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June 26, 2005
Originally published in The New York Post
"Saving Our Environment from Washington" is a powerful and far-reaching indictment of the nation's efforts at environmental regulation and the protection of the environment What makes 'the book so significant and separates it from many critiques of the environmental movement is that author David Schoenbrod is an insider's insider.
He's been intimately involved with the environmental: movement for over 30 years. First as an environmental activist, then as a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the earliest, most powerful and influential environmental organizations, and today as a law professor at New York University Law School.
Simply put, the nation would be better served if every journalist on the environmental beat and every TV talking head were required to read this book before turning the next environmental press release into another breathless scare story about the latest environmental or public health crisis.
Furthermore, the members of Congress and state legislatures who believe they've acted in the best interests of environmental protection by centralizing all power in "a federal bureaucracy might undergo a wrenching reality check by carefully reading it.
It also happens to be accessible for anyone interested in the subject.
Schoenbrod carefully dissects the conventional unwisdom of a "cancer epidemic" caused mainly by exposure to synthetic chemicals and pesticide residues.
First: There is no epidemic. Cancer death rates, other than for smoking-caused lung cancer, have been declining for decades.
Second: Only a tiny exposure to carcinogens is from synthetic chemicals. Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables are far less a threat than not eating sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables.
Third: The results of high-dose animal cancer tests are not a significant indicator of cancer threats, to humans. The vast majority, of cancers are from smoking, diet, sun exposure, obesity, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and heredity.
Yet environmental press releases and media stories> have created a .cancer hoax.
Most, radically, Schoenbrod argues that the nation went vastly astray by centralizing power in the EPA. He believes that most environmental problems are far better dealt with at..:.' the local and state levels and should be returned to the people most affected by environmental pollutants.
Congress should get involved on a limited basis, such as when precursor pollutants cross state boundaries before causing harm, and even there, he argues that Congress should bear the responsibility for passing