Andrew Olmstead has an interesting post on environmentalism on the Right and Left. He comes close to saying something that I realized a while ago:
Environmentalism isn't about the environment.
Environmentalism is about the primacy of the State over the individual.
You see, if environmentalism were about the environment, environmentalists would support nuclear energy, because its mining is less damaging than coal mining (which supplies the majority of US electrical production), while its actual use is non-polluting, and the byproducts of electrical generation can be safely dealt with. But not only do environmentalists attempt to stop nuclear power generation, they attempt to stop safe ways of dealing with nuclear power generation's byproducts, leaving the default (storing the waste at the plants) as the only possible solution. It's also a terrible solution from every standpoint but one: it ticks off the environmentalists less than transporting the waste to a safe storage location.
Rather than go off on a long list of such examples, I'll say this instead: most of the stands taken by environmentalists result in no net gain to the environment's health. Simultaneously, every environmental proposal has at its heart a mandate for the government to do more to "handle the problem." The government must set regulations on business, home building, waste disposal, property use, employment, energy generation and use, and so forth and so on, and must acquire for itself more and more property. In every case, individual liberties are to be sacrified for "the greater good," with of course all of that power transferred to the government, which has to answer (in most environmental areas) to the environmental activists, and which in some cases (Interior Dept, for example) is effectively controlled by the environmental activists.
On top of that, it's interesting to consider the groups that march together in protest. Whether it's an "anti-war" protest, an environmental rally, a march against globalization, a rally in support of the Palestinians, the Iraqis (but only the ones fighting the US), a Democrat political convention or what-have-you, the only difference is the name of the event. The same groups show up to all of them, with the same signs and slogans: the anarchists, the unreformed Stalinists, the socialists, the environmental activists, the "peace" activists, the anti-nuclear activists, the Malthusians, the Luddites, the anti-Republicans and the anti-Americans - all come together on each of these issues, because they all have the same underlying agenda: increase the power of the State at the expense of the individual, and put them in control of the State's policy making and enforcement.
There is a term, "watermelon," used to describe environmentalists who are mainly environmentalists to promote statism: they are green on the outside and red on the inside. I believe that this is pretty much true across the board of the Leftist fringe: at the heart of all of these types of Leftist activism is the clear goal of subjugating the individual to the State. Not all of these Leftists are Communists or Socialists; some are Fascists (state control of individual behavior with a relatively market-oriented economy) and some are Anarchists (which has a brief period of mob rule followed by rule by strongmen as its natural conclusion).
The one thing you can say about environmental activists is that the environment is not their primary concern; it's just their excuse.
UPDATE: Steph just pointed out that I'm ranting about environmentalists on Earth Day. Heh!