By Benita M. Dodd
Before and since the first Earth Day in April 1970, this nation has made awe-inspiring improvements in its quality of air, water and life. Still, the eco-activists’ to-do list just gets longer. Expect more announcements of environmental “crises” today from agency officials and environmental groups as they once again try to justify their existence and your donations, voluntary or not.
Once, your parents told you to clean your plate and, “Think of the starving children in India.” This Earth Day, “nanny government” gets literal at the Environmental Protection Agency, which takes on “food recovery” with tools for assessing wasted food. For the Department of Energy, the issue is climate change. The Secretary of the Interior celebrates the Everglades restoration.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has no need to mark Earth Day; it has a crisis every day. Today, the CDC home page is emblazoned with Zika virus information and it has asked Congress for more money to fight the mosquito-borne virus that apparently causes babies of infected women to be born with microcephaly. Its advice for women? Stay away from infected areas and infected men. Meanwhile, the miracle pesticide DDT remains off-limits and people trapped in mosquito-infested regions succumb to Zika – as well as malaria, which kills a million people a year while well-meaning groups magnanimously hand out mosquito nets.
As the Department of Energy champions reducing carbon emissions, Interior is celebrating restoration of the Everglades. The problem? Studies prove “Wetlands account for a significant fraction of the total global atmospheric flux of methane” – which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Environmental organizations, too, massage their “crisis.” Just this month, the American Rivers environmental organization homed in on Georgia, declaring the Chattahoochee River basin the nation’s “most endangered” waterway. The dubious distinction came just as Georgia ramps up efforts to resolve the decades-long “Tri-State Water Wars,” over how to share the water with Alabama and Florida.
The media buy into the bias and “authority” of activist groups. A local newspaper describes American Rivers as “a Washington, D.C.-based environmental nonprofit tasked with protecting the nation’s waterways.” The report also notes “the city of Atlanta sucks up 180 million gallons of water daily,” from the river. “Tasked” by whom? “Sucks up”? Eighty-five percent of the water drawn by Atlanta is returned to the river.
On its website, the Chattachoochee Riverkeeper notes, “We are calling on the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to swiftly act to form a transparent, water-sharing agreement that protects the rivers, and on the [Army Corps of Engineers] to significantly improve water management to sustain river health.” Pressure is succeeding, sadly: This week, the Riverkeeper website brags about Hall County backing off a planned 850-acre reservoir. Hall cites the water wars as one reason.
“Instead of pushing unnecessary, expensive reservoir projects, our efforts must focus on smart water conservation measures, which are more cost-effective and environmentally sound to save water and prepare for drought,” the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper responds.
Nearly 75 percent of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin’s population is in metro Atlanta, whose water use has declined 10 percent despite a 20 percent population increase. Environmentalists’ opposition to reservoir construction in good times exacerbates the dry times, which will come again.
Nobody is under any illusion that this activism reflects anything other than resentfulness of Georgia’s incredible growing economy. Florida and Alabama barely need the Chattahoochee water, but they do need to erode Georgia’s economic competitive edge.
Unfortunately, skepticism is met by intimidation. For example, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitted this month she asked the FBI to look into investigating “climate deniers.” Al Gore and several state Attorneys General announced a coalition “committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combatting climate change.” Subsequently, the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands issued a subpoena for a decade of documents from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a skeptic of climate change policy.
Sensible Georgians accept that the environment is improving, the “science” is not settled on climate change, and American innovation is far more adept at solving our environmental challenges than is government. This Earth Day, your mission, should you accept, is to scrutinize the doomsayers and question their motives.
Benita Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.