Environmentalism’s Siren Song

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By George Noga
More Liberty, Less Government

This week I am departing from the usual format to write more directly and personally. Of my exasperations, nothing matches the environmental movement for effrontery. Nearly everything about it is fraudulent; yet it has captured the hearts and souls of our children.

Try explaining to your kids that every measure of human and environmental well-being is better today than at any time in the past 100 years and continues to improve; they will not believe you. It isn’t just kids; far too many of us should be more skeptical. To mimic Churchill: never have so few influenced so many to believe so much that is so harmful. How did we reach t his point?

Everyone supports reasonable laws for clean air, water and energy, biodiversity, saving rain forests and right on down the line. So what’s the difference between us and those who usurp the mantle of environmentalism? There are three main differences: (1) we are for capitalism, free trade and limited government; (2) our beliefs are based on empiricism and science; and (3) we make rational, economic tradeoffs when human well-being is at stake. 

The Environmental Movement is Led by Marxists with Other Agendas

Like most movements of our era, environmentalism began in response to legitimate concerns. People of good will supported laws to address the concerns and such laws duly were enacted. Then things began to diverge.

earthModerates left the movement believing their mission accomplished. Extremists took over and pushed for ever more and costlier laws to eke out ever smaller and more dubious improvements.

Then the Berlin Wall fell; communism collapsed; and the most diehard Marxists found themselves homeless. Even though all socialist and Utopian schemes from the beginning of time to the Soviet Union failed; they would get it right the next time. Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, stated it well.

“Following the collapse of world communism . . . many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas. To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political activists using green language to cloak agendas having more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting (one of our offices) and being surprised at how many were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.”

Today the environmental movement is run by former Reds and the hard left. They have morphed into Greens for maskirovka but they are like watermelons, i.e. green on the outside and red on the inside. Its acolytes today are limited to big government types, professors, teachers, movie stars, a smattering of unthinking camp followers – and many of our children.

The ultimate irony is that for a country to improve the environment, it must be wealthy. The only way for nations to become wealthy is via capitalism and free trade. That is why America, Japan and Western Europe are able to spend lavishly on the environment. The worst environmental tragedy in human history was the Soviet Union and its satellites. The same leftists who created an environmental Armageddon in the USSR and who advocate a return to its disasterous ideology are the very ones leading the environmental movement in the USA.

Science and Empiricism Versus Failed Political Dogma

We differ from the extremists in another important respect; our views are based on science and not failed dogma. I could list many examples of such differences; however, I am limiting myself to 6 to maintain focus – but don’t forget my January 20 email about recycling.

As documented by economists Julian Simon and Steven Moore in their book It’s getting Better All the Time, the 100 greatest human and environmental trends of the past 100 years are the best they ever have been and continue to improve.

Environmentalists oppose the US drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico (new wells), ANWR and the Atlantic continental shelf. Yet Cuba, Venezuela and many South American countries, with far worse safety records, drill in the Gulf and on the continental shelf. Logically, it would be more eco-friendly for the US to drill.

Extremists in the West push for ever more costly laws to achieve insignificant marginal benefits while ignoring the 800-pound gorillas in the world. Coal mine fires in China and India create more pollution than all the fuel burned by cars for a entire year in the USA.

Organic food in scientific taste tests cannot be distinguished from conventionally grown food. It harms the environment as it requires many times more land for production.

Ethanol is such an unmitigated disaster that Al Gore has disavowed it. It raises the price of food worldwide; the EPA found ethanol has a negative effect on the environment.

Extremists insist we spend trillions in the years ahead to combat alleged warming and all to lower global temperature by an imperceptible .1 degree Fahrenheit by 2100. The same amount of money could be better spent to enhance human well-being by providing nutrient supplements to poor children, fighting TB and malaria, ad infinitum.

Conflicts Between the Environment and Human Well-Being

When inevitable conflicts arise between the environment and human well-being, the extremists would have us favor the environment every time without any regard whatsoever for economics or human suffering. I agree that the environment should get the benefit of any doubt and we should be uber-cautious in proceeding in a different direction. There arise situations however when the harm to the environment is uncertain and/or minimal while the cost and suffering to humans is astronomical. In such rare situations, like the snail darter and delta smelt, my calculus would favor humans.

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Considerable effort is required to make these articles educational, provocative, fact-based and principled. Liberty is rare in human history and nowhere is it written liberty will survive. We are engaged in a great cultural war for the future and the forces arrayed against us are formidable – alien pop culture, politicized schools and universities, pandering media and, above all, feckless big government. The consequences of losing are centuries of Orwellian darkness. I write this blog to do my infinitesimal part to help win the culture war.

You can help by exposing your family and friends to this message. Forward this article; better yet, subscribe your children, grandchildren and others to receive future emails from MLLG. Discuss the topics with them from time to time. If you don’t, we risk losing our children’s hearts and minds to eco-extremists and to others who seduce them just as the Sirens of Greek mythology. The Sirens were seductresses who lured sailors with enchanting music to shipwreck on the rocky shoals of their island. Today’s environmental Sirens similarly are beguiling our kids with enchanting thoughts and with the same pernicious intent.

 If you have gotten this far, thank you very much for reading.

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