To U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, climate change is “the greatest challenge of our generation.” And though he characterizes any who disagree as “a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues”, he spends a good amount of time trying to shutter dissent. To former Secretary of State and potential 2016 Presidential contender Hillary Clinton, climate issues are “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.”
Without a doubt, smart consumerism and environmental protection are important issues. We must be responsible stewards of the planet we leave to our children. But the language of the left on this issue is of a passion more feverish than they show for all other pressing matters of our time, like the increasingly large size of government or the thugs such as ISIS running rampant in the Middle East.
Why is this so?
The more control the left attains, the more successful it is in its ambitions. Thus, the principal ambition of the left is control over our lives at the expense of our personal freedoms. This is not necessarily by desire, but by nature. For the “progressive” agenda to gain traction, it has to be accepted in full, because it requires a willful relinquishment of our individual abilities to self-regulate. Opposition can mean a derailment of the “progressive” agenda, because leftist objectives are focused on an assigned concept of the greater good projected upon the masses; an inherently unfair allotment of a finite pool of resources (money, land, solutions, etc.) determined by a handful of people in power. Conservatism, of course, is also concerned with the allotment of resources, but by the fair hand of the market and with a renewing pool of resources supplied by innovation and individual enterprise.
Alarmism is an insidious weapon of the left. Alarmism easily achieves two goals for those who employ it: it creates a reason for those in power to break the rules (i.e. politicians can take more individual freedoms away in the name of the ‘emergency’) and it marginalizes opposition. When the left sounds the alarm on an issue, there’s no time to think, just hand over the wheel and they will steer. Consider the Obama administration’s recent move to circumvent the President’s legal obligation to ratify treaties through Congress by seeking to ratify a climate ‘accord’ with the UN. Or, consider the pervasive dialogue of those in attendance at the 2014 People’s Climate March. According to posters, pamphlets, and stump speeches from many in the crowd, the enemy of the climate is capitalism. Street interview footage available on YouTube shows attendees, when pressed, admitting that they advocate for “a whole new society”… a “socialist” one.
Oh, and on the subject of the People’s Climate March, don’t miss this blogpost from the Gothamist about the amount of litter left behind by the marchers, aptly described as a “trail of trash”.
True environmentalism is about a concern for the people living on our planet, present and future. Yet we have John Kerry (again) pushing the perplexing notion that developing new farmlands in Africa to help feed starving people would be a bad thing because of the potential for negative environmental effects. Or the Environmental Protection Agency testing pollutants associated with high-risk levels of cancer and death on elderly Americans without disclosing the risks. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a wing of the United Nations, called for more taxes, regulation, and oversight (concentrated power, including government enforced restriction on cars) and less coal and meat consumption to combat climate issues. No mention of the need for responsible choices on the part of the consumer (you and I) but only a mandate for our forced behavior.
Watch this 2009 BBC interview of Greenpeace leader Gerd Leipold admitting that they “emotionalize” the issue of climate change to advance their agenda. To be clear, it is not the public advocacy for environmental responsibility and awareness that are at issue, but the hijacking of environmentalism by any single group, particularly the left, which then uses the cause to increase the size of government.
The National Science Foundation (a publicly funded entity) recently awarded $700,000 to a Brooklyn theater company to produce a play about climate change. The play reached 5 percent of its intended audience. The EPA is so blunderously bureaucratic they were swindled out of $1 million by a high ranking climate change official who was able to convince his colleagues he was secretly a spy. Imagine the power of that same money spent by the private sector on innovative ways to reduce or control pollution, preserve resources, or harness cleaner energy.
To the elites on the left, climate change is a settled science and just about any and every new law or restriction in the name of ‘green’ is justified. To say the science of climate change is ‘settled’ and ‘indisputable’ does a disservice to true environmentalism and the empirical scientific process. Remember that leeching blood was ‘settled science’. The idea of the Earth being flat was ‘settled science’.* By some accounts, there are over 50 possible explanations for the recent pause in global warming. The left’s case-closed attitude dilutes the necessity for truly critical questions to be answered, such as what is the extent of the human cause of climate disruptions and how much natural resilience does the Earth have? What efforts of ours are effectively helping maintain a healthy planet, and what ‘green’ initiatives are actually worse for our environment?
Last Earth day, President Obama attended a climate summit in Oslo in the name of environmentalism and burned 35,000 gallons of fuel to get there, at a cost of 375 tons of carbon dioxide. Perhaps, right off the bat, international in-person summits on climate change aren’t so good for the environment.
Time and again, what has been proven to be bad for the environment is big government. Consider the world’s largest admittedly communist country, China. Take a look at this gallery of images. As detailed in the photos, China’s Jianhe river is bright red from chemical waste. In 2010, an oil storage facility in Dalian experienced a catastrophic spill 4 times the size of the BP Horizon spill. Air quality contamination levels in Beijing haveexceeded the range of the capabilities of measuring equipment. An attributable 2,500+ hundred deaths in Beijing in 2012 were due to pollution. How has China’s regulatory state served the interests of the planet?
Free countries with limited government and sensible environmental dialogues are countries of responsible citizens with a concern for our planet. I put America in this category for now, though the alarmism is getting out of hand quickly. We buy ‘green’, conserve when we can, and reuse what we are able to reuse. Most of us are mindful of the need to leave our planet in a better condition than we found it. What condition will that be if we relinquish our individual responsibility to the whims of a powerful few?
It’s not just environmentalism. Alarmism is profitable on any issue that can be used to amass more power. Despite studies that prove gun control in our country is unsuccessful at reducing gun violence, the only solution the left seems to be able to offer is more gun regulation. Despite thousands fleeing the Canadian socialized healthcare system in 2013, the Obama administration rammed public healthcare expansion through while ringing the alarm. Despite government entitlement programs proving to be abject failures at reducing poverty (6 million+ more Americans living in poverty during Obama’s first term) the administration continues to expand the entitlement state and push for programs of redistribution. The alarm becomes deafening to reality.
A macabre thought comes to mind when one considers population alarmists. What would they have us relinquish to save the earth from overcrowding? The ability to choose how many children we can have, or if we can have them at all? The ability to travel? The right to live at all?
The conservative solution to environmentalism, violence, health-care needs, poverty and even population concerns is open-sourced innovation. The type of innovation delivered by people free to choose how their destinies unfold and free to pursue their passions. Unending regulation extinguishes the flame of innovation, and dooms us all. Limitless solutions become a handful of options under big government. Our hourglass becomes glued to the table.
Can Republican politicians be alarmists about issues? Yes, of course. But those on the right who would toll the bell for personal gain are motivated by the same vice: power. This is not true conservative-oriented leadership, because conservatism by nature is about limiting the power of the government to the greatest benefit of the citizenry, and empowering people to be their own stewards.
Also to be considered: some government regulations do hit their mark. Counter examples will exist to any salient point. Government-required caps on emissions have pushed car manufacturers to develop cleaner engines. But when the conversation about smart consumerism becomes dominated with superlatives (our most pressing issue is_____, everyone agrees on ______, we must regulate X, Y, or Z to prevent _____) then we tie our own hands.
Environmentalism is no single group or organization’s issue, and it certainly doesn’t belong to the left. Shed the shackles of alarmism. We must protect our right to be self-responsible, for our own sake, and the sake of the planet.
*Ironically, Kerry refers to the critics of his top-down approach to environmentalism ‘The Flat Earth Society’.
Image credit: “Picswiss BL-56-08” by Roland Zumbühl (Picswiss), Arlesheim http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Picswiss_BL-56-08.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Picswiss_BL-56-08.jpg