Investor’s Business Daily, April 21, 2009
The Environment: Wednesday’s airwaves, print media, cable news shows and Webosphere will be filled with nonsense about the scourge of capitalism, corporations and humanity. All of it will ignore the real truth.
Buried beneath all the badgering and fear-mongering about lavish Western lifestyles is a reality that the stuck-on-green left won’t talk about and the average American isn’t aware of: The world, especially in developed nations, is a cleaner — and greener — place than it was when the environmental movement began.
Every year Steven Hayward, a scholar at the Pacific Research Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, compiles his Index of Leading Environmental Indicators. And every year, his findings contradict the alarmists’ warnings that the world is on the edge of environmental cataclysm.
From evidence “that tropical rain forests may now be expanding faster than they are being cut down” to the improving health of U.S. ocean fisheries to better outdoor air quality in American cities with the worst air pollution, Hayward shows there’s more to be optimistic about than there is to be troubled about.
The Environmental Protection Agency has also published its own Report on the environment. Last year’s report, the most recent, indicates outdoor air quality has improved, there’s been a net gain in wetland acreage, public-source drinking-water problems are uncommon and forest land is expanding after declining for a century.
Americans are actually generating no more trash per-capita than they were in 1990, our production of hazardous waste has fallen from 36 million tons in 1999 to 28 million tons in 2005, and lead levels in our blood have shown “a steady decline since the 1980s.”
And then there’s carbon dioxide. We are pumping out more than ever. But there’s no evidence, only speculation, that this weak greenhouse gas is having any effect on the environment.
“Overall, the health of the U.S. population has continued to improve,” the EPA says. “Mortality rates continue to decline, and life expectancy continues to increase.”
We’re not saying the Earth, or even any part of it, is environmentally pristine. It’s not, it never has been and never will be. Yet there’s actually more positive news to celebrate than there are problems.
Of the estimated 1 billion people who will observe Earth Day worldwide this year, few will know about the progress that has been made. Fewer still will know how it was made. The media, uninterested in looking at the real story, will simply credit the environmental movement for the improvements.
We won’t discount the movement’s contribution. Four decades ago, it helped show the world the value of global stewardship. But that movement is no longer interested in a cleaner world.
Filled with extremists and anti-capitalist crusaders, its primary goals have changed. Topping the agenda of today’s environmentalist groups is the pulling down of market economies, the raising up of central planning for egalitarian goals, forced lifestyle changes and the vilification — in hopes of the elimination — of signs of wealth.
None of these advance the planet’s environmental health. But capitalism has. Through wealth generated by the free market, we have enough resources to move beyond the subsistence economies that damage the environment, enough disposable income to fund clean-up programs, enough wealth to scrub and polish industry.
Only in advanced economies can the technology needed to recycle hazardous waste or to replace dirty coal-fired power plants with cleaner gas or nuclear plants be developed. That technology cannot be produced in centrally planned economies where the profit motive is squelched and lives are marshalled by the state.
There’s nothing wrong with setting aside a day to honor the Earth. In fairness, though, it should be complemented by Capitalism Day. It’s important that the world be reminded of what has driven the environmental improvements since Earth Day began in 1970.