But it is a ridiculous, backwards one. Brendan O'Neill is a beacon of rationality in this sea of fear and panic about the future.

He reminds us of Humanity's potential to overcome the problems that we face by progressive means, as we have done throughout history. A flood in Australia leaves 35 dead. A flood in Pakistan leaves more than 2000 dead, and millions without a home. This disparity is social, not determined by 'Mother Earth.'

To halt economic growth and the expansion of industry, as environmentalism implores us to do, would be to ensure billions remain in poverty across the globe. It would be to force billions to remain without access to the basic necessities essential for a dignified existence. It would be harmful. Brendan O'Neill is well aware of this, and he wants us to be.

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