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The Earth Day thread - 04/22/06

Old 04-20-06, 08:03 AM
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The Earth Day thread - 04/22/06

Earth Day, that annual event of and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, of apparent contests to see who can prophesy the most dire doom and gloom, is upon us once again. To kick off this now familiar rite of spring I offer this dissenting editorial from the most unexpected of sources, The Harvard Crimson:

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512890

Requiem for Environmentalism

Published On Thursday, April 20, 2006 2:21 AM
By PIOTR C. BRZEZINSKI

Environmentalism is dead; long live the environment!

This pronouncement might seem a touch premature, especially to the 500 million people who will celebrate the 37th Earth Day this weekend—a collective “not dead yet” wheeze. However, these numbers mask the growing irrelevance of the environmentalist movement. Having lost its credibility with alarmist rhetoric and obsolete ideological ballast, the movement must develop a moderate discourse while challenging its previous assumptions and outdated theories.

The contemporary environmentalist movement faces a stark choice: change tactics or fade into irrelevance. Over the past decade, environmentalists have achieved few political victories and utterly failed to influence the general public. As indicated by a recent MIT study, the public knows little about environmental problems, and cares less. Out of 21 national and international issues, Americans ranked environmental problems 13th, well below terrorism, taxes, crime, and drugs.

Alarmism—the environmental movement’s basic strategy—has led to this dead end. Since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the movement has been dominated by doomsday scenarios. Even on the first Earth Day in 1970, biologist George Wald predicted that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken” while the New York Times warned that “man must stop pollution and conserve his resources…to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” Fortunately, such forecasts have repeatedly proven to be wrong.

Take biologist Paul Ehrlich’s popular Malthusian broadside, “The Population Bomb.” Farsighted Ehrlich predicted that a “population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” causing world-wide famine and the death of “hundreds of millions of people” annually from starvation. Oops—in the subsequent 35 years, increased agricultural productivity exceeded population growth and the total amount of cultivated land barely increased.

Ehrlich is hardly alone; the environmental movement has spawned a remarkable number of would-be Cassandras. Between 1970 and 2006, global cooling predictions mysteriously morphed into global warming fears. Concerns about rampant Dodo-ism proved baseless: the rate of animal extinction in the U.S. has been declining since the 1930s, and only seven species have gone extinct since 1973. And rather than running out of resources, the world has experienced a commodity glut, with the prices of most metals and minerals dropping by 30 to 50 percent. The litany of failed apocalypses goes on.

Not that this history of crying wolf has chastened contemporary environmentalists. Activists and researchers still issue dire warnings with mind-numbing regularity. Just three weeks ago, a panic-stricken Time magazine story on global warming shouted, “Be Worried, Be Very Worried.” Harping on worst-case scenarios like a 220-foot rise in the ocean’s water level, the article more closely resembled “The Day After Tomorrow” than a serious report.

Although such scare mongering persists, it has reached the point of diminishing returns. Knowing the movement’s track record of false alarms, the American public dismiss dire environmental warnings out of hand. Plus, these alarming reports attract a disproportionate amount of media attention, discrediting the environmentalist movement twice over: First when the sensational predictions drown out more plausible reports, then again when the highly-publicized disaster fails to occur.

Contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. environment is getting healthier. The U.S. population has more than doubled since 1970, yet forest coverage has increased. Measurements of major air pollutants—sulfur, suspended particulates, and carbon monoxide—have registered declines of 15 to 75 percent. Likewise, the number of healthy rivers and lakes has roughly doubled since the first Earth Day, and Lake Erie, declared “dead” in the 1970s, now supports a healthy fishing industry. There are exceptions to this positive trend, but the overall direction is unmistakable: The U.S. natural environment is improving.

Of course, environmentalists claim credit for this trend. Alarmists can’t lose: either doomsday comes true, or their warnings averted disaster. Certainly, part of the positive trend is due to activism and government regulations, but much of the change is a result of increased technological efficiency as well as longstanding trends that predate the rise of environmentalism.

Although the impact of these past achievements is uncertain, the movement’s future success clearly depends on a fundamental reevaluation of long-unquestioned theories and policies. Doomsday warnings no longer shock the public into action; instead, environmentalists need to develop moderate arguments that don’t depend on some calamity. This means abandoning Soviet-style “command-and-control” regulation, epitomized by the Kyoto Treaty, and exploring ideas, like the use of DDT, that are currently considered heretical.

Thus, on the 37th anniversary of Earth Day, the environmental movement is looking increasingly long in the tooth. Alarmist environmentalists have overshadowed moderate, careful researchers, and undermined the credibility of the entire movement. Until environmentalists cease depending on nightmare scenarios, they will fail to influence the public at large. Let the next generation of environmentalists begin to reestablish the movement’s credibility by exploring currently heretical ideas and producing moderate, nuanced reports, even if they do not make for good press.

