April 22, 1990 is "Earth Day." This date marks the twentieth anniversary of the original Earth Day of 1970 to which over 20 million people rallied. The original demonstration "was designed to make environmentalism a mass movement, and it worked brilliantly," according to Sierra Club lawyer Daniel Becker (Rolling Stone, Feb. 1990). Organizers of Earth Day 1990 aim to make an international media event which will "baptize a new generation to work at making the 1990's a decade of environmental action" (ibid.).
Environmentalist leaders have strategically set the terms of the current debate so that they characterize their opponents as those who support the destruction of the planet. Once the environmentalist establishes that false premise, the argument is easily won. But this is not a trivial debate.
The serious disagreements between environmentalists and their opponents do not center on ends but on means. Everyone wants a clean, safe, beautiful environment, but not necessarily by the means pushed by environmentalists. However, the fever pitch of popular environmentalism is not one constrained by cogent argumentation.
As Robert Formaini notes, "The hysteria is designed to put regulation in place regardless of whether it will work on the ground that at least, we are trying to do something.' Also, it is designed to foster guilt in people so they will not resist further encroachments on their liberty, since encroaching is done for the good of all.'"(Liberty, Sept. 1989).
In U.S. history, civil leaders have repeatedly used "crises" of all varieties to expand their power. We see this most prominently in U.S. war history, but also in the more innocent crises. If the 1990's to be an onslaught of environmental crises, then we should expect more suffocating collectivism.
Many university students flock to this movement largely out of the fear that they missed something truly important in the now romanticized 1960's. At least that is what their instructors keep telling them. From a more Biblical perspective, however, a non-Christian culture must vent its passion and guilt in some manner, and environmentalism fits the bill conveniently.
The goal of the environmentalist movement is not simply to stop oil spills and air pollution. The explicit goal of many environmentalist leaders is to create a broad collectivist movement. Denis Hayes, an organizer of both Earth Days, claims that the movement will begin to push non-environmental issues of "social justice": "We've got to start embracing some of those other issues, to build a coalition, broaden the agenda, and once again become the movement."
As for April, I am preparing to be nauseated by media who can find self-interested motives in almost everyone except wide-eyed middle-class environmentalists who will staff the very regulatory agencies they call for. The 1990's will be a tremendous battleground.