Truth and Radicalism

What makes environmentalists so hated by many conservatives? What is an environmentalist? A good definition of an environmentalist is a person who enjoys drinking clean water, breathing clean air, living in a neighborhood that is not in proximity to toxic waste. That, from my perspective, makes me an environmentalist. It also makes just about every sane American an environmentalist. These are simple goals that are not easy to implement for two basic reasons; excessive rhetoric and corporate greed.

Rhetoric, in that many of the more radical environmentalists believe that it is not possible for man to live at peace with the environment. Many of the more radical types believe that man should regress to a pre-industrial state and the needs of nature should be placed above the needs of man. Radical environmentalists have gained considerable influence in the United Nations. They have pushed for and succeeded in getting many important treaties and programs passed and implemented. These treaties include:

These treaties have had an enormous impact of the entire concept of property rights as many have discovered first hand. Private land has been seized, quarantined, water denied inhabitants of ecologically sensitive regions. Many people have discovered first hand just how real the impact of these treaties is and how much real power the environmental lobby has gained. These and many other projects and public policies are having an impact on how and where people are allowed to live. Many feel these measures are necessary in order to have what is known as sustainable development. This is one of the major concepts behind major movements in modern environmentalism. As the Earths population continues to grow, resources are becoming increasingly scarce. The question is: how does civilization continue to progress, provide for the human needs of its ever increasing population, deal with the depletion of the Earth's resources and at the same time, provide clean air, water, and environment that is safe, livable and sustainable?

It is time to evade the usual hyperbole, evasion and doctrinal biases and embrace a balanced view of what environmentalism is and is not. But first we must gain a little perspective as to who is pushing what agenda. For our purposes here, we will link the issues of environmentalism and increasing population. When dealing with the issue of environmentalism, extremism seems to rule the dialogue rather than reason. Activists traditionally on the left shout at those on the right and cast dispersions on them, casting conservatives, major corporations in the role of polluters and the primary impediment towards progress. It views Corporate America and its use of its vast financial resources, as a primary hindrance in solving the earths increasing environmental and population problems. Those on the right often view the more vocal and adamant environmentalists as luddites who wish to push the world, technology and progress to a pre-industrial age, or view them as ‘Malthusian1 maniac’s’ who wish to elevate nature above man and would save a sucker fish before they would help their fellow man. While the existence of individuals who may fit these extremes may exist, it is incumbent on us not to be sidetracked by these mutually disparaging views.

However those on the left are correct in believing that corporations need to be held accountable for actions that seriously harm the environment. Examples of corporate pollution, driven by greed and a disregard for the health, well-being, and quality of life for their consumers, neighbors and employees are abundant. Lawsuits have shown clearly that, many corporations have shown a reckless disregard for human life when it comes to environmental issues. Toxic waste being dumped into water supplies, illegally dumped dangerous materials poisoning the land, exceeding clean air standards... the list goes on. Much of the contempt that environmentalists have for corporate America has been well earned.

Yet to rail irresponsibly against modern corporations is to rail against the enormous progress that has been made as a direct the result of corporate innovation. It rails against millions of Americans who earn their livelihood from these economic behemoths. It is also, as many of environmental groups have discovered, a largely losing battle. Is does not come without at least some victories, but it is a battle that keeps the status. power and presence of the modern corporation largely in place. Common sense environmentalism is at an important crossroads, as it must make its voice heard to the world at large but the 'voice of the people' or more correctly, the mass media, is controlled by the perceived antagonists in the battle, the multinational corporations.

The Environmental movement needs to take into account harsh realities of the debate, namely that money can buy support or at least silence many who can and would like to contribute to the debate, But because most Americans work for a large corporation and because over 90% of the mainstream media is directly controlled by a multi-billion dollar corporation and are heavily influenced by the advertising dollars that come from corporations, the real debate will only take place in the general public on terms set down by the corporations.

The Future of our rights as human beings to reproduce, own property, and live in a healthy world will depend on how that debate is finally settled.

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1 Named after a British economist who wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), arguing that population tends to increase faster than food supply, with inevitably disastrous results, unless the increase in population is checked by moral restraints or by war, famine, and disease.