Piotr C. Brzezinski ’07, an editorial associate chair, is a social studies concentrator in Winthrop House. He is a member of the Resource Efficiency Program. On April 22, there will be an Earth Day celebration in Winthrop House from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Contrary to what may be popular belief, I am not opposed to environmentalism per se. I am opposed to the alarmist, over-the-top pseudo-environmentalism of the alarmists, which, unfortunately, long ago hijacked the movement and which, unfortunately, has been aided and abetted by the credulous and unquestioning mainstream media. I find the above editorial intelligent, insightful and a welcome opinion from a Harvard junior who seems like a true environmentalist and whose outlook, I hope, embodies the future of environmentalism.

Last edited by movielib; 04-20-06 at 08:40 AM.
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Old 04-20-06, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
Contrary to what may be popular belief, I am not opposed to environmentalism per se. I am opposed to the alarmist, over-the-top pseudo-environmentalism of the alarmists, which, unfortunately, long ago hijacked the movement and which, unfortunately, has been aided and abetted by the credulous and unquestioning mainstream media. I find the above editorial intelligent, insightful and a welcome opinion from a Harvard junior who seems like a true environmentalist and whose outlook, I hope, embodies the future of environmentalism.
I agree completely. This is a problem not just with environmentalism, but with most political movements. The extremists get all the press while the more reasonable people get results. But compare the state of the environment 40 years ago to the state of the environment today. There's no doubt that we've seen vast improvements in the state of the environment. If you asked people whether they wanted to go back to the environmental picture of 40 years ago, with toxic waste being dumped in the ground and rivers full of burning waste, there would be overhwleming opposition. There is broad-based support for reasonable environmental regulation, and that is a credit to the environmental movement. It's a shame that most people associate environmentalists with the fringe, when most environmentalists are like the author of the quoted article.
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Old 04-20-06, 11:33 AM
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Probably the most annoying day when I was in college.
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Old 04-20-06, 11:35 AM
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Yay! Dirt people unite!
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Old 04-20-06, 12:04 PM
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In honor of Earth Day, I will subdue it!
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Old 04-20-06, 12:30 PM
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They should just move Earth Day back to 4/20 and give a lot of the same folks a two-for-one holiday.
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Old 04-20-06, 01:01 PM
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I remember the last time I went back up to Oregon where I was born, the Willamette River was greenish blue instead of the chocolate brown I remember from early childhood, and bald eagles had returned. I think compared to 40 years ago, people as a whole are much more environmentally consciencous and it's showing. I agree with that article in that what the environmental moment needs is to appeal more to the sensible majority that cares about environmental quality, but isn't about to give up electricity and weave baskets to do it.
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Old 04-21-06, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
Earth Day, that annual event of and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, of apparent contests to see who can prophesy the most dire doom and gloom, is upon us once again. To kick off this now familiar rite of spring I offer this dissenting editorial from the most unexpected of sources, The Harvard Crimson:

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=512890



Contrary to what may be popular belief, I am not opposed to environmentalism per se. I am opposed to the alarmist, over-the-top pseudo-environmentalism of the alarmists, which, unfortunately, long ago hijacked the movement and which, unfortunately, has been aided and abetted by the credulous and unquestioning mainstream media. I find the above editorial intelligent, insightful and a welcome opinion from a Harvard junior who seems like a true environmentalist and whose outlook, I hope, embodies the future of environmentalism.

Wow! This is a great article. Thanks for posting it.
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Old 04-21-06, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
Contrary to what may be popular belief, I am not opposed to environmentalism per se. I am opposed to the alarmist, over-the-top pseudo-environmentalism of the alarmists, which, unfortunately, long ago hijacked the movement and which, unfortunately, has been aided and abetted by the credulous and unquestioning mainstream media. I find the above editorial intelligent, insightful and a welcome opinion from a Harvard junior who seems like a true environmentalist and whose outlook, I hope, embodies the future of environmentalism.
Just level with us -- why do you hate the Earth so much? You got something against clean air and water, buddy???

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Old 04-21-06, 09:54 AM
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What do you know, another preemptive thread.

I'm not saying you're wrong necessarily...I'm just saying...
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Old 04-21-06, 10:44 AM
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Originally Posted by chess
What do you know, another preemptive thread.

I'm not saying you're wrong necessarily...I'm just saying...
So it's a "preemptive" thread?

The title is as neutral as it could be. (My "preemptive" title was your complaint last time.)

Now many threads in the political forum start with a quoted article. I chose an article I agreed with and found exceptionally articulate and insightful. What was I supposed to do, choose an article with which I disagreed?

We are asked by the mods in this subforum to not just post articles but to offer our comments and contibute something ourselves. I did so. The only thing I can think of which would set you off in that regard is that I spiced my comments with a little sarcasm and (arguably feeble) humor. But I think it's also absolutely true that Earth Day "celebrations" are times of "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, of apparent contests to see who can prophesy the most dire doom and gloom..." The rhetoric in almost all environmentalist endeavors is loaded with doomsday prophecies and scenarios and Earth Days are no exception - quite the opposite. It's the time for everything to reach a crescendo.

I fail to see how anything in the thread title or my post "preempts" anyone from arguing with any point made by the article or by me.

