Sunday, April 16, 2006

Good News Swept Under Rug on "Earth Day"

April 22 marks the activist-styled "Earth Day," when every environmental Chicken Little with an axe to grind takes to the media and proclaims the ecological sky is falling. Like carnival shysters on the media midway, a cacophony of scaremongers champions every conceivable allegation of a deteriorating environment, asking you to empty the public coffers in the hope of winning illusory ecological prizes. To gain insight into the unfounded environmental scares the Chicken Littles will be pronouncing on Earth Day, all we need do is reexamine some of the environmental scares trumpeted in the past.

The human overpopulation scare of the 1960s has been ongoing for 40 years. Global human population is expected to continue growing until the middle of the century before declining. Yet the alleged overpopulation apocalypse has yet to occur.

The pollution-will-cause-a-new-ice-age scare of the 1970s failed miserably but has now been resuscitated, nearly word-for-word, into a pollution-will-turn-the-Earth-into-a-furnace scare. We were told in the 1980s that climatic calamity was imminent and would be catastrophic by the early 1990s, yet here we are in 2006 and all predictions of gloom and doom remain hypothetical ... and always "imminent."

In the 1980s, the hole-in-the-ozone calamity came and went, and nobody was harmed. The Alar apples scare of the 1990s was thoroughly debunked, and a decade later the Starlink biotech corn alarm was proven completely unfounded.

The fact is, every year environmental extremists trumpet new Chicken Little fears on Earth Day, and history repeatedly proves the allegations to be pure fancy, contradicted by science. What are the true environmental facts the Chicken Littles will conveniently fail to mention this Earth Day?

* In 2005, the federal government implemented its first regulations on mercury emissions. Environmental mercury levels will decline by 69 percent by 2018. Scientific studies show environmental mercury at current levels poses no threat to humans.

* Although global warming theory is contradicted by leading climatologists and has yet to have any appreciable impact on the Earth or our lives, the United States has nevertheless demonstrated leadership in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past three years, European Union carbon dioxide emissions have risen, while U.S. emissions have fallen. The U.S. government spends more money on global warming research than the rest of the world combined and has taken dramatic steps to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas far more powerful than carbon dioxide.

* According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air we breathe today bears little resemblance to the air quality of 30, 20, 10, or even just five years ago. Over the past three decades air pollution has fallen by 29 percent, while our economy has grown nearly 160 percent. Politicians now bicker about such things as whether we should adopt President George W. Bush's Clear Skies Initiative, which proposes an additional 70 percent cut in air pollution, or insist on even greater cuts. Either way, the air is cleaner than it has ever been in our lifetimes and is growing appreciably cleaner every year.

* Despite the weakness of data connecting arsenic in water to human health concerns, new federal standards will require communities to eliminate vast quantities of naturally occurring arsenic from drinking water--in effect making our tap water more pure than spring water completely untouched by human influence.

* Biotechnology advances allow farmers to sow crops that require fewer pesticides, fewer herbicides, fewer fungicides, less irrigation, and less acreage. More food is being grown on less land, allowing forests and prairies to reestablish themselves. The resulting crops, moreover, are significantly safer for human and animal consumption.

What does all this mean on Earth Day? We should always be concerned about our environment, but we should not be duped by incessant cries that the environmental sky is falling.


Bobos in Priuses

It is indeed a sad day when peasants in Russia have so much to teach us peasants in California about social activism. But look what's happened in Moscow, where average folk got fed up with priority access to the road system: in a textbook nonviolent protest, the trigger point came when commoner Oleg Scherbinksy was sentenced to four years in prison for causing an accident by not getting out of the way fast enough when a government official, commandeering the road, sped by. In response, a thousand citizens in 500 cars took a Sunday drive, moving slowly through the streets favored by the big shots. Silently, they demonstrated -- as authorities looked on to squelch any unauthorized "rally" -- that the elites have no special claim on the roadways.

Here too in Southern California, the elites have been hampered by slow moving traffic -- but a pesky two centuries of egalitarianism has prevented them from doing anything about it. Those Muscovite flashing blue roof lights and special license plates signifying "out of the way -- serf!" just won't cut it in a culture where tomorrow the guy cleaning your pool just might be cast as the next James Bond. Over here, a more sensitive, greener, and ideal-laden power grab was in order.

