All things considered, you'd think times couldn’t be better for the environmental movement. After all, the new administration is making global warming the centerpiece of its vision for a new economy. Sure, there are still valid scientific objections over whether global warming is due to manmade causes or natural climate cycles, but the political correctness movement has stepped in to fill that void – anyone who openly questions man's role in global warming is instantly shouted down as uninformed, stupid or both. Truth be told, there are hundreds of scientists who believe manmade global warming is bunk – click here (epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm).
The mood of the country has shifted as well with the recent economic crisis and global recession. Capitalism and business are seen as bad; societal values have moved up the list as economic principles have moved down. A few years ago, most people were arguing that consumers wouldn't accept a lower standard of living, increased energy costs, and reduced levels of disposable income in the name of preventing global warming.
Today, many people seem willing to embrace what is being called a psychic economy where psychological drivers are becoming more important than economic drivers. "If the planet is on the verge of collapsing, maybe we can all learn to live with a little less," is the sentiment.
For the first time ever, people are questioning the concept of whether the next generation will have a better life than the previous. There’s a growing realization that economically we are mortgaging the future and, while we feel bad about running up debts that can't be paid, we at least can take comfort in the fact that we saved the planet.
However, with the environmental movement seemingly having all the momentum, one can also detect a sense of desperation among its leadership. If you preach about an immediate apocalypse you either have to institute policies to prevent it, so that you can say it has been averted, or you have to begin to explain why the apocalypse is still coming but just later than expected.
Fortunately for the environmental movement, consumers have had a short memory. How many times, has this community cried “wolf,” only to see time prove their hysteria misplaced. Remember when Paul Ehrlich, the Stanford professor and author of “Population Bomb,” who famously claimed in the 1960s that a calamity of starvation would doom the world in the next two decades? Food production actually increased. Even more famously, in 1980 he bet Julian Simon, the University of Maryland business professor and one of the founders of free-market environmentalism, that the price of five commodities would rise in the ensuing 10 years. Ehrlich was wrong on all five.
However, with the environmental movement’s current success in the political arena, one would think they now have to prove up on their claims with some policy success. Otherwise, their credibility will soon be damaged.
Sometimes it’s better to be the vocal minority than the majority because you never have to accept responsibility for your own policies. The environmental movement no longer has that luxury; they have won the battle of public opinion.