I also fail to see why anyone who takes an opposing position to mine could not have started an Earth Day thread before I started mine which would have kicked off the thread in another direction. If one had, I would have been in there countering it. I would not have been "preempted" from doing so because the OP had taken an opposite view from mine, even if the title had been "preemptive." There is nothing stopping such a person from coming in now and taking issue with my views.

It seems to me (and I may be wrong) that your criticizing of my supposed "preempting" (which is no different from the way many other threads in the political forum start) is more an attempt to somehow "shame" me into not starting these threads in the future. I am going to be more mindful of keeping my thread titles neutral in the future as I was for this one. That is something you were right about. But this is a subject in which I have great interest and I look for news about it every day and start threads or post in other threads when I find something I deem to be of value. You, and anyone else, are free to disagree with anything I post.

Apparently, what you don't like is that most of the environmental threads and posts in this forum oppose the views of alarmist environmentalism. I do think that is the majority view here but there are others who disagree. How is it our (or my) fault if more don't (obviously, some do) post their disagreements?

Last edited by movielib; 04-21-06 at 10:55 AM.
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Old 04-21-06, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
Just level with us -- why do you hate the Earth so much? You got something against clean air and water, buddy???

They are evil, evil I tell you! Clean air and water killed my brother!


Last edited by movielib; 04-21-06 at 11:26 AM.
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Old 04-21-06, 12:29 PM
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Is this a bad time to wish everyone a happy Earth Day?
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Old 04-21-06, 12:31 PM
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All = Good

I was just amused at the trend of starting environmental threads with a conservative bent.

Please don't paint me as an alarmist. I do my bit by driving efficient cars and xeriscaping my yard (though that might have more to do with laziness), but I don't consider myself gloom and doom. I am somewhat concerned about global climate change though, and as far as I can tell, the measurement thereof is based on sound science.

Appreciate the benign title...off to plant a tree.
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Old 04-21-06, 12:33 PM
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I like the Earth. Go Earth!
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Old 04-21-06, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by chess
I was just amused at the trend of starting environmental threads with a conservative bent.

If this thread started with a conservative bent, the OP would have said, "Happy 5993rd Birthday, Earth."
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Old 04-21-06, 12:46 PM
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My enduring memories from Earth Days past are of gaudy paper flyers stapled to innocent trees around town.

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Old 04-21-06, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by movielib
So it's a "preemptive" thread?
Duh. You started the thread two days early. In the future, please try to hold off on starting an Earth Day, Arbor Day, Mother's Day, President's Day, Flag Day, Columbus Day, Administrative Professional's Day, etc. thread until the morning of the day in question.

They have the same rule in the TV Talk forum.
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Old 04-21-06, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dimension X
Administrative Professional's Day

OT, but is this what they call Secretary's Day now?
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Old 04-21-06, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
OT, but is this what they call Secretary's Day now?
Yep. At least according to the calendar I looked at.
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Old 04-21-06, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by chess
All = Good

I was just amused at the trend of starting environmental threads with a conservative bent.
BTW, two of the "big three" environmental thread starters are libertarians.

Please don't paint me as an alarmist. I do my bit by driving efficient cars and xeriscaping my yard (though that might have more to do with laziness), but I don't consider myself gloom and doom. I am somewhat concerned about global climate change though, and as far as I can tell, the measurement thereof is based on sound science.

Appreciate the benign title...off to plant a tree.
I would like to get a hybrid car myself, a Prius or the new Camry. But as long as my '89 Camry runs the way it does, it seems foolish of me to spend such money. I admit I don't think a hybrid car is necessary for me to "help save the earth." It needs little saving. But I like the gas mileage and these cars are very cool.

I understand your concern about climate change. There is no doubt it has been getting warmer and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I just think it's not very much, human CO2 emissions are a miniscule part and pouring trillions into Kyoto will not help in any significant way but will harm economic growth and slow technological advance - just what we need to meet environmental challenges that have arisen and will arise in the future.

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Old 04-21-06, 07:10 PM
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I remember my grandparents had an '86 camry that got better gas mileage than some hybrids do today. ( 36~40mpg average. Gramps computed his mileage after every fill up.). That was the most low maintainence care I've ever seen. 144k miles saw 1 broken fan belt, 1 new set of brakes, and 1 new set of tires.
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Old 04-21-06, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Holy Jackson
I remember my grandparents had an '86 camry that got better gas mileage than some hybrids do today. ( 36~40mpg average. Gramps computed his mileage after every fill up.). That was the most low maintainence care I've ever seen. 144k miles saw 1 broken fan belt, 1 new set of brakes, and 1 new set of tires.
My '89 has over 163,000. About the only thing I've had are tires, some exhaust stuff to replace now and then and the regular annual maintenance which I still have done by the dealer (who gives us the best of deals on our service because my wife used to sell cars there - she sold me mine).

I can't say I get that kind of gas mileage although I don't track it like your grandfather.
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Old 04-21-06, 11:12 PM
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The major problem with environmental alarmist is thier belief that humans must return to the stone age to preserve the earth, while the actual fact is that technology is the largest cause of the environmental improvement
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Old 04-21-06, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Nazgul
They should just move Earth Day back to 4/20 and give a lot of the same folks a two-for-one holiday.
Totally worth peeking in here...
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