Environmentalism: A Non-Whining Approach

by Barak A. Pearlmutter

This is the speech I wish candidates like Al Gore and JFK would give. It puts a (deserved) positive spin on environmentalism, and it puts anti-environmentalists where they belong: on the defensive.

If the environmental movement wants to win, it has to stop whining and start resting on its laurels - or better, recycling its laurels into a solid movement-building material. Here is the kind of green speech that I'd like to see, the kind that attracts mainstream support:

Lemons into Lemonade:
CO2 Reduction Makes Economic Sense

The critics of environment protection, who claimed it would lead to poverty and job loss, were wrong. They are wrong again on global warming. We got rid of acid rain and DDT while sustaining economic growth. We can do it again with global warming. We lowered air pollution in all major cities by [enormous factor], we got rid of chlorofluorocarbons without parboiling ourselves, and in the process we made new high-quality jobs. Well, we can lower CO2 production too!

Complacent industry fatcats said scrubbing the sulfur out of our coal-fired power plant smoke would cost [umpteen] billion dollars and send the US into a recession. Instead it saved [whatever] billion dollars, led to the creation of [whatever] new jobs, and made the US the world leader in, and the world's largest exporter of, sulfur pollution control technology. All while saving our lakes and streams and forests from the scourge of acid rain.

Now those same lazy executives say reducing CO2 emissions will cost jobs and money. We've heard their whining before. They were wrong then, and they're wrong now. With American ingenuity and the best engineers in the world, we can meet the CO2 challenge. We can turn a problem into an opportunity. Once again, we can turn lemons into lemonade. After we've licked global warming, we'll look back in pride! Not only because we'll have avoided climate changes that, left unchecked, will turn our lush forests into arid deserts and our coral reefs into bleached bones of death. No, not just because we'll have saved the fish and the trees and the farms, and avoided flash floods that sweep away houses and towns and families' dreams. But also because we'll have created good high paying jobs, made our industry more efficient, made ourselves the world leader in another important growing high-tech area, and made our country richer. Fighting global warming makes good ecological sense. And it makes good economic sense too!