Poor old ‘enviros’
It’s not easy being a self-righteous crusader. Just when you’re feeling selfless and visionary about saving the world, something happens to make you wonder if it’s all worthwhile.I don’t know which is worse, being branded as a “commie” for criticizing the libertarian excesses of free enterprise or getting spanked by Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity for doubting that God serves on the Bush cabinet.We tree-hugging nature lovers have become open season for the far right, and are routinely chastened for moping about natural resource exploitation and weeping over snail darters and giant sequoias.Being an “enviro,” as the headline writers call it, carries the disdainful image of an eco-crybaby whose irrational critique of contemporary culture is rooted in the Stone Age concept of Earth Day.Environmentalism has become the wet blanket that spoils recreational fun and economic progress for individuals and businesses whose only sin is plundering natural resources for the insatiable pursuit of happiness and riches.In Aspen, our critics fawn over motorized entertainments at the X Games, cheer for Base Village at “Snowmess,” and ardently disavow the role of monster homes and Hummers in performing “escalatio” on global warming.The Bush administration has besmirched enviros by marking us with the green “E” and shunning us like Hester Prynne. It has become unpatriotic and sacrilegious to denounce the sacred quest for materialism with specious science, no matter how warm the global pressure cooker gets.Environmentalism has become an annoying stab of conscience that poises angelic on one’s shoulder when a consumer choice is being made. The enviro angel whispers “Prius” while the red devil of consumption screams “Range Rover!”Most Americans long ago knocked the enviro angel off into the recycle bin while granting the consumer devil copious rewards. Global warming is inevitable, they opine, while doing their part to raise the atmospheric thermostat in the self-fulfilling prophecy of personal gratification.In a pointed essay, “The Death of Environmentalism,” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, the writers suggest that the environmental movement should either get a complete makeover or dissolve altogether. The conclusion is that U.S. environmentalism has lost its base.”Environmentalists are in a culture war. It’s a war over our core values as Americans and our vision for the future, and it won’t be won by appealing to the rational consideration of our collective self-interest.”Abrogating collective self-interest is sobering enough, but dispensing with rationality is really troubling. The only thing left is faith that Americans can somehow intuit that clean air and water are beneficial.But according to a survey of 1,500 Americans, more and more people believe that “to preserve people’s jobs in this country, we must accept higher levels of pollution.” Worse still, an increasing number of Americans believe that “most of the people actively involved in environmental groups are extremists and not reasonable people.”No wonder the Bush administration can gut 35 years of environmental progress in about the time it takes to wipe out an old growth forest, perforate the Arctic Wildlife Refuge with drill rigs or wipe out an endangered species.It seems that we poor old enviros may be the most endangered species around, and I hereby bequeath my earthly remains to be stuffed for display in a diorama at the Smithsonian.Paul Andersen will finally be history, just like the passenger pigeon. His column appears on Mondays.
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