Environmentalists Launch ‘Resourceful Earth Day’ Campaign

Published April 1, 1999

Independent nonprofit organizations nationwide plan to use Earth Day 1999 to launch a multi-year campaign to change the way science and economics are used by the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the world. The goal, according to one organizer, is to “wean the environmental movement off its dependency on scare tactics and government regulations.”

Sources say as many as two dozen think tanks–including the Center for the Study of American Business, Competitive enterprise Institute, Fraser Institute, Heartland Institute, Independent Institute, Institute for Energy Research, and National Center for Public Policy Research–have joined the effort, and more are expected in the coming weeks.

The groups have agreed to host events or produce publications under the common theme of “Resourceful Earth Day.” The title is derived from the title of a book coauthored by the late economist Julian Simon and futurist Herman Kahn. Simon was particularly well known for his thesis that the physical limits of natural resources posed little constraint on the potential rise in human population and prosperity.

According to Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute and one of the campaign’s organizers, the effort is intended to shift the focus of Earth Day celebrations toward informed discussion and debate about how best to identify and respond to environmental problems. “The best way to protect the environment is to improve the knowledge and skills of environmental activists,” said Bast.

Organizers note the first Earth Day, held in 1970, helped spur creation of EPA and passage of the Clean Air Act. Resourceful Earth Day organizers hope this year’s events will imitate that success by mobilizing public support for a profound reorganization of EPA, including oversight of its science by independent scientists and strict limits on its regulatory authority.

Resourceful Earth Day promotional material this year features the provocative line, “I believe in progress.” “The slogan expresses the difference between old-fashioned, gloom-and-doom environmentalism and new era thinking,” says Robert Bradley, director of the Institute for Energy Research. “Even Al Gore admits that the natural world is getting cleaner and safer over time, and that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth.” Unfortunately, he adds, “many 60s-style environmentalists don’t get it.”