The left dismissed Michael Crichton’s book, State of Fear, attributing it to the rants of right-wing extremist. Crichton is actually an environmentalist and liberal, but once one strays off of the liberal plantation, he is no-good runner with rabbit in his blood who must be destroyed.
Dismissing Nicholas Kristof’s NYT Op-Ed column on the subject, though, may prove troublesome for tree huggers. Kristof’s environmentalist credentials are even more solid than Crichton’s, and his life includes the kind of humanitarian missions leftists talk about but rarely perform.
The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they’ve lost credibility with the public.
So, when Kristof assaults the left’s environmental wackiness, many will take notice.
Building on an essay, “Environmentalism is Dead,” Kristof explains his own concerns with envrionmental crisis-mongering. In the column, he sounds much like some Democrats did on November 7–what the hell happened?
In the late 1980s, the last gasp of the KGB’s propaganda machine developed and nurtured an international network of extreme environmentalist groups. After losing the battle of Minuteman II deployment and SDI research, the Soviets decided to use environmentalism to weaken capitalism’s knees.
Soon, America’s air waves were filled with environmental television, as were our classrooms and text books. My late daughter came home from school with an assignment to create a list of all the “planet hazards” in our house–an assignment I not only forbade but verbally assaulted the teacher and principal over.
By the mid 1990s, environmental extremism because mainstream. Everyone, it seems, accepted that human beings were hours away from destroying every form of life in the universe. But then liberalism’s worst enemy happened: Prosperity.
From 1995 (when the GOP took over Congress) to 2000, the American economy grew leaps and bounds. Much of the growth was imaginary, but I know a lot of folks–receptionists, programmers, business analysts–who sported stock portfolios in the tens of millions by 1999. (Most of them are unemployed and in bankruptcy today, as their stocks came from the imaginary tech companies they worked for.)
Wealth has a funny affect on reason: it gives it time to mature. Looking around the landscape, people saw that things weren’t as bad they had previously believed. Green spaces sprang up in urban areas, recycling centers turned away contributions, and the government banned people from national parks and forests.
When Al Gore, the poster boy for environmental irresponsibility and paranoia, ran for president in 2000, the environment had found its way to the very bottom of political debate. He could not run on his book, Earth in the Balance, because its predictions had proven wrong and its prescriptions were political suicide. The American people love nature, but we hate stupidity. The environmentalists, to us, seemed stupid.
I hope that Kristof is right: that environmentalists give up the doomsday dogma so that we can move on important fronts. I want my grandchildren to have trees to see and fields to run in. I’m sure they will. Right now, my certainty about that makes the current strain of environmentalism fundamentally incompatible with my life.
Kristof points out:
Given the uncertainties and trade-offs, priority should go to avoiding environmental damage that is irreversible, like extinctions, climate change and loss of wilderness. And irreversible changes are precisely what are at stake with the Bush administration’s plans to drill in the Arctic wildlife refuge, to allow roads in virgin wilderness and to do essentially nothing on global warming. That’s an agenda that will disgrace us before our grandchildren.
Of course I disagree on climate change, but I strongly agree with his topic sentence. Until environmentalism drops is absolutism, reasonable men cannot reasonably discuss the merits of environmental policy.
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