Conservative commentary: Earth Day then, now
April 26, 2009
“The trouble with the eco-crusader is that his false guilt and his false fears feed endlessly upon each other.” With all the Earth Day hoopla April 22, I remembered this line from an old presidential speech. Can you guess who said it?
“From the emotional remorse that we have sinned terribly against nature,” it continues, “there is but a short step to the emotional dread that nature will visit terrible retribution upon us. The eco-crusader becomes, as a result, deaf to reason and science, blind to perspective and priorities, incapable of effective action.”
That’s telling ’em, Mr. President. Or it would have been, if Richard Nixon hadn’t let staffers talk him out of giving the eco-crusader speech in September 1971.
Fired up by attacks on the “disaster lobby” by Look magazine publisher Thomas Shepard, and uneasy about his own role in establishing the Environmental Protection Agency after the first Earth Day in 1970, Nixon directed me and other speechwriters to produce a warning against ecological extremism that he could deliver as a major address.
Our draft died on his desk amid concerns about political backlash. I kept the file as a historical curiosity – the presidential bombshell that wasn’t. Today, four decades into the age of true-believing green religion, Nixon’s undelivered speech reads prophetically.
So does Shepard’s diagnosis that the environmental doomsayers “are basically opposed to the free enterprise system and will do anything to bolster their case for additional government controls.” So does the denunciation by Prof. Peter Drucker, another source we consulted at the time, of the green fallacy “that one can somehow deprive human action of risk.” The battle lines have changed little in 38 years.
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I now wish President Nixon, a gambler in foreign policy, had risked this piece of domestic truth-telling. One politically incorrect speech from the White House couldn’t have halted the tides of earth-worshipping guilt and fear that still engulf us. But it would have been a start. With braver leadership sooner, America’s voices for environmental common sense might have been less outnumbered today.
Two of those lonely voices were in Colorado last week. Terry Anderson, leader of the Montana-based Property & Environment Research Center, and Christopher Horner, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., brought a coolly factual message to deflate some of the new-energy hype and carbon-phobia that Bill Ritter trades on and Obama wants to emulate.
Anderson literally wrote the book about free-market environmentalism – a 1991 volume by that title. He told the Independence Institute about PERC’s research on such inconvenient truths as the wildly oversold benefits of green jobs and the grim toll that cap-and-trade legislation to mitigate CO2 will take on our standard of living.
Horner’s current book is “Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.” He told the Centennial Institute, where I work, that a recessionary economy and 10 straight years of global cooling make this the worst time for a burdensome new carbon tax that “would not detectably impact climate anyway.”
If the eco-crusaders were serious about cleaner energy, says Horner, they would support nuclear power. They aren’t, so they don’t. And again, we find the battle lines unchanged; the nuclear debate also pervades my 1971 White House file. No, their aim is control, as Thomas Shepard warned. “For a new enemy to unite us, the threat of global warming fits the bill,” gloated the anti-growth Club of Rome in 1991.
Cheerleading mainstream journalists have decided the likes of Horner and Anderson “are not news,” as one bluntly told me – so you heard little about their visit to Ritterville. The governor letting three eco-crusading foundations pay his climate czar’s salary has caused no stir, either.
What sheep we are.
John Andrews, of Centennial, was president of the Colorado Senate in 2003 to 2005. He is director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, a member of the Conservative Leadership Counsel of Northwest Colorado and host of Backbone Radio, Sundays at 5 p.m. online at 710knus.com. You can e-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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