Walden Pond Socialists

Nietzsche's comment that "the enemy of truth is not lies but convictions" comes to mind while reading An Environmental Agenda for the Future, a collection of statements by leaders of major environmental organizers. In a book of scatter-shot propositions, a few hits are inevitable: the contributors are surely right to criticize misuse of resources and to recommend that some pristine land should be set aside for parks. But deciding what constitutes misuse and how much land should be allocated for parks is actually much harder than these self-righteous environmentalists seem to realize.

Occasionally environmentalist convictions verge on absurdity. For example, one contributor sees "no inevitable significant conflict . . . between economic strength and environmental protection." If our economy were entirely a matter of hairdressers and beauticians and we had no smokestack industries, this might be a plausible assertion. But Japan's best efforts have not yet produced that reality. Environmental controls are a cost of manufacturing and industry. The justifications for this cost should not obscure the economic realities. Some people may choose to pay the costs for a cleaner environment but let no one tell us that pollution control is free.

The authors do little more to win our credence when they turn from assessing the hazards of oil spills to debating the prospects of nuclear holocaust. They...

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