An idiot's diatribe can still be useful
Ed Marston was on the money with his review of Gregg Easterbrook's A Moment on the Earth (HCN, 5/29/95). Curiously, Easterbrook appears to have done for liberalism what former Interior Secretary James Watt did for conservatives - sabotaging the cause of environmentalism in the name of never-ending growth and development.
Over and over again Easterbrook cites glaciers, earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids, and even continental drift as doing far more "environmental damage" to the earth than mere man can ever do with his "inconsequential" pinpricks from bulldozers, clear-cutting, 10-child families and arrogant techno-culture.
Something is fishy here. Not only is Easterbrook comparing apples with oranges, but he is comparing what we cannot control with what we can control - our appetites, our numbers, our behavior and attitudes toward the earth.
On a call-in radio talk show, I was able to ask Easterbrook the basis for his optimism. He replied that he had looked at 40,000 EPA reports. Yet in his book he cites Environmental Protection Agency science as suspect.
He writes that "unfortunately EPA science is often of modest quality" (page 464). On the same page he quotes an EPA official who said that "everything the EPA does is driven by political rather than scientific considerations."
In regard to how we environmentalists should respond to this useful idiot's diatribe, I say stand by our guns, stand by the truth; we who work for a long-lasting, sustainable, viable earth are not the wackos Easterbrook and Rush Limbaugh think we are. We do have alternatives: Stop the overgrazing. Stop having kids you cannot and the earth cannot support, long-term. The cost of doing business has got to include the cost of pollution control. We have not been beating the doomsday drum. The voters in 1994 did not repudiate sound environmental policy. What they may have repudiated was the arrogance of the elites, the porkers, the Rostenkowskis, excessive spending and excessive debt, excessive immigration, open borders, and business as usual within the bureaucracies.