Fifty years of Earth Day
With all of news about the pandemic, possible death of Kim Jong-un, and the collapse of the oil market, one scarcely noticed that last week was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It came at an interesting time as the COVID pandemic has brought some ugly aspects of the American environmentalist movement to light.
There is broad and deep agreement between most Americans that we should take care of our environment. Whether rooted in the interests of self-preservation to conserve scarce resources, a religious responsibility to be a good steward of God’s creation, or a druidian love of nature, most Americans conscientiously care for the environment. All things being equal, most Americans will choose the more environmentally friendly option when available. Most Americans are also rational, common- sense folks who weigh environmental concerns on a scale with other concerns, like feeding their families, having a home, and caring for their fellow man.
But there are some environmentalists who are radicals and extremists. These are the ones who value protecting the natural environment, except humans, as the highest priority. For these folks, all other human concerns shrink to insignificance when weighed against the needs of the lowliest endangered snail. For them, there is no price too great to protect the environment.
Unfortunately, the radicals and extremists of the environmentalist movement have come to be the prominent spokespeople and have marginalized their message. At the core, the message is good. We should take care of our environment. But like anything taken to the extreme, too much of a good thing can do more harm than good.
As the pandemic, and the political overreaction to it, continues to spread across America, we see two consequences of the radicalization of the environmentalist movement. First, the radicals have spent decades demonizing businesses that pollute as an unavoidable consequence of doing business. They have also pushed our governments to erect a punitive and expensive environmental regulatory infrastructure. The radicals are so absurd that they are willing to shut down entire industries and put thousands of people out of work to prevent pollution.
The problem is that the technology does not exist to produce many modern products without some pollution. The electricity we consume, food we eat, computers we use, clothes we wear, and almost everything else we enjoy as part of our modern civilization comes with the price of some pollution. American businesses seek to comply with environmental regulations and avoid public lambasting by radical environmentalists, but for many, the expense of compliance in America has become too great. They have moved their production facilities to nations with scant environmental regulations at all. By having such harsh environmental policies, America is not improving the environment. It is merely exporting the environmental atrocities to other parts of the world.
This reality was felt by Americans as COVID struck China and ground international commerce to a halt. Without access to their production facilities in other countries, American businesses struggled to produce things like pharmaceuticals and personal protection equipment. If America had a more reasonable approach to environmental regulation, then American businesses could bring more of their production capabilities, and the jobs that go with them, back to our shores.
The second consequence of the radicalization of the environmentalist movement that the COVID pandemic has revealed is just what zealots they are. For example, as oil prices crashed and American oil workers were losing their jobs, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated their demise as an advance for green infrastructure. She wasn’t the only one. As global economic paralysis has decreased pollution, radical environmentalists all over the world celebrated it and advocated for keeping the economy shut down for the sake of the environment.
Nothing highlights the extremism of these radical environmentalists as the fact that they welcome economic calamity for tens of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world for the sake of the environment. At the root of the philosophy is a loathing of humankind. In their world view, they would perpetuate a permanent lockdown of modern life. Mass unemployment, economic decline, and universal poverty are not only the price of a pristine environment, but the penance for humanity’s existence.
Reasonable environmental stewardship is an American virtue, but we must reject the extremism that would usher in the permanent retraction of our modern civilization.
(Owen B. Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@bootsandsabers. com.)