An April 9th Gallup Poll shows that since 2006 radical environmentalism has been losing influence in America. Gallup results are even more dramatic when viewed over the last couple of decades: worry about water pollution has dropped from 72% of Americans in 1989 to 46% in March 2011; worry about air pollution since 1989 has dropped from 63% to 36% in 2011. When Gallup asks Americans to prioritize environmental concerns or economic concerns, the same pattern emerges. In the latest poll on the subject, 54% favor economic growth and 36% favor the environment.
Pew Research polls on global warming show a similar loss of trust in radical environmentalism. In 2006, the percentage of Americans who believe that there is “solid evidence” of global warming was 77% in 2006, but in 2011 only 63% believed that. Pew also shows that the percentage of Americans who do not believe in global warming or feel that there is not enough evidence rose in those five years from 33% to 43%. Pew shows that even among Americans who believe in global warming, fewer and fewer Americans attribute that rise in temperature to man. In 2006 47% of Americans believed that we were experiencing manmade global warming, but by 2011only 38% of Americans believed in manmade global warming, a distinct minority of America.
Rasmussen last August published a poll which indicates a serious credibility gap that the scientific establishment has with America : 69% of Americans believe scientists have falsified global warming research. Gallup two years ago published a 12 year trend which showed that the percentage of Americans who believe that the seriousness of global warming has been exaggerated has grown steadily to an all time high of 48% in 2010
What has happened to environmentalism? Conservatives were strong supporters of conservationism, which was the first name given to contemporary environmentalism. Strong conservatives like Calvin Coolidge and Barry Goldwater were champions of conservationism long before the left discovered this issue.
The loss of political support for the environmentalism reflects the disgust of conservatives today, and this is based upon three distinct failures: (1) worship of dirt replacing stewardship of Creation, (2) the Green rejection of common sense and market operations, and (3) the willingness of Greenies to win arguments through unsavory means.
(1) Conservative support for wise stewardship of the world has deep roots in Judeo-Christian values. Stewardship of Creation, however, is the antithesis of the worship of Creation. Praying to trees and to mountains is a grave sin to religiously serious Christians and Jews.
(2) Conservatives grasp that living in the real world requires common sense and a grasp of market forces. Flushing the toilet too much is wasteful but flushing the toilet once a day threatens health as well as comfort. Recycling aluminum makes economic sense, but recycling everything is dumb.
Forty years ago, environmentalism made sense to Americans concerned about industrial pollution. Regulations which required inexpensive changes in factories to reduce air pollutants by 95% was a prudent exercise of state power for the common welfare, but requiring businesses to spend huge amounts of money to reduce another 2% or air pollution did not help ordinary Americans and cost them millions of good paying jobs.
Sportsmen have historically been among the strongest supporters of reasonable limits on hunting and fishing and the preservation of the natural beauty of our woodlands and streams. Lumber companies have no interest in cutting down trees at a faster rate than thoughtful reforesting will support. Green radicals who attack reasonable and good Americans who know much more about the outdoors than Al Gore will ever know display not an interest in nature but another less pleasant motive.
(3) Conservatives have learned that academia and taxpayer-sponsored research has been overrun with infestations of leftists with no interest in objective study. Climategate is, perhaps, the most notorious example but the very disappearance of what were once called in academia “schools of thought” is a more sinister general condition. Anyone in any discipline who wants tenure, grants and other perks of pampered pseudo-science must toady the line of party leftism.
Conservatives perceive the same dull pattern of all leftism: it lusts for power and it schemes to increase our misery while loudly proclaiming its wish to do us well. If the planet is warming, for example, is that not a good reason to expand freedom and diminish the state? Individuals, families and communities are much more agile and wise than government, especially remote government by insulated bureaucrats.
If industries are polluting communities, then members of the community have the greatest interest and the most influence to moderate the pollution to safe levels. Why are Washingtonians or New York media bosses more invested in the preservation of natural beauty than native Alaskans, Louisianans, West Virginians and other folks who live in states with fossil fuels we need?
Ordinary people whose lives are impoverished by edicts which leftists living luxuriously on our tax dollars have enacted are waking up. They invent new problems which only the brute power of government can solve, and always at our expense. Just as racism is a problem which no leftist ever wants to solve, so the environment is a condition which requires the eternal overlords of prissy and nasty radicals. That is, until we wake up – which we are.