Put Fear to Rest this Labor Day

Published October 1, 2003

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 members of these groups may fit that description … but the leadership is in it for very different rewards.

The Environmental Scare Industry 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 bring 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.

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.

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.

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. 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. 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. The worst disaster in nuclear history, at Chernobyl, claimed 237 lives. Two hundred die in conventional accidents in the power industry in this country each year.

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.

Air quality–The quality of the air we breathe in the United States is better than at any other time of our lives. It improves every 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 [email protected].