Misguided Environmentalists Have Made Our Cities Filthy

Published November 15, 2023

If you’ve visited a big city in recent years, you’ve probably noticed that the streets are strewn with trash, litter is scattered all over the sidewalks, the buildings are covered in graffiti, and off-putting smells seem to emanate from every corner.

Take San Francisco for example, which not that long ago was considered one of the most beautiful cities in America. Today, the Golden City is one of the filthiest, with a “dirtiness index of 189.03, ranking 9th among the 40 cities included in the report” and a “litter index of 210.2,” which ranks fifth.

San Francisco’s streets are riddled with garbage, needles, and human feces. Its sidewalks are overrun with homeless encampments. And its public spaces, once enjoyed by tourists, have become open-air drug markets in which vagrants can do as they please.

This week, San Francisco is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which means the city will be in the international spotlight as scores of dignitaries and high-ranking officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, travel to the city for a week of meetings.

In the days leading up to the summit, California Gov. Gavin Newsom—who also happens to be the former mayor of San Francisco—launched a massive campaign to clean the host city, telling reporters, “I know folks say, ‘Oh, they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming into town,’ That’s true, because it’s true.”

On one hand, I give Newsom credit for his honesty in admitting that the only reason he ordered the deep-cleaning of San Francisco was due to the APEC summit. It is quite rare when politicians, especially one with his eyes on a future presidential run, actually tells it like it is.

On the other hand, I think Newsom’s superficial, last-minute attempt to sanitize San Francisco symbolizes the superficiality of the modern environmental movement and the misplaced priorities of climate change crusaders.

When I was a kid, I remember Earth Day and the environmental movement in general focusing more on cleaning up the environment and less on climate change alarmism. In grade school, I recall picking up garbage near my school and learning why it is wrong to litter. I also vividly remember my teachers telling us that it is our civic responsibility to keep our neighborhoods clean. One year, we even planted trees around town so that we could watch them grow and become part of the landscape as the years went by.

However, that was a long time ago. In the intervening years, mostly beginning with the release of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, the environmental movement has become much less concerned with maintaining a clean and beautiful environment and almost totally consumed with pushing climate change alarmism and green energy boondoggles.

San Francisco, for instance, has spent $40.8 billion in climate mitigation efforts over the past five years. In the meantime, it spends only $16.7 million per year on its entire streets and sanitation department.

In recent years, things have gone from bad to worse, as “climate and environmental justice” are now the focal points of those who claim to carry the environmentalist mantle. In fact, the environmental movement has been hijacked by social justice-oriented fanatics who are using environmentalism as a guise to push radical policies that have nothing to do with environmentalism but everything to do with increasing government power over the people and corporate control over the economy.

I think it is safe to say the vast majority of Americans support clean cities, roads that aren’t filled with litter, and beautification efforts to enhance public spaces. This is what the environmental movement should focus on.

Photo by Daniel Parks. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

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