Monday, March 14, 2005

# Posted 10:04 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG GOES GREEN: First up, we have Nick Kristof's column bashing environmentalists. Can't say I know the first thing about the issues at stake, but you've gotta figure that Kristof is going to make a lot of enemies on the left by writing things like this:
Environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they've lost credibility with the public. Some do great work, but others can be the left's equivalents of the neocons: brimming with moral clarity and ideological zeal, but empty of nuance.
Talk about hitting below the belt. Comparing environmentalists to Paul Wolfowitz! Then again, with things the way they are in the Middle East, it's sort of a strange moment to be taking potshots at neo-cons. Regardless, I'm sure the environmentalists Kristof wants to criticize will be duly insulted. Now here's the evidence that serves as the foundation for Kristof's charges:
In the 1970's, the environmental movement was convinced that the Alaska oil pipeline would devastate the Central Arctic caribou herd. Since then, it has quintupled.

When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths. [Link added, just so you know what Kristof is referring to. --ed.]
Ronald Reagan may not have been right about trees causing pollution, but I guess environmentalists really can kill. Anyhow, lest you think that Kristof has really gone off the reservation, he does still insist that the current President has an environmental agenda "that will disgrace us before our grandchildren."

On a related note, the NYT ran a masthead editorial on Saturday announcing the good news that a Senate committee has pretty much killed the Bush's Clear Skies Initiative. Again, I'm not familiar with the issues at stake. At this point in time, all I really have to fall back on are the liberal instincts I developed before I discovered that the black-and-white moral clarity of my liberal upbringing had papered over the nuances of modern conservatism.

So, because of those instincts, I'm glad that whatever Bush was proposing didn't get approved. But I have to admit I'm curious: If a Senate committee killed the Clear Skies Initiative and the GOP controls the Senate, how did the Times manage to avoid giving any credit whatsoever to the Senators who opposed the President, some of whom must have been Republicans?

As it turns out, there is a legitimate answer to that question: Lincoln Chafee took the Democrats' side, turning their 10-to-8 deficit into a 9-to-9 tie. It may seem unfair to deny the GOP credit for what one of its Senators did, but, frankly, I don't think there are all that many Republicans who would even want to take credit for Chafee's accomplishments.
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