Put Fear to Rest this Labor Day

August 29, 2003
Jay Lehr, Ph.D.

With this Labor Day essay, I hope to make Americans more aware of what they’re getting from the Environmental Scare Industry ... and thus less fearful of the distorted, if not outright fraudulent, claims that industry sells.

American workers striving to ensure a good life for their families have plenty to worry about on any given weekend: the quality of their homes and neighborhoods, their health and their children’s education among them. They should not have to worry as well about vague threats to the environment they live in ... but many of them do.

They do because of the amazing effectiveness of individuals and groups they wrongly respect as trustworthy “watchdogs” driven only by unselfish motives to save the world and help their fellow man. The armies of Americans who are members of these groups may fit that description ... but the leadership is in it for very different rewards.

We have here in America--and in fact around the world--a phenomenon that has remained cloaked in mystery for decades while operating almost completely in the open: the Environmental Scare Industry. It consists of such mega-advocacy groups as Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, and a dozen others--which combined bring in nearly $2 billion a year in revenues--and another 200 lesser groups who round out the annual take to nearly $4 billion.

The money comes largely from the sale of a single product: FEAR. Scare people about dozens of environmental threats; offer to demand that governments “do something” to overcome those threats; and sit back as the money pours in.

“Let the buyer beware” is an approach many of us take when spending our hard-earned money. With this Labor Day essay, I hope to make Americans more aware of what they’re getting from the Environmental Scare Industry ... and thus less fearful of the distorted, if not outright fraudulent, that industry sells.

My charges are directed only at the leadership of the Environmental Scare Industry, not at the millions of unsuspecting Americans taken in by their tactics. They are the real environmentalists--your friends, neighbors, and family members, often doing the legwork for groups with hidden agendas.

What follows is a short list of issues the working men and women of our nation can lay aside this Labor Day, giving them more time and energy to celebrate the fruits of our hard work in forging this great nation.

No Cause for Alarm

GLOBAL WARMING--The data available to scientists today cannot prove whether the Earth is warming or cooling. What we do know with certainty is there is nothing humans can do about climate change--except adapt to it. Those who claim global warming is a certainty, and those who advocate immediate action on the part of governments to control it, are most assuredly doing so for some selfish motivation. For politicians, that motivation is power. For the Scare Industry, it’s money. And for academics and researchers, it’s research grants.

ENERGY DEPLETION--We will not run out of fossil fuels for centuries. We currently have enough oil to meet our needs for more than 100 years; two centuries of natural gas; and two millennia of coal. Every year we find more of these resources than we use, thanks to better exploration and development techniques stemming from man’s greatest unlimited resource, his intellect. Every year we learn how to use fossil fuels more efficiently and in ways more friendly to the environment.

NUCLEAR ENERGY--Long before we run out of fossil fuels for energy, we will turn to nuclear energy: limitless, highly economic, and extremely safe.

The Environmental Scare Industry has reaped a fortune by scaring people about nuclear power. They ignore the fact that not a single life has been lost in a commercial nuclear power plant in the United States since the first of 104 operating plants was built; today those plants supply 20 percent of electricity in the U.S. The scaremongers point to the disastrous accident at Chernobyl. The worst disaster in nuclear history, it nevertheless claimed just 237 lives. Two hundred die in conventional accidents in the power industry in this country each year. Chernobyl represented everything that could be done wrong at a nuclear power plant. The Three Mile Island incident produced no injuries; all of the backup safety mechanisms worked.

MALARIA AND WEST NILE VIRUS--These two mosquito-borne diseases claim millions of lives every year. Worldwide, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. The vast majority of these lives would not be lost if the Environmental Scare Industry did not continue to block the use of DDT. Before it was banned three decades ago, “DDT prevented 50 million deaths due to malaria that otherwise would have been inevitable,” according to the National Academy of Sciences. DDT is not carcinogenic, nor is it a threat to bird eggs ... but it is a great money-maker for the scaremongers.

AIR QUALITY--The quality of the air we breathe in the United States has never been better. It improves every year. According to a report just released by the Environmental Protection Agency, atmospheric ozone levels have fallen dramatically in even the most polluted areas of the U.S. Levels of other air pollutants--carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, for example--have also fallen dramatically. For all three, pollution levels are well below EPA standards in nearly every community in the U.S. on nearly every day of the year. Yet the Environmental Scare Industry refuses to acknowledge the truth, preferring to peddle the fear they know sells far better than fact.

Enjoy the Holiday

The list goes on. Whether your primary concern is the “hole in the ozone,” acid rain, stream pollution, farm chemicals, resource depletion, dioxin or other chemicals in the environment, you can afford to reduce your concern one hundred fold.

So enjoy this Labor Day holiday, comforted by the knowledge that scientists have improved and protected our environment for many decades and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

And when the holiday is over and you feel compelled to worry again, think--and act--locally. Turn to your own community and work for solutions to real problems: crime, drugs, alcohol, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, and education, for example. You will do humanity a much greater service by making your community better, rather than enriching the Environmental Scare Industry.


Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is Science Director for The Heartland Institute. His email address is e3@e3power.com.


For further information, contact Heartland Public Affairs Director Greg Lackner, 312/377-4000, 773/489-6447, email lackner@heartland.org