Call me Charlie Brown. Like that pathetic cartoon optimist repeatedly eying a teed-up football, I tend to believe that Western Civilization is always only one beau jeste away from repair. Poor Charlie: he alone is convinced that this time Lucy will actually let him kick the ball. And so, just a few months ago, when traffic had gone from bad to terminal, I knew for sure that we had reached the tipping point: this time, common citizens would restore a sense of freedom, commerce, and caprice to the Golden State. Like every other chump in recorded history, I followed my heart and bet against the house.

Every California social revolution needs a crisis, and now, with perpetual traffic gridlock, we had ours. The Prop 13 tax revolution was the result of a tax-the-middle-class flashpoint. The Davis recall and Arnold election were a response to a scary state fiscal meltdown. (Arguably, Gov. Schwarzenegger's failure last November to pass his ballot propositions was the residue of the fact that he is doing too good a job, and hence the public was no longer fearful and radicalized.)

As an un-appointed evangelist of rational allocation, I started treating any social encounter as an opportunity to expand minds. "We do not have a freeway shortage any more than we have a prime rib shortage," I would softly suggest. "Isn't the problem really that we are giving away something at a price [free] that attracts too many willing buyers?"

It worked. Traffic nightmares had driven even congenital tax-and-spend statists to wits end -- there's just so much NPR you can enjoy each day. Desperate and testy, they warily heard me out as I discussed the magic of the price mechanism.

Sure, I was mean -- but only when I had to be. Isn't the first rule of persuasion to eviscerate your target's existing assumptions? It was fun, too, asking questions like "how is society served when three undocumented gardeners with no license and no insurance are able to blow past a neurosurgeon late to rescue an aneurism victim?" Inevitably, someone would bring up the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where Larry David hires a prostitute sit in his Prius in order to get to Dodger Stadium in the car pool lane. They were getting it.

By my calculations, we were just months -- weeks, maybe -- away from turning the choked San Diego Freeway into the wide-open Ayn Rand Tollway. Thanks to other gas, parking and access situations, the California public was now familiar with transponder technology. They would be quite capable of wrapping themselves around the idea of time-based variable entrance fees to the freeway system metered by a device on their sun visor.

Even casual readers of the funny pages know what comes next: Lucy snatched the football. The state government -- in cahoots with the Feds -- came up with an exquisite way of rescuing the NPR Nomenklatura from pesky stop and go driving while keeping the rest of us crawling along like beetles. All you had to do was think like they did -- and be rich.

Their idea was both delicious and healthful-seeming -- sort of like when you trade in your Mr. Goodbars for carob-covered raisins. Henceforth, the State declared, solo drivers in preferred vehicles would be allowed access to the speedy, uncluttered carpool lane. And by preferred vehicles, did we mean neurosurgeons rushing to the hospital? Perhaps single moms dashing between childcare responsibilities and work? Or maybe the perennial government favorite, the actuarially challenged with diminished faculties who need the extra navigational room and have less absolute time to waste?

No. The government determined that the most entitled users of scarce freeway lane space were those driving a specific few "environmentally friendly" hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Ford Escape. Like the dwarf movie producers who suddenly morph into alpha males when Lifetime Network picks up their next 13 episodes, these ugly, underpowered, rolling scotch tape dispensers instantly became the new desirable car. Suddenly, people would stop at nothing -- nothing -- to possess them.

Make no mistake -- California's designated Prius Lane is indeed a market solution. But even if you named Karl Marx as commissioner of the Franchise Tax Board, he could not have concocted a more punitive, confiscatory formula. The automotive authority recently calculated that, for a Prius to make economic sense, gasoline would have to cost $10/gallon. So, for the privilege, every time he fills up, the Prius owner is paying in effect a more than seven dollar per gallon tax premium. In addition, the consumer must absorb that hard to quantify but tangible "cost" associated with leaving the comfort of one's previous fossil fuel Lexus.

Despite the hype and misinformation, consumers have, as usual, reacted rationally. Sure, there are those rich or stupid enough who choose to accessorize their life with this kind of mobile demonstration of awareness and humility. But the Prius market growth has come among the cash rich but time-starved elite, making a devil's bargain that they find about as bitter as devil's food cake. For someone shaving twenty minutes of each commute in the Prius lane, the price premium is easy to monetize and even easier to justify.

Though the idea is already spreading, please avoid the temptation to write off the Prius Perk as simply one more California affectation. The program exists to do far more than simply spiff those among the fortunate affluent minority who think correctly; this kind of obscene, un-democratic scam is actually essential to the continuity of big government.

