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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004


How to celebrate "Earth" Day
Someday, someone will do an in-depth historical analysis of the environmental movement of the last half of the 20th century. One of the most interesting parts of that analysis could prove the be the examination of how the symbol of the entire movement ended up being the planet itself. It doesn't seem fair to have one aspect of society claim for their own something as universal as the planet itself (it's akin to the homosexual lobby's obsconding with the rainbow, but don't get me started on that) If the goal is to utterly delegitimize the opposition, the symbol of the Earth itself could not have been picked better if it had been done consicously. And maybe it was.

Think about the term "Earth Day" for a moment--the very term is designed to shut off debate. If you don't celebrate Earth Day, then you are an opponent, not only of a certain set of suppositions and values, but of the planet itself. And everything on it. Man, are you scum.

Even the term "environment" is misleading. Techincally, "environment" should include everything from the air we breathe to the roads we drive on, to the cars we drive with, to the seats we sit on, not just what the cars we drive do to the air we breathe. In fact, the term "environment" as it is now used refers only to the natural environment, and not even all of that. And if we're going to get really picky (which I am), then humanity is as natural as anything, and so even that isn't accurate. It is instead the aspects of the environment that have not been fabricated--but that's not quite technical enough. It is the aspects of the environment that have not been fabricated by Homo sapiens (anthills, bird nests and the like are still fair game). But even that isn't necessarily accurate, as many people, when they say "the environment," actually mean "the aspects of the environment that have not been fabricated by members of Homo sapiens who have obtained a certain level of technological precision. "

The term "ecological" is a slightly better word for what is meant by "environment," if only because it provides us with another word and allows us to use "environment" in its more all-encompassing and correct way. Unfortunately, even "ecology" comes from the Greek word oikos, meaning "house" or "habitat," or essentially, "environment." But I digress.

Suffice it to say, there are deep problems with a movement that represents itself as being so much more universal than it really is. It creates an, er, environment where views that dissent from the conventional wisdom is seen as dangerous and probably immoral. Unfortunately, this conventional wisdom was created, in large part, in the 1970's and, as conventional wisdom is wont to do, it has stayed stagnant since then.

An example: today being Earth Day, and me being a jerk, I will be sporting a crudely made button which says "EARTH FIRST: we'll mine the other planets later." Me being a major jerk, I made this button Tuesday at an "environmental coffeehouse" thing, where people were able to make their own, free environmental buttons. That's not my example, this is: one of the buttons available that didn't have to be hand-drawn was a picture of a gas mask with the words "Recess 2050."

What's wrong with this picture? Simply that it's absurd. The air, for those who haven't noticed, is getting cleaner--ecologically-minded types (I shan't call them environmentalists) are angry at Bush, not for allowing companies to befoul the air more, but only for slightly slowing down the rate that they are required to stop befouling it. If current trends continue, in America at least, 2050 will be far, far cleaner than 2004. (And, of course, Bush is actually tightening most air pollution restrictions, but go see Gregg Easterbrook for more on that.)

But the gas-mask for recess picture, which was no doubt bandied about in the significantly smoggier seventies, is still used as if it were an objective fact that, unless we all act now by eating organic food and wearing Birkenstocks, our children will be scampering about the playground in a bright yellow-orange haze, playing tag with gas masks on.

None of this is to say that ecological regulation is objectively a bad thing. Just as we'd punish someone who went about dumping poison into swimming pools, we should punish those who dump poison into the air and water. But we should be sensible about this--for example, carbon dioxide is not a poison.

But the "environmental" movement's conventional wisdom and knee-jerk reactions are doing more harm than good in many cases. The blogosphere has been buzzing about DDT recently, which is a very good example of this. And there are many other problems with the movement: its tendency to inflate the worth of plants and animals at the expense of humanity; the way third world countries are held back from industrializing; the severe degradation of property rights.

This Earth Day, take a moment to question conventional wisdom, and ask yourself and those around you whether the people sporting the big blue and green planet pictures are right about everything they claim and everything they value. Don't be surprised if people get indignant--the entire system is set up to prevent people from asking those questions, from the logos on down. But nothing will change unless we ask these questions.
Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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