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The science behind global warming and other apocalyptic visions already has been debunked or at least seriously called into question. Of course hundreds of millions of people still believe it with a religious fervor that can range from being amusing to scary.
Sometimes it even seems environmentalism is hostile to the concept of humans on Earth – even while it promotes itself as the only way to sustain this planet for human inhabitants. This raises an interesting question. Why are so many people devoted to a set of beliefs not based on facts and not based on any higher power such as a more traditional concept of God?
The explanation can be found in who is promoting environmentalism and why they’re promoting it in the first place.
The fact is that politicians, professional activist groups, large corporations, government bureaucrats, the media, and many celebrities all are promoters of environmentalism. All of these groups are highly influential, extremely well funded and have a strong incentive to convince ordinary people that environmentalism is the path to human salvation. Why? Let’s take each group individually and examine their incentives.
Politicians are typically professional liars who will say anything to get votes. Environmentalism, exactly because it is not affiliated with any particular religion, is not really based on any facts, and purports to have the goal of saving the world, is an almost risk-free way for politicians to make themselves seem civic minded, charitable, responsible, and ethical without actually doing anything or helping anybody. It’s the equivalent of kissing babies for the new media age.
President Obama gives a speech talking about how the future is electric cars. What does this really mean? It means that he’s giving billions of dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize inefficient and overpriced cars made by poorly run companies such as General Motors and Tesla.
At the same time, his administration is trying to destroy the only company that has ever efficiently produced and made any money selling large volumes of hybrid, environmentally friendly cars. That company is Toyota, and Obama’s team seems to be doing everything possible to kick Toyota out of this country even though it employs hundreds of thousands of American workers and has an overall record on safety that is very good. The point here is that the real agenda is not saving energy or even creating jobs. The real agenda is politics.
Professional activists, by definition, have their jobs dependent on promoting a certain agenda. Environmental activists have the job of promoting their beliefs and their organizations. That’s how they stay in business, stay employed, and continue to make money. They have no choice to keep promoting it whether it makes any sense or not unless they want to find a new job doing something else. In a sense, they’re the moral equivalent of insurance salesmen. Their sales pitch is basically this: Give us money as insurance that maybe the world is going to end and we can prevent it.
Large corporations, like any business, obviously exist to make money. So why would they promote environmentalism? For many large corporations, promoting environmentalism serves several strategic purposes that directly can help their bottom line. First, by labeling certain products or services environmentally friendly, they can often charge a lot more for these products and services and thereby earn higher profits. Many people don’t realize this, but it’s true.
Second, they often can use environmental regulations to get an advantage over their competitors, especially smaller businesses that don’t have as much money to waste on regulatory compliance or lobbying.
Third, by identifying themselves as environmentally friendly companies, they can inexpensively deflect public criticism in other areas for things that they may be doing that are unethical, incompetent, or simply unpopular. This last reason is similar to the reason politicians like environmentalism so much.
A great example of a company making use of its beliefs and image to make more money is Lululemon Athletica. I’m not criticizing them. They’re a good business, but what they really do is sell overpriced generic athletic wear to people. Why can they charge so much for stuff that is really just a commodity? It’s because they have this image of being “community oriented,” “environmentally friendly,” and even have on their website a statement that makes me laugh out loud: “Friends are more important than money.” In other words, we’re your friend, so it shouldn’t bother you that we’re making a lot of money off of you. This is brilliant marketing.
Government bureaucrats want to keep their jobs and expand their influence. That’s how they maintain job security as well as obtain promotions, pay increases, and additional power. The more environmental regulations we have, the more government bureaucrats are needed to administer compliance with those regulations. It’s very simple. These bureaucrats will do whatever they can to promote environmental beliefs, whether there is any basis for them or not, in order to further their own bureaucratic agenda. As the recent BP oil spill shows, regulators cannot stop environmental damage, but that won’t stop them from spending billions and destroying good businesses and real jobs as they try to pretend that’s what they’re doing. For a more extreme example, do you remember Chernobyl, the nuclear disaster years ago? Do you really think that happened because the Soviet Union didn’t have enough regulation? Of course it didn’t. It happened because they had lousy technology and unmotivated workers. That’s what happens in a socialist economy.
The media will do anything to get your attention. That’s their business. What can get your attention more easily than stories about how the end of the world is upon us if you do this or don’t do that? It’s the ultimate lowest common denominator story, even below car chases, fires, terrorism, and kidnapped children. How many end of the world disaster blockbuster movies have been made just in the last 10 years? It has to be dozens of them, and they usually do well because there is a natural titillation factor to this kind of subject matter. People are excited with the idea that the apocalypse could be upon us at any time. This will always be true, and the media knows it.
Celebrities want attention, but they also want credibility because they typically don’t have any. Environmentalism is an easy cause for them to promote to get attention and at the same time appear somehow thoughtful and even educated because it is allegedly based on science. Of course none of this has anything do with reality, but this is the entertainment business. Reality is not important at all. Image is everything. Talking about recycling, stopping offshore drilling, solar power, and electric cars is a lot easier than really trying to do something for people in the world like feeding the hungry, helping abused children, or building houses for the homeless.
It also deflects attention from the obvious fact that celebrities are often some of the most wasteful, energy inefficient, materialistic, shallow, and superficial people in our society. A classic recent example was James Cameron, who talked about how his film, Avatar, was a shining example of environmentalism. Obama echoed this praise. This was the most expensive movie ever made about a war on an alien planet. What exactly about this movie helped to conserve resources or save our planet? The answer is absolutely nothing.
None of this is to say that doing some sensible things to preserve the environment are bad ideas. Of course some awareness of environmentalism and actions to conserve are good things. However, in our society it has been taken far beyond anything that is positive or beneficial. It has become a way for certain highly visible, powerful, and wealthy interest groups to promote an agenda to the rest of us that is not only scientific baseless but is often completely absurd.
The ultimate irony is that many of the ideas and policies that are being promoted to further environmentalism actually could end up being destructive to the environment because their agenda is going to restrict innovation and wealth creation, which are the two most powerful forces that have benefited environmental preservation throughout history. As with many things in life, perception and reality could not be more disconnected.