Statism cannot exist without targeted, adjunct programs that opiate the elite from feeling the generalized pain of government meddling. Perks for the noisy, pushy, and sometimes influential elite are an essential component of preserving enveloping control of everyone else. The cycle goes like this: first government programs meddle with the market, creating either scarcity, poor quality, or high prices. At some threshold, the public is "outraged" with (you pick it) the high cost of health care, schools that don't teach, vagrancy, retirement savings, or traffic. That's where the opiating kicks in. Without threatening the ongoing government program, the powers-that-be gingerly carve out a special situation for the elites.

Thus, the lifestyle of the haves is enriched at the expense of the have-nots through resource-transfer programs with virtuous names: "livable environment" (curtailed homebuilding), "affordable housing" (the highly-regressive mortgage interest deduction), "quality public schools" (publicly financed charter schools for the elite), "quality broadcasting" (burger flippers' tax dollars used to produce Masterpiece Theater), "affordable healthcare" (where the haves "pay" for their healthcare with after-tax dollars, and the middle class does not).

Last Sunday, before the Oscar Ceremonies, Hollywood celebrated the fourth year of "Red Carpet, Green Cars" where Toyota Motors provided hybrids to a gaggle of arriving VIPs, including Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Aniston, and George Clooney. This pomposity is an extension of behavior that Michel Medved has written about regarding other pathologies: celebrities promoting lifestyles onto the rest of us where they alone through wealth and fame are insulated from any derivative negative outcome.

Nonetheless, the peasants ogled the cars, cheered the actors and blew kisses. Shortly thereafter, these same common citizens returned to their beat-up Oldsmobiles and Camrys, ascended the onramp, and prayed.



"The environmentalist's dream is an egalitarian society, based on rejection of economic growth, a smaller population, eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally."

Aaron Wildavsky, political scientist and professor.
[Environmentalism equals making everybody equal; that is, it's communism.]

"No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits... [C]limate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world."

Christine Stewart, Canadian Environment Minister.
[Environmentalism equals changing the world.]

"We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists, and their projects... We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers, and return to wilderness millions of tens of millions of acres of presently settled land."

David Foreman, EarthFirst! member.
[Environmentalism equals a return to primitive living.]

"We've got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy."

Timothy Wirth, Clinton Administration U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, and one of a number of politicians (including Barbara Boxer, Barney Frank, Al Gore, John Kerry, Christopher Shays, and others) who were designated as "Green Leadership for the '90s."
[Environmentalism equals changing policy by claiming - even without substantiation - it's necessary to save the world's environment.]

"[W]e have to offer up scary scenarios [about global warming and destruction of the environment], make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts one might have... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

Stephen Schneider, Stanford University environmentalist.
[Environmentalism equals lies "if necessary."]

"We routinely wrote scare stories about the hazards of chemicals, employing words like "cancer," and "birth defects" to splash a little cold water in reporters' faces... Our press reports were more or less true... Few handouts, however, can be completely honest, and ours were no exception... We were out to whip the public into a frenzy about the environment."

Jim Sibbison, former EPA press officer.
[Environmentalism equals government-sponsored deception.]

"Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming, they have a responsibility not to report what these scientists say."

Ross Gelbspan, former editor of The Boston Globe.
[Environmentalism equals silencing debate, and stifling contrary opinions.]

"I would freely admit that on [global warming] we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy."

Charles Alexander, Time magazine science editor.
[Environmentalism equals indoctrination.]


The high cost of Greenie dam-hatred

Back to the high-cost technology of 100 years ago

Rainwater tanks are on the increase in Brisbane on the back of a hefty council rebate and lower retail prices. Rebates were given for about 870 tanks last month, up from 660 tanks in February. That brings the number of rebates from the Brisbane City Council for the installation of rainwater tanks to about 3700. Cr Helen Abrahams, who chairs the environment and sustainability committee, said the council expected to hand out 4500 rebates by the end of the financial year. They ranged from a $500 rebate for tanks holding 1000 litres or more, and $750 rebate for tanks with a 3000 litre capacity or greater.

Cr Abrahams said some retailers had lowered the price of a tank to match the $750 rebate. "It looks as though that is not going to be the end of it because we actually have a dedicated Drought Information Hotline, and of the 800 phone calls to that, 300 were asking about rainwater tanks," she said. Many of those calls were from unit owners looking to put tanks in complexes. Cr Abrahams said the council would investigate ways to expand the rebates to home units.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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