Thursday, April 22, 2004

Have A Happy Day, Earth 

Yes, it's that day again: Le Jour Du Terre.

Jimm, of the excellent blog, Project For A New Century Of Freedom, whose excellent epigraph is "Raising The Twin Towers of Reason and Compassion," has this equally heartening post on "Making Global Warning Personal."

Someone you can always trust to bring you down on the subject of the environment is Gregg Easterbrook, the man who has chosen, as perhaps the central task of his life, to protect the environment from environmentalists. Apparently, one John Stossel isn't enough. Easterbrook & Stossel, almost has a Dickensian ring. I'm glad it's almost; neither are worthy of Dickens. But surely together or separately, they are what the bad fairy promised the earth at its long-ago christening. Easterbrook's Earth Day contribution does not disappoint; its guaranteed to bring you down, by pouring yet more fuel on your outrage overload.

I don't need to lead you through the thickets of distortion, deceit, and self-puffery here. Easterbrook stands alone, the single purveyer of truth and integrity; the left and the Democratic party dissemble constantly about the huge strides they're responsible for making, which extends even to some sort of pathological inability to give the Bush administration the credit it deserves for its own flinty integrity on environmental issues, and the Republicans and conservatives are their own worst enemy, often making record on the environment seem worse than it is.

Here are the two examples of the latter Easterbrook presents for our consideration:

James Watts's bizarre anti-environment crusade of the 1980s made Republicans sound deranged on these issues. Newt Gingrich's bizarre anti-EPA crusade of the 1990s made Republicans sound unhinged on these issues. (Gingrich also bizarrely crusaded against the Clean Water Act; is there one single voter in America who doesn't want clean water?) Tom DeLay's bizarre anti-EPA statements of the present day make Republicans sound possessed on these issues. Bush's 2001 statements dismissing global warming as a concern made him sound callous and poorly informed. Republicans are supposed to be political pros, yet they consistently do a terrible job on environmental communication, almost begging to be denounced by the media and misunderstood by voters.

I leave it to you whose perceptions here are best described as "bizarre" or "deranged."

In the world according to Easterbrook, conservatives play politics with the environment and end up hurting only themselves; environmentalists, the left, and the Democratic Party play politics with that issue, and they hurt all of us, the environment itself, and the whole wide world. And who could be more despicable in this regard than the despicable Senator from Mass., no, not that one, the Junior Senator, who made the mistake of claiming in a recent speech that we were in danger, because of this administration, of handing onto our children a world environment in worse shape than the one in which we found it.

This, like the "current Democratic and media claims that there is some kind of super-sinister campaign in progress to undo environment protection," Easterbrook pronounces to be "preposterous." His proof, an extended discussion of examples of all the actual improvements made in the last decades, as if such improvements mean that no new problems have been discovered, or old ones inadequately dealt with. Nothing about bio-diversity, of course, or global warming, or the state of our oceans, or the amazing acceleration in the loss of the global rain forest.

How is it that this guy is not laughed or booed off the public stage? How is it that George Bush is our President? How is it that Al Gore isn't?

In part, it's because George W. Bush, for all his shortcomings, which are, after all, straightforward, easy to understand and all the more charming for that, is someone our SCLM can respect, whereas Al Gore just isn't.

And maybe you can pick up a clue why not by visiting this website, which keeps track of how our once Vice-President is spending some of his time these days. Silly guy, he, too, seems somewhat concerned about the environment.

Give me a break! Give us all a break, and just once, let an Easterbrook get some small fraction of the disrespect he's rightfully earned. And just in case you think Easterbrook is unaware that there are arguments against his positions not so easy to label "preposterous," watch him duck and cover by actually listing them.

So happy Earth Day. Except for greenhouse gases, today the environment in the Western nations is in the best condition it's been in since the industrial era began. (The environment of the developing world is a different story.) The Earth is doing just fine. The debate about the Earth, on the other hand, exhibits degradation, depletion, and endangerment.

Before you decide whether Easterbrook gets credit for helping the earth towards its greater health today, or he is describing himself in that last sentence, one more observation from another of his posts. This one is about Alaska. Easterbrook opposes drilling in Anwar, but thinks the North Slope pipeline used for natural gas is another matter. He may be right. Kerry has a similar position, but for reasons that remain opaque to me, Easterbrook doesn't take heart. Kerry's still problematic, or maybe it's just that he has political problems because he's got all those PC Democrats loons to deal with. Go figure. (And if you figure out what his point is, let us know)

What caught my eye in this discussion was this construction:

Alaskans by and large can't abide that they coexist with wild nature more than any other modern Americans, then are lectured by wealthy enviros who live in doorman buildings on the Upper East Side.

Aside from this being an observation about as fresh as a petrified fish, it reminded me of another group of hearty outdoor men and women who once voiced the same feelings towards environmentalists. I have friends and family in the Boston area, and several decades ago, I worked on a project there involving the rural poor, which is where I got to know a community of professional fishermen who worked the waters off Cape Cod, and who identified Park Ave. environmentalists as the reason their fishing boats were limited in hours on the water and the catch taken from the sea.

I'd pay big bucks to get Easterbrook in a room with some of these boat owners today to talk about the environment. It would be easy to arrange, because the fishermen have lots of time on their hands. You see, even with all the attempts to find the ecological tipping point, the waters are fished out. Or maybe the fish are all being home schooled these days, and they'll be back. No one is quite sure. But you can find more than a few of these fishermen who'll tell you they wish the government had insisted on earlier and more stringent conservation efforts than the ones that ultimately failed. And it wasn't Park Avenue denizens of doorman buildings, or Greg Easterbrook either, who were the ones who got hurt.

If you're interested in just how wrong-headed progressives can get in their preposterous criticism of Bush on the environment, today's Progress Report has some excellent examples in a post called "Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels."

UPDATE Thanks to alert reader Beth.

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