Archive for March 16th, 2010


How the Environmentalists got it Wrong

If you’re as old as I am you may recall the broad “Recycling Movement” that cropped up in schools and industry in the late eighties/early nineties. For years no one really thought anything about trash. Where it went, what happened to it, this was all a great big mystery to the average person. Then all of the sudden something happened. The government of America, at the state and federal level started urging conservation, and along with this movement came the recycling programs. People realized that some things like aluminum cans and newspapers were fairly easy to re-use, and other things like plastic compounds and styrofoam were not easy to re-use. All over the country recycling bins popped up and consumers were urged to place appropriate trash in the bins. For awhile companies like McDonalds even suspended use of styrofoam and switched to paper cups.

By and large the recycling movement that began in the eighties was very successful, and if you look on certain products now you can find out how much came from recycled goods. When I was a kid my Dad used to drive us out to the paper mill in downtown Fort Worth on some weekends and the can factory in Saginaw on others to to recycle our old cans and newspapers for a modest price. My Dad was no environmentalist, but conservationalist? Sure. And even as a kid of fifteen with absolutely no interest in saving the planet or doing the right thing I usually would place my trash in the recycle bin after lunch. Why not? I mean the recycle bin is right there, and it doesn’t take much effort.

So why is it that the recycling movement was mostly successful and yet the recent global warming/”green” movement has not been? There are perhaps many reasons. First off, recycling as I mentioned, is fairly easy. The green movement is more abstract and requires more genuine sacrifice. It is easy to dump an aluminum can in a bin. It is not so easy to change your driving habits, your eating habits, and spend your time in the supermarket looking for “organic” foods. Incidentally, since all of our foods come from products grown on this planet, aren’t they all organic? But I digress…

I believe that for the most part people are still naturally inclined to do the right thing, even if it takes a little effort, so why are some people so resistant to the green movement? Well, for starters there is a difference in the message behind the green movement, and the message behind the recycling movement. Recycling was about doing your part for the planet, but no one suggested that those who didn’t recycle were “killing the earth.” The idea was about conservation not necessarily environmentalism. Why be wasteful when you don’t have to be? Sadly, many on the left failed to grasp the simplicity of this message, and how different it feels to people.

The current message sent by environmentalists is not about conservation but about “eco-terrorism.” Those who don’t drive hybrids or use less energy are somehow bad people, or “they just don’t get it.” The Global Warming movement never stated the simple importance of using less energy for the sake of wise stewardship of our resources, but rather attempted to scare people into believing the planet would die out if we kept up our wastefull ways. Even if this was true people don’t like being blamed for something they never knew was wrong. I don’t think anyone concsiously bought an S.U.V. so they could “stick it to the earth.” And now that some scientists have placed doubts on the global warming movement it is understandable that people who were fed up with being told how to live their lives are eager to forget all about global warming, the green movement, and anything that sounds like over-policing our lifestyles. In short, people don’t mind helping out, but not if you try to blame/bully them into it.

I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, and I don’t spend my waking hours worrying about the planet. If you look at humans and the industrial era in the context of the earth we are less than the equivalent of one hair on a buffalo in comparison to the life of the earth. I think planet earth will survive us and our smoke stacks without a hiccup. But even though I don’t care much for the environmental movement, the conservation movement, well sure… I am half Indian, half Irish. Conservation is in my blood. I drive fuel-efficient vehicles not so I can save the earth but because I  like getting good gas mileage. I don’t buy stuff I don’t need because I like saving my money, and I use energy efficient products for the same reasons. In short, I conserve because it is in my own best interest. Scare tactics don’t work on me, but self-interest does. Imagine that?

The environmentalists have wasted a golden opportunity. It is not hard to look at the amount of oil saturation in the middle east, not to mention the political situations, and realize we should become more oil independant. It is not hard to realize that as electric bills contimue to rise we should look for ways to cut back. These are things that make sense, and not just to environmetalists, but to everyone. But rather than focus on conservation and appealing to people’s own interests, the green movement sought only to blame people, and pit two sides against each other. Many of the Green movement people are elitist snobs who secretly think their lifestyle is better than yours. They are not green because they care about the planet, but green because it makes them sound and look important. “Like, I am doing the right thing man, and you are just screwing it all up!” That is the attitude of many of these people, and such an attitude will hardly inspire people.

I am no sociologist, and I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I am tired of being preached to by many people on the left. Don’t call me stupid, and don’t say I don’t get it. I am willing to do my part for the planet, but I don’t want to be called evil if I don’t. No one is out to get the earth. And we are all in this boat together. Sadly, many environmetalists just don’t get this. Forget the green movement people. Let’s focus on conservation and appeal to people’s best interest and better nature. Do it this way and maybe people will listen. It is obvious the current approach isn’t going to inspire anyone.


Jack B.