- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2001

Last week, America observed "Earth Day XXXII," the lefts annual, Hyperbolic Rite of Spring. On Friday,

we observed Arbor Day-130, an even older rite of spring founded by Sterling Morton in April 1872, exactly 98 years before Earth Day´s inception. Ninety-eight years. For a century, conservationists, (from the root word conserve, also the root for conservative) had been going about responsibly maintaining our natural habitat. But in one day Earth Day I a proud tradition of conservationism and the key roles played by people of liberal, moderate and conservative traditions was co-opted by an ideologically driven crowd of radical non-property owners and leftish "believers" in a purported natural holocaust.

As the left always does, it co-opted the spring holiday of naturalists and Arborists, by scheduling Earth Day first. They also re-framed the language and debate of "Environmentalism," as a new secular creed, complete with an eschatology of greed (or evil) and man-induced environmental doom. Earth Day was designed to make Republicans look ugly, and for science-minded conservationists to lose any debate. And for 30 years, despite every attempt to temporize or mollify the Greens, Republicans have continued to be tarred as the enemy of human survival on this globe.

In these 30 years, I have wondered, on and off, why the Republicans never responded by building up Arbor Day and the language of conservationism. Consider that Teddy Roosevelt had set aside our first national parks, stimulated the foundation of the Yale Forestry School and elevated Arbor Day to a national holiday, all by 1907 63 years before Earth Day. The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Future Farmers and other groups had pitched in to build our understanding of conservation and the relationships between humans and nature. When Cleveland, Ohio, allowed a concatenation of circumstances leading to the infamous fire on the Cuyahoga River in 1969, President Nixon promptly stimulated Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency, even before the left could launch their new "crusade."

All that body of knowledge, practice and effort was wiped out in one day´s orgy of shrill hyperbole: perception beat reality. Environmentalists, whom Teddy Roosevelt would have labeled "nature fakers," borrowed a recently concocted apocalyptic vision from their related anti-Nuclear activism: "Nuclear Winter" became "Global Cooling." A race was on among eminent men to predict imminent doom: "If present trends continue, the world will be about 4 degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder by 2000," University of California Professor Kenneth E.F. Watt told the crowd. "This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age."

Not to be outdone, the Malthus of our time, Paul Erlich "was making dire predictions as fast as his earnestly frowning mouth could move," P.J. O´Rouke wrote in his 1992 "Parliament of Whores." "Dr. Ehrlich predicted that America would have water rationing by 1974 and food rationing by 1980 and that the oceans could be as dead as Lake Erie by 1979."

Of course, this did not happen and laws had already been passed with sufficient strength to prevent eco-doom. Since 1970, Congress feels compelled to pass periodic laws to reinforce their environmental earnestness in order to satisfy concerned voters back home. Yet the major work had already been done by Congress and Nixon, or by conservationists and Teddy Roosevelt.

Further, Global Cooling theory only led to the depopulation of Canada and the north, where Europeans come from. It meant falling sea levels, leading to larger island states in the Caribbean and Pacific. Florida and Texas would gain population .It did not apply the ferocious effects of an Ice Age to the "oppressed victims" of European colonialism; rather, global cooling empowered nonwhites. Hence the need to repackage Global Cooling into Global Warming , which does threaten small islands and former colonies.

Environmentalists demonized nuclear reactors with the "China Syndrome," coal-fired generation with Acid Rain, and hydroelectric power with the reproductive rights of salmon. This stacked up over the years; no new refineries, no new domestic oil and gas fields, no new electric generators. Then the Internet gobbled up our surplus electrical capacity, almost "overnight."

The environmental movement demonizes elements, minerals and their "dirty dozen" chemicals, counting on our superstitions we forgot all the common sense experiments we conducted in high school chemistry and biology classes. Thanks to all this demonizing, American consumers get to pay more for less. Fortunately, America continues to prosper despite these Lilliputian binds that tie down so many sectors of the economy. Greens target Big Industry, but their regulations hurt consumers and labor most, with stealth taxes through artificially high costs.

Most peculiar was demonizing human-generated chloroflourocarbons (which are heavier than air) as the "source" of Ozone Holes over the Poles. Scientists soon demonstrated that ozone holes were a combination of the absence of stratospheric lightening during Arctic-Antarctic winters and volcanic eruptions, which propel ozone-depleting gasses into the upper atmosphere. "Ozone takes nose dive after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo;" Science Magazine confirmed in April 1993.

If the Audubon Society can host responsibly managed oil wells in its own wildlife preserves, what Green can argue that the government cannot responsibly manage oil and gas production in the 2,000 acres of the ANWR that President Bush seeks to open up for exploration. We know the caribou don´t mind. Hypocrisy and hyperbole, are cardinal virtues in leftist propaganda. President Bush now has the advantage of a clear and present energy crisis, to focus future government actions to restore equilibrium between responsible conservationism and the need for rational development of resources. He has taken tough steps, such as torpedoing attempts to regulate the benign but demonized carbon dioxide. He dared to review a new standard for arsenic in drinking water.

In his first hundred days, Mr. Bush has inaugurated a necessary strategic plan for redirecting our energy, environmental and conservation policies, but he has yet to reshape the terms of the debate. Let Mr. Bush lead the effort to reframe the debate as a conservationist; and let´s refurbish and expand the Arbor Day mandate to embrace a positive, responsible, scientific conservationist message that starts to dispatch the left´s "Apocalypse, Now, " environmental nonsense.


Benjamin C. Works directs the Strategic Issues Research Institute (SIRIUS) in Arlington.

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