Environmentalism can hurt mankind


As the Earth Day “holiday” was celebrated this year, something else was approaching — namely, $4-a-gallon gas at the pumps. As we painfully struggle with the price of fuel to heat our homes and soaring gas prices for our vehicles (and the brutal trickle-down impact), the development of sources that could offset this pain remain prohibited. Nuclear power, offshore drilling and the development of Alaskan oil, among other things, are there to be tapped, but the environmentalists have said “hands off.” So we remain dependent on the resources of other countries that manipulate prices, but blame those prices on the vagaries of supply and demand. Maybe the time has come to say “hands on.” Maybe the time has come to say we need to intrude on the environment if we are to improve the external material conditions of human life. Vernal ponds, spotted owls and the rights of snail darters are important. Yes, there is great danger from global warming, acid rain and the logging of rain forests. And of course cutting down on the use of plastic bags and insisting on recycling can bring about dramatic results. But an arbitrary approach to protecting the environment on a macro level is wrong; there has to be a more realistic and sensible approach, one that includes the path of dialogue. After all, the rights of and benefits to mankind are pretty important as well. Look at it this way. A chemical plant, by its very nature, must be a safe place to work, but to make it the safest chemical plant out there is cost-prohibitive. It simply would not be able to compete. A recent op-ed piece I read stated, “Had the environmentalist mentality prevailed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we would have had no Industrial Revolution, a situation that consistent environmentalists would cheer — at least those few who might have managed to survive without the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology.” Someday (likely sooner than later), this issue may get to the point of choosing between the natural environment for its intrinsic value (and as something to remain untouched by man) versus our right to a more prosperous and enjoyable life because of the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology. When I inevitably ante up $4 per gallon (as they already are doing on the West Coast), I’ll try not to keep in mind the truism that sacrificing the needs of the economy for the environment will destroy both. I’ll also ignore the fact that the initial parameters of the Kyoto treaty exempt India, China and other emerging countries, thus creating the self-defeating incentive to transfer pollution-intense production to countries that will carry out such production at even higher levels of pollution. Ted Sares, a semi-retired private investor, lives in North Conway. He can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com.