When Good Intentions Go Bad, Or Worse
by Bob Parks (bio)
Despite sensational rhetoric, very few people actually want to pollute. It's not good business, and we all want clean air and water.
When we get sucked into eco-panic, however, cooler heads seldom prevail - sometimes costing jobs and even lives.
Consider the eco-panic over alleged global warming. One legislative solution is to phase out traditional light bulbs because they use too much power and supposedly contribute to global warming.
Their replacement, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), contain a small but toxic amount of mercury that makes cleanup of a broken one more than just a sweep. We're told that, when a CFL breaks, we must use tape to pick up the glass, ventilate the room and keep children and pregnant women clear of the area for a few hours.
These light bulbs may friendly to the environment, but they don't seem to take too kindly to the saps who bought them.
Eco-panic has resulted in policies that run the gamut from public inconvenience to death.
For example, there was the panic that our use of paper bags at the supermarket resulted in the unnecessary cutting of trees. With public pressure from environmentalists, paper bags were phased out (a cost naturally passed down to consumers) and replaced by lightweight plastic bags. A few decades later, environmentalists now complain that those petroleum-based plastic bags are winding up in landfills, are not biodegradable and should be phased out and be replaced with paper bags.
Then there is the environmental hysteria that costs lives.
In 1962, Rachel Carson - and employee of the then-U.S. Bureau of Fisheries - published the book Silent Spring. It contended the use of pesticides was killing off certain fish, bugs and trees and was a carcinogen. She feared the use of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) in particular upset the balance of nature to the point that it would not recover.
Regardless of her good intentions, Carson displayed the typical environmentalist arrogance. It's amazing how some believe that humans have that much power over the environment. Sure, we can alter it. We do so by our very existence. To assume the Earth cannot recover is the epitome of arrogance.
Silent Spring created such a public uproar that DDT was banned.
The result? According to the World Health Organization, there are between 300 million and 500 million cases of malaria every year, resulting in more than one million deaths, with about 90 percent of these deaths occurring in Africa - mostly to children under the age of five.
DDT could better help control the mosquitoes that spread malaria, if not for the fact its use has been demonized - thanks to people such as Carson.
Environmentalists have more influence than most of us realize. Recently, schoolteachers distributed a fact-challenged Weekly Reader booklet that sent many children home to nightmares where polar bears were drowning due to human-induced global warming.
Eco-saviors claim that biofuels will solve our oil dependence issues, yet ethanol has sent the price of corn through the roof. Many in the world's poorer nations risk starvation because they can't afford what used to be a traditional, affordable staple. But as long as we feel better about ourselves, forget the Third World (again, see DDT).
The eco-friendly Toyota Prius was supposed to be the end-all-be-all when it comes to green commuting. Now we know that making a Prius causes more environmental damage than manufacturing a Hummer. But as long as we feel better about ourselves, who cares about the facts.
And then there is that claim that use of one of our greatest inventions - the light bulb - may kill us down the road. When that too is proven wrong, don't hold your breath for apologies from environmentalists.
It's all about good intentions. To them, that's all that seems to matter.
# # #
Bob Parks is a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network and online commentator for Intel Radio Network's "Outside the Wire" website. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.
Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
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