“Environmentalism- Return to Eden, or Ticket to Hell?”
Protecting natural resources is what environmentalism is supposed to be about, but today the field is dominated chiefly by political ideology. To advance a particular political (anti-capitalist) agenda, radical environmentalists commonly cite the dire warnings of junk science to paint the bleakest possible picture of conditions in the natural world. They contend, by logical extension, that the best remedy for the environmental ills allegedly caused by capitalism would be a changeover to a socialist economic system.
Consider the following: The Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that since 1980, air quality in the U.S. has improved by more than 40 percent. Between 1970 and 1995, emissions of sulfur dioxide, the chief cause of acid rain, fell by 32.2 percent; the threat of lead poisoning disappeared almost entirely, with ambient lead concentration falling by 97.1 percent; the amount of particulates spewed into the air fell by 64 percent; carbon monoxide emissions dropped by 38 percent; releases of volatile organic compounds fell by 29 percent; ocean dumping of industrial wastes was reduced by 94 percent; and the number of cities without adequate sewage treatment plants declined by 84 percent.
Yet despite these measurable improvements in the world around us, we are everyday bombarded with gloom and doom on the environmental front. We are told, for instance, that global warming is happening as we speak, in spite of the fact that the government’s own satellite measurements in recent times show a very slight cooling trend — of .037 degrees Celsius per decade (or 1/3 degree every 100 years).
As it has become politicized by the environmental movement, the world of legitimate science has been contaminated by junk science. This has been a persistent issue in the national environmental dialogue at least since the Alar scare in 1989. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ralph Nader called Alar a carcinogen and, using the TV program Sixty Minutes as a megaphone, tried to have the substance banned. In a report titled “Intolerable Risk: Pesticides In Our Children’s Food,” the NRDC called Alar “the most potent cancer-causing agent in our food supply.” The truth turned out to be quite different: If a person were to drink a six-ounce glass of apple juice each day during a lifetime of 70 years, the possible carcinogenic potential is 0.0017.
Many other scare stories, as well, turned out to be based not on legitimate science but on junk science — Love Canal, Times Beach, DDT, Radon, the ozone hole, the greenhouse effect, Bovine Growth Hormone, the coming Ice Age, the population bomb, etc. Thus the average citizen has not only a right but a duty to be skeptical of all scare stories circulated by the radical environmental movement.
Environmentalists want people to be afraid of what is happening around them, so they will be willing to be taxed and regulated even more than they already are to provide for environmental protection. Environmentalists view such taxation as a justifiable means of punishing those who have become wealthy within America’s capitalist economic system — a system that is, in the worldview of radical environmentalism, inherently destructive of the natural world:
Peter Berle, the recent past-president of the National Audubon Society has said, “We reject the idea of private property.”
According to Helen Caldicott of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Free enterprise really means rich people get richer. They have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process…. Capitalism is destroying the earth.”
Maurice Strong, primary designer of the Earth Summit, asked, “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
Judi Bari of Earth First! said, “I think if we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have an ecologically sound society under socialism. I don’t think it is possible under capitalism.”
Do the leaders of the environmental movement really believe that capitalism and private property are detrimental to a clean earth? More importantly, do they really think that socialism will cure all our ecological ills? If so, they are unaware of one of the great environmental object lessons of the last century, a lesson that became obvious when the fall of communism exposed the enormous environmental degradation that covered much of the habitable portions of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. The horrible conditions in those places were typical by-products of socialist policies, not anomalies. Environmental degradation was the norm.
To goad people into accepting that socialism will solve all of their environmental problems — and even their social problems — environmentalists will stick with the tool they have used so often to great effect: fear. And they have no qualms about promoting the dubious claims of junk science to cultivate that fear.