Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Thriving Environment

By way of Bernoulli Effect, we find that as Earth Day approaches on April 22, that level-headed environmentalism has been a roaring success, and pessimism and fear should be banished:
April 12 (Bloomberg) -- As we all prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, let us hearken for a moment to Steven Hayward, who is one of nature's rare creatures -- two parts scholar, one part troublemaker.
For several years now he has been releasing an annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators. It's his own way of celebrating Earth Day. And sure enough, for several years now, the leading lights of the environmental movement have been pretending Hayward and his index don't exist.

Why? Hayward is an optimist. His index of environmental indicators is a collection of good news. And, for the professional pessimists of the green movement, too much good news is bad news.

In last year's index, for example, Hayward and his colleagues cheerfully noted that levels of ambient air pollution in the U.S. had dropped dramatically, beginning in 1976. By 2002, ozone was down 31 percent, sulfur dioxide 70 percent and carbon monoxide 75 percent. Lead, once one of the deadliest, scariest and most ubiquitous pollutants, had dropped 98 percent.

U.S. water quality, though much more difficult to measure consistently over so large an area, has also shown steep improvement.
This year, when Hayward releases his new index, the EPA data will be even sunnier: U.S. air quality, measured in levels of particulates, is better than it has been since such measurements were first made.

Environmentalists downplay the happy news for understandable reasons, not all of them cynical. It is true that professional activists of every ideological coloration thrive on trauma and trouble, according to the general principle that a frightened citizenry is a generous citizenry -- at least when it comes to offering money to professional activists.

At the same time, a true-believing environmentalist might sincerely worry that over-attention to successes in the fight for a clean environment will lead to a risky complacency and false optimism.

Yet, not all optimism is false. Hayward's optimism is grounded in reason and experience -- particularly in his belief that technology, know-how and the entrepreneurial spirit, prompted by the market and urged on by government, will overcome our environmental difficulties. His index suggests he has history on his side.
Some good news for a change!

Oops, guess there's no good reason to shut down the capitalist system and start eating roadkill.



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