Oct 25 2009

Environmentalists Have Been Framed!

Published by at 10:27 am under Canada,environment,sustainability

It’s long past time for environmentalists to confront a strategic problem that is partly of their own making. Ideological partisans who favor doing nothing to build our societies on a more sustainable foundation (out of irrational fear that such responsible action would constitute communist-style state interference) have done an excellent job in framing the entire environmental conservation movement within the contentious climate change debate. Perhaps owing to this, the latest Pew study showing Americans are less concerned about global warming than just a year ago (although a majority still does believe the USA should be joining other countries in setting climate change standards). This plays right into the obstructionists’ hands.

The science of climate change can never conclusively prove that humans are to blame for increasingly wacky weather and climate phenomena (ie. melting icecaps, increasing incidence of forest fires, floods, hurricanes and me shoveling the six feet of snow that built up on the roof of my Vancouver apartment building last winter). With so many variables affecting weather and climate, someone can always claim that climate change is really caused by all of the energy expelled in the production of climate change science reports. Without definitive proof, the climate change “debate” degenerates into PR battles that cherry-pick facts to prove… well, nothing. For climate-change “deniers”, that’s the point — lack of 100 per cent verifiability leads to indecision and lack of action. They win by default.

There’s no question that the green movement got its biggest boost in recent history with the screening of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Since then, the environmental movement has kept on using that film as a centerpiece of green evangelizing. This takes focus off of related environmental issues that seem to have a better chance of changing minds about the need for action at the state level, not just at the local level of those who already buy local, recycle, bike to work and so on. Just a few examples:

1. We’re running out of energy. Remember how high energy prices got before the economy took a nosedive? Back when the economy was humming, demand outpaced supply, driving up the cost of not just the stuff we put into our cars, but everything else. When the economy picks up, energy demand will rise once more, worse than before.

2. Desertification is spreading. When all the water and forests are gone, bad things happen. Look at the poorest, most messed-up countries in the world and you’ll notice that most of them don’t have any trees in them. The area we call the “Fertile Crescent” is practically devoid of forests (as the denizens of this ancient land chopped them down long ago) and is also the number-one flashpoint for violence and conflict in the world. Coincidence? Nope. It’s not all about religion and culture; environmental degradation has already been the cause of poverty, misery, riots, revolutions and interstate conflicts.

3. Pollution kills people. As an example, we have Bangladesh, where air pollution is blamed for taking the lives of 46,000 people per year. That’s fifteen 9/11-sized casualty counts, per year, for one country.

Climate change is important and is connected with all three of the issues mentioned above. But it’s not the only point of discussion. Environmentalists need to hit the obstructionists with the issues — all of the issues. The alternative is debating climate change until long after the environmental issues have become environmental disasters.

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6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Environmentalists Have Been Framed!”

  1. The_Icemanon 25 Oct 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Well done! I enjoyed this piece.

  2. Richardon 25 Oct 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I am all for pollution control and research for new energy sources. If the green movement could have gone after smog and other pollution types that are not a subject of debate, while encouraging new forms of energy, I would have fully supported them. I used to live in Vancouver and while there would have whole-heartedly supported a push that would result in one day bgeing able to look at Vancouver Island from English Bay and actually be able to see the Island, not the polluted air.

    The green movement should have stuck to what is known and widely agreed upon. Pollution in the air, in our rivers and oceans – in a responsible manner. Wide spread support would have been realised and progress would have been made. Instead we make our food supply into fuel products which has no real impact on the real problems at hand while creating new ones.

    Perhaps after Copenhagen falls on its face the environmental movement can work towards something that is actually meaningful and needed.

  3. Seanjohnon 25 Oct 2009 at 3:42 pm

    gotta weigh in. I agree that the environmentalists have overplayed their hand. By attributing everything to AGW (H1N1? come on), they have lost people. Large forest fires are not from any climate anomaly, they are a direct result of decades of forest fighting, resulting in too much deadfall. When we (so called deniers) hear BS like this, other possibly legit points become incredible. The number hurricanes are not unusual. Floods? Seems same-old to me. As for winters, if anything they’re back to normal, as in ‘really damn cold’ like they were in the 80s.

    Should we change our ways? Of course. Should we convert to enviro-friendly fuels? Should we transform into a culture that has little or no impact on the environment? No question. Should we tax everything, and kick our society back 100 years because the world ending in 10 years? Absolutely not!!!! The world in not ending you gullible idiots!!!!!

  4. jnarveyon 26 Oct 2009 at 8:20 am

    “Should we convert to enviro-friendly fuels? Should we transform into a culture that has little or no impact on the environment? No question. Should we tax everything, and kick our society back 100 years because the world ending in 10 years? Absolutely not!!!! The world in not ending you gullible idiots!!!!!”

    This is the kind of unfortunate framing I was suggesting had been normalized when I wrote “Ideological partisans who favor doing nothing to build our societies on a more sustainable foundation (out of irrational fear that such responsible action would constitute communist-style state interference) have done an excellent job in framing the entire environmental conservation movement…”

    Seanjohn, please enlighten us as to which environmental scientist or national or international leader has recommended taxing “everything” or moving “society back 100 years”? Which one suggested that the world would end in 10 years? Who are the “gullible idiots” you refer to who believe in such things? No green-minded private citizen, bureaucrat or politician has ever made such claims.

    The point of this post was that the onus should really be on those who advocate doing little or nothing to make our societies more sustainable to show why this is the best course. Straw men are not arguments for inaction.

    Re: Richard’s comment, “If the green movement could have gone after smog and other pollution types that are not a subject of debate, while encouraging new forms of energy, I would have fully supported them.”

    Well, yeah. The green movement does go after all types of pollution and encourages new forms of energy. As I tried to make clear in this article, climate change is just part of the green message, not the whole one. Some environmentalists have been using “An Inconvenient Truth” as a convenient crutch, but those who oppose Al Gore’s message seem to be focusing disingenuously on this line of debate to the exclusion of all else.

  5. Earnest Canuckon 28 Oct 2009 at 1:12 am

    “… please enlighten us as to which environmental scientist or national or international leader has recommended taxing “everything” or moving “society back 100 years”? Which one suggested that the world would end in 10 years? Who are the “gullible idiots” you refer to who believe in such things?”

    Ahem. To answer your first question: Stephane Dion. Your second: James Lovelock. Your third: Nicholas Stern (and George Monbiot, and Tim Flannery). Your fourth: … erm… Jon, I would get off this dying horse soon if I were you. There’s no future in Goreian (sp?) weather-control fantasies. You should get to work on real problems instead. LIKE YR FILTHY TRANSCONTINENTAL JET FOOTPRINT.

  6. jnarveyon 28 Oct 2009 at 8:02 am

    Aw, come on. These people actually said the world was going to end in 10 years? Or that we needed to go back to a largely agrarian existence (whereby “taxing everything” would include chickens and other livestock)?

    Sorry Lyle. I’m going to need citation, here.

    Duly chastened as to the plane travel. But I took Cathay Pacific, and they had free liquor and new movies for the entire flight, so at least it was a guilty pleasure.

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