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Steven Hayward- Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]

Dr. Steven Hayward is Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies for the Pacific Research Institute. He is also nationally recognized for his recently released book, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964-1980 (Prima Publishing, 2001), and Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity (Prima Publishing, 1997). [go to Hayward index]

Ho-Hum, Another Earth Day
Oh, yeah, we're doomed...
[Steven Hayward] 5/11/04

Another Earth Day has come and gone, and it is not quite clear whether anyone noticed. Perhaps that’s because we’re still alive and breathing, contrary to years of dire warnings that we are running out of time.

A Gallup Poll released just before Earth Day found that the environment is at its lowest point ever as a salient political issue. And the topic of global warming, Gallup reported, is putting people to sleep.

The online satire magazine The Onion captured the mood better than a poll, however, with its own fanciful poll on "How Are We Celebrating Earth Day?" The answers were: "13%-Cheering on Dale Earnhart Jr. in the Firestone Earth Day 500; 12%-Thinking locally; 28%-Staying away from Dad, who goes on a huge drunk every Earth Day; 9%-Swerving to avoid guy on recumbent bicycle; and finally, the most accurate, 40%-Saying ‘Huh, no s---’ when someone tells us it’s Earth Day."

One reason the public is increasingly tuning out the environment is that the issue is a prime example of Gresham’s Law (bad money drives out good money) applied to political and social issues. Too many environmentalists are focused on the wrong things.

The run-up to this year’s Earth Day included a breathless New York Times Magazine cover story with an ominous photo of a power plant smokestack belching forth a huge cloud of-steam. Power plant emissions are a receding problem, yet they still command disproportionate attention from the media and Washington-based environmentalists.

There are some environmental issues on which we are making little progress, or that we understand poorly, such as species extinction. Yet on Earth Day this year, radio talk shows (I was on several) and many print media reports were focusing on a nut job who wants to ban disposable diapers. This kind of trivialization of the environment ought to drive serious environmentalists out of their minds; it marginalizes all environmentalists as silly "tree-huggers."

The more politicized environmentalists have never absorbed the lesson of the fable of the little boy who cried "wolf" too often. In fact, they can’t even cry wolf much longer, as the northern gray wolf is on its way to being taken off the Endangered Species List, along with the original charismatic megafauna, the bald eagle. CRO

copyright 2004 Pacific Research Institute




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