The environmental movement has lost its way
Mark Milke, Calgary Herald
March 3, 2018, A10
Two years ago, a Gallup poll showed that the proportion of Americans who identify as "environmentalists" dropped to 42 per cent in 2016, from 78 per cent in 1991. I wondered about the cause, given that conservation has been part of the American fabric for over a century, dating back to at least Teddy Roosevelt.
(Roosevelt, the American president from 1901 to 1909, was responsible for creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) which then established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves and five national parks. Roosevelt loved nature and it showed.)
I am unaware of similar long-term comparisons on Canadian views. One poll last year found that most Canadians identify as "moderate" environmentalists, but that revealed nothing. Almost everyone loves nature and thinks of their own views as moderate. A more revealing question would drop the adjective.
A series of polls on the national carbon tax from Angus Reid might be more illuminating. It found support at 44 per cent in June 2017, down from 56 per cent in June 2015. The pollster theorized that the closer an actual carbon tax came to reality, the less support it enjoyed. That's a common reaction: The closer an issue, the clearer the public is in actual preferences.
Polls aside, and despite my disagreement with some high-profile environmentalists, I think the green movement has, in part, been beneficial. I also have a personal preference for the great outdoors. (Give me a hike anywhere in the Rockies over cocktail chit chat.) That means I support reasonable conservation measures.
That noted, in matters of the environment, as in all else in life, choices are rarely a series of binary either-or options. Only fanatics think otherwise, the same ones who often ignore day-to-day concerns to spend time and money on purist ends.
Which brings us to why respect for the modern green movement might have declined even in Canada, and an example from British Columbia: Because the radicals have taken it over, and thus make sensible, necessary, pragmatic and prudent compromises less and not more likely.
This past week, for example, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer exposed a militant green group in British Columbia organizing against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
Palmer was slipped internal memos from the group, which self-styles itself as Action Hive, i.e., akin to bee hives. The memos detail how the group, in its own language, desires to facilitate "ongoing coordination of organization support for mass action disrupting Kinder Morgan construction."
Palmer notes Hive "has an active email list, and the money, experience and technical know-how for organizing protests, sit-ins, occupations, blockades and other forms of direct action."
The activist organization has extra relevance because B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman met with 40 environmental groups a month back, the night before the B.C. NDP government publicly announced its official strategy to block the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
The Opposition B.C. Liberals have asserted, in the legislature, that the minister shared confidential cabinet discussions with the green organizations. Heyman denies it.
The Palmer column is worth reading because it gives insight into the psychological makeup of some B.C. environmental activists: Self-styled revolutionaries who care nothing for the rule of law (--as an example, Kinder Morgan is approved, and the activists don’t care) and disdain compromise. Think of them as akin to French revolutionaries circa 1789, or political or religious ideologues. They disdain anything less than purity and utopia, as defined only by them.
Back to why many Americans, and I suspect, fewer Canadians, might self-apply the environmentalist tag.
I suspect it has to do with how most people desire both reasonable environmental remedies and also recognize that resources are necessary for modern human life and are not going away any time soon. Most people also likely get that entrepreneurs and technology can help solve many environmental problems, just as in the past.
But purists and utopians are never interested in pragmatism. They like to storm barricades. That might explain the poll numbers, be it the American ones over decades, or even a decline in carbon tax support in Canada.
Photo credit: Pixabay.