So, environmentally speaking, how are we doing on Earth Day? Do you think you are better off than you were 42 years ago? Hint, we celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970, 42 years ago. Well, you are. Indeed, our environmental progress has been massive, and if you’d like to take a look at the data on that, download Steve Hayward’s Almanac of Environmental Trends.
But since it’s an election year, we are also compelled to ask, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Yep. Life is good. The Chesapeake Bay is making small improvements and we are doing the right things to improve the recovery of the fish and crustacean harvest. state wide, Virginia has no significant air pollution problems. We have an active water quality program and are one of the few states that actually have a water quality management plan that makes some sense and will result in reasonable improvement activities.
Indeed, the 2012 Gallup poll on the environment shows that Americans currently express record-low concern about both air pollution and pollution of drinking water. And the hype about global warming has massively eroded. Once again listed as the least important environmental issue, among 22 national policy issues, global warming comes in dead last.
But, with respect to spending, regulation and impact on the economy, global warming alarmism may be the biggest threat to the environment we face today. Here’s why.
The wealth of the civilization controls the quality of our environment. When our wealth is limited, and it always is, we have to make choices. The recent choices have been to reduce our traditional environmental investments and use the money on climate issues. Worse, instead of investing in our own economy, and especially in our own energy dependence, the climate change alarmists have driven us to investment in alternatives that don’t work as well and cost a lot more.
Now, with the economy in a very slow recovery, we are even less able to cope with environmental alarmism, and it has crept into our traditional programs. In the Commonwealth’s wealthiest county, a single alarmist decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the potential to force all stream restoration funds for 10 years into a single stream, thus eliminating all work on not only the rest of that watershed, but all 29 of the county’s other watersheds.
In other words, environmental alarmism is cannibalizing traditional environmental protection and misplaced concern about carbon-based fuels is not merely reducing the quality of our lives but is intended to do just that.
So, our environmental quality is good and better than it has been for many decades. But it is not going to stay that way if environmental alarmism is allowed to replace traditional environmental stewardship.
Based on the polls and the actual data, Earth Day 2012 marks the beginning of a return to sensible environmentalism. Let’s keep on top of reinvigorating the Chesapeake Bay, let’s recognize that we all now have an environmental ethic that says every day is Earth Day, and let’s get most of our attention on making environmental and energy decisions that expand our wealth and our culture and our American way of life. Because we’ve made good decisions in the past 42 years, life is good. By celebrating our successes we also recognize our duty to leave behind a better place than what we received. We will do just that.