On Environmentalism, Radicalism Prevails

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…The last chance for a future that makes ecological sense…We thought that the one-month deadline for the writing [of this Manifesto] was impossible, that we could easily spend a year on it. But a year is about one-fifth of the time that we have left if we are going to preserve any kind of quality in our world.

The Environmental Handbook, Earth Day celebration, 1970.
Quoted 22 years later by Gary Benoit, editor of The New American, June 1, 1992.

We all want clean air, clean water, and a clean environment. And, indeed, true environmental problems abound. One only has to discern the ecological disaster brought about by the totalitarian Marxist regimes of Eastern and Central Europe over years of environmental degradation and senseless central planning: industrial air and water pollution, improper waste disposal, deforestation, even water depletion of natural water reservoirs, e.g., lakes. In fact, the fourth largest lake (the Aral Sea in the former USSR) has been largely dried up and the adjacent land turned into a wasteland from irresponsible drainage and over-irrigation. Then, there is the disastrous 1986 incident at Chernobyl, the most serious nuclear accident on record. As you would remember, the outdated Soviet reactor’s cooling system failed, the nuclear core overheated, and fire resulted.(1) The nuclear fall-out that ensued resulted in extensive nuclear contamination throughout Eastern Europe, particularly the Ukraine, and Scandinavia. The tragedy incurred a heavy toll on human lives and resources. In short, the fact is the worse environmental calamities have taken place in socialists states where authoritative, heavy handed, government bureaucrats regulate, control, and dictate environmental policies.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the revelations coming from behind the Iron Curtain confirm government control and regulation of the environment has resulted in environmental degradation, plundering of habitats, and ecosystems destruction, as a rule rather than an exception. This should by no means be surprising. Individuals in a free society pursuing their own self-interest take better care of the environment than their apparatchik counterparts pursuing state interests. Individuals who have a vested interest in the conservation of their private resources (be it land or habitats) do a better job than an impersonal bureaucracy whose main interest are self-preservation and the exercise of regulatory power.

While I do believe we have legitimate ecologic and environmental problems that deserve our attention (e.g., endangered flora and fauna species; deforestation; wanton destruction of habitats; overpopulation, especially in Third World countries such as India and Pakistan)—I do believe that the looming apocalyptic prophecies have been greatly exaggerated. It seems that zealous environmentalists, cheered by the media, have effectively silenced many scientists and honest researchers who do not share their views. So, contrary views, such as those espoused by prominent scientists like Dr. Edward C. Krug, an environmental scientist formerly with the U.S. National Acid Rain Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP), and Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, President of the American Council on Science and Health, are seldom given a forum a la par afforded to those who toe the politically correct environmental line.

While some environmentalists like Paul Ehrlich subscribe to an exaggerated, distorted version of Malthusian environmental economics, namely that poverty and hunger increase faster than the means of subsistence, and therefore, that population has to be drastically controlled, the vast majority of economists today including a number of Nobel Prize winners believe that technology and modern agriculture can cope with predicted population growth.  As Krug points out: “By 1985 agricultural surpluses became so vast that in the five years that followed, of some 300 million acres of U.S. farmlands, 60 million were taken out of production—30 million under the conservation reserve program. Nearly half of that land is reverting to national uplands and wetlands.”(2)

In the environmental bandwagon, as far as publicity, the same fringe wheel gets all the grease. Instead of the public trusting the opinions of objective scientists, it seems it is the radical fringe of environmentalists who influence public opinion and thereby public policy. Consider the results of a survey reported by The Washington Times (August 1990): “[1] Only 15% of the American public trusts what government scientists say. [2] Only 6% trust scientists seen as representing industry. [3] 68% implicitly believe political activists. [4] 67% agree with the statement: ‘Threats to the environment are as serious as environmental groups say they are.’ ”(2) As a result of media hype and environmental extremism, both private and public sector scientists have been censored from the debate.

With good reason Krug believes that the environmental political ethics are ruinous for ecological systems because they divert attention from the real environmental concerns which although more serious are less publicized. He believes that the strident environmentalists are more interested in social engineering and political power than in genuine environmental problems. In another classic paper in Imprimis he cites real problems that have been poorly addressed:

(1) The elm trees dying, “not from acid rain or air pollution but from Dutch elm disease.”

(2) The eastern hardwood forests (approx. 150 million acres) being decimated by imported diseases and pests (e.g., chestnut blight; oak which was replacing elms and chestnuts decimated by gypsy moths; beech by beech bark disease from Canada; 18 million acres of spruce-fir forests devastated by imported insect pests like the woolly adelgid, etc.).

(3) The zebra mussel introduced in 1986 from Norway destroying our aquatic ecosystem. Without natural enemies it has spread in American lakes feeding on the planktonic base sustenance of the food chain taking over 100 million acres of high-productivity freshwater lakes and causing danger to water supply systems and industry.

Krug writes:

“If the Environmental Party were a genuine champion of the environment, it would not be preoccupied with multi-billion dollar acid rain controls or its other pet concerns like the spotted owl and the snail darter. It would not embrace nominal environmental issues that are used to acquire control over vital industrial activities and it would not ignore greater environmental problems just because they cannot be used to achieve such control.

“The truth is that the Environmental Party is dominated by false prophets whose concern for the environment masks their real agenda, which is social engineering, and their ultimate goal, which is power.”(3)

Acid Rain/Acidic Lakes

Despite the findings of the multimillion dollar National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, which called into question many of the accepted claims of impending disaster, Congress went on to enact and President Bush to sign, costly provisions (estimated at $40 billion annually) to neutralize acid rain in the Clean Air Act of 1990. Many of these provisions such as those purported to combat the acidity of northeastern lakes were totally unnecessary.

Deforestation

Deforestation is taking place in the Eastern U.S. as a result of insects and imported pests and diseases rather than urban destruction. Moreover, private forest management in the U.S. in terms of forest expansion outpaces federally managed preserves because of private replanting and conservation efforts. From 1952 to 1987, there has been a 24% increase in forest growth. Most of this increase has taken place in the forests of the North and South where private ownership ranges from 80% to 90%, rather than in the federally owned Western forests.(4) Because of man’s nature to protect his own, private property owners turn out to be better stewards of the land than armchair bureaucrats trying to micromanage the environment.

Air Pollution

As Dr. Dixie Lee Ray pointed out in her book, “all of the air polluting material produced by man since the beginning of the industrial revolution do not begin to equal the quantities of toxic material, aerosols, and particles spewed into the air from just three volcanoes: Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883, Mount Katsrai Alaska in 1912, and Hekla in Iceland in 1947.”(5) To this list, Robert W. Lee adds: Mount St. Helens in Washington (1980) which effused 910 metric tons of carbon dioxide alone, El Chicon in Mexico (1982) which emitted 100 million tons of sulfur gases (and scoured the priceless Mayan ruins of Palenque), and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines which blew off 30 million tons of pollutants into the stratosphere.(6)

Global Warming

The emission of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases has been blamed for the impending cataclysm of global warming, which until recently (and not helped by this season’s winter arctic weather) was one of the most frightening of environmental stories. The fact is that in the last 50 years global mean temperature has risen only by a mere 1/2 degree Celsius and there is no recorded trend of long-term increases or decreases in the last 10,000 years, since the time of the last Ice Age. Thus, there’s no credible scientific evidence that the Earth is either heating or cooling. And although carbon dioxide levels have indeed risen (without a concomitant increase in temperature), legions of scientists have considered this elevation in carbon dioxide levels to be potentially a boon for mankind because of its beneficial effects on plant growth via the process of photosynthesis.(7)

Behind the facade of fighting air pollution and global warming, stands the reality of government expansion, increasing taxation and regulation, and wealth redistribution. In fact, the big thrust of the Earth Summit (1992) was to find ways to levy huge taxes for the burning of fossil fuels (the Carbon [C] tax) on citizens of industrialized nations and to transfer the proceeds via the United Nations to the governments of undeveloped countries. Were the radical agenda of the environmental lobby enacted, the result could be devastating (i.e., doubling the prices of gasoline and electricity as a starter), increased taxation, and regulatory overkill.(4-7)

Wetlands/Critical Habitats

You will be surprised to learn the federal government already owns more than one third of the land in the United States. And each year the U.S. appropriates millions of dollars in land acquisition projects—some acquisitions take place whether the citizens surrender their land (and sometimes their homes) voluntarily or not. More and more of this land, then, become off-limits to the public and closed for development. “One out of every eight acres the U.S. government owns—is designated as wilderness areas where ‘the hand of man is not allowed to set foot.’ ”(7)

Two developments in the last 20 years have made it easier for the federal government to satiate its voracious appetite for peoples’ land and private property: The Endangered Species Act of 1973 and The Clean Water Act of 1972—both derived from “the public trust doctrine”—which in effect circumvents traditional, constitutionally-protected private property rights. The former has resulted in the “listing” of the spotted owl as a threatened species and the consequent unemployment of hundreds of timber industry residents in Oregon, Washington, and California and the designation of millions of acres in the region as “critical habitat.” Almost daily, more and more private land is set aside because of sightings of the bird that is essentially ubiquitous in the region. These sightings, in turn, translate to autocratic checks on private development in the region.(7)

The appellation of wetlands has provided another readily available pretext for government regulatory taking and violation of private property rights. With the use of administrative law, asset forfeiture statues, and the designation of a “wetland” to private property, government authorities have trampled upon the constitutional rights to liberty and property. The designation of a citizen’s private property as a wetland entails, for all intent and purposes, “a taking” of private property rights by the government. And what, after all, defines a wetland? According to the Wetlands Delineation Manual published in 1989 by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: The presence of water 18 inches below ground for 7 consecutive days out of the year.*

Criminal prosecution is also utilized to enforce strict compliance, as Pennsylvania mechanic John Poszgai found out when he cleared off some rubbish-filled land and filled his “wetland” with dirt(7)—he is in prison serving a 3-year term.**

We should all be for clean air, clean water, preservation of forests and pristine habitats, whether wetlands or dry-lands, but as things now stand, the pendulum has swung too far to the left on most eco-environmental issues. Science should prevail over eco-extremism. Let us be informed and militate for the voice of reason and moderation to prevail in this critically important issue involving Mother Nature.

Footnotes

* The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, more recently, has also designated “wetlands” any land property with the mere growth of such common vegetation as “skunk cabbage and sweet gum trees.”(7)

** Poszgai was actually convicted of violating the Clean Water Act. A humble Hungarian immigrant (from the 1956 uprising), Poszgai, had a gross income of approximately $20,000 a year and no assets, yet was also fined “an assessment” of $202,000 for his temerity and incurring the wrath of an environmental judge!(8)

References

1. The Columbia Encyclopedia. Franklin Electronic Publishers Inc.  Columbia University Press 1989.

2. Krug EC. The real green revolution. St. Louis-Dispatch, May 7, 1993.

3. Krug EC. Save the planet, sacrifice the people—the environmental party’s bid for power. Imprimis 1991;20(7):1-5.

4. Lee RW. Lungs of the earth. The New American 1992;8(11):13. (Special Issue—The Resilient Earth. Reprints available from University Microfilms [1-800-521-0600]).

5. Ray DL, Guzzo L. Trashing the Planet. Harper Perennial 1992.

6. Lee RW. Fury of mother nature. The New American 1992;8(11):5.

7. Wrabek T. They are after your property. The New American, op. cit., p. 23-24.

8. Rice CE. Net loss of freedom. The New American, op. cit., p. 29.

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

This article, which originally appeared in the May 1994 issue of the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia as Dr. Faria’s “Editor’s Corner,” was subsequently updated and republished as Chapter 5 in Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997). It has been posted here and is now accessible on this website for the benefit of our readers.

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. On Environmentalism, Radicalism Prevails. HaciendaPublishing.com, May 5, 1994. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/on-environmentalism-radicalism-prevails/.

Copyright ©1992, 2019 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

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