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Parables Of A Green Environment

Jan 28, 2008
There are politicians who are flat-out anti-environmental---they just don't buy the argument. As long as they state their case plainly and honestly, we can at least respect their right to their opinion, however misinformed it may be. Others, however, have taken to deceit, crafting back-room deals that are a negative for the environment but then trying to sell the public on the new regulations by claiming they're an environmental improvement. We think that's a clear form of environmental hypocrisy and can be described as "listen to what I say, but don't watch what I do." Let's go through a few examples.

In campaign speeches prior to the 2000 election, George W. Bush promised to do something about global warming if elected president. The insincerity of the promise was made clear shortly after he took office when he reneged on his pledge, claiming that joining the Kyoto protocol would hurt the US economy. In reality, doing something about global warming would hurt only some industries---notably Big Energy and Big Auto, both heavy contributors to the Bush campaign. Overall, delaying action on global warming will cost us far more in the long run. Making a promise to do something about global warming without any intention of keeping the promise it was a form of environmental hypocrisy.

To those people who take a pro-life stance, we ask: Is the health of a child already born not just as important to you as the health of a child still in the womb? If so, do you voice your opinions on childhood health care and the above environmental issues as strongly as you voice your opinions on abortion?

Our intention here is not to debate the merits of pro-choice vs. pro-life but rather to say that it is hypocritical to be supremely worried about the fate of unborn children while being unconcerned about things (environmental or otherwise) that affect already-born children.

Gore and Kennedy are both doing good work on behalf of the environment--they rank in the Top 10 of the world's most effective environmental advocates. And they both no doubt make plenty of eco-friendly lifestyle choices. But to be a high-profile environmentalist and not fully walk the talk--even if only in terms of the perception they create--is hugely problematic. The public does not like hypocrites, environmental or otherwise, and giving opponents of environmental progress the opportunity to throw hypocritical mud on your righteous arguments reduces the power of your message and distracts people from the real issues. For some in the audience, these slight negatives weigh heavily against the overwhelmingly positive work Kennedy and Gore do.

We find most mainstream environmental groups to be fairly on-target with their overall goals and methods, but we think some of them act hypocritically occasionally. For instance, most major US environmental groups are silent on the issue of global population--and, more specifically, silent on the issue of US population.

Remember that one's individual environmental footprint is roughly based on the amount of energy and resources used and the amount of waste produced. The total US environmental footprint is based on the average individual environmental footprint of a US resident times the number of people in the country. Since the average individual environmental footprint in the US is very big compared to the global average, adding more people in the US is clearly an environmental negative.

To talk about the problem of US population growth only in terms of sprawl is dishonest. But the US population level--and ways to check its growth--is a touchy issue, and green groups would "rather not go there."
About the Author
Jon Caldwell is an environmentalist. Much of his reviews can be found at http://www.greenshops.net/greenshopsnetcat/greenshopsnetlink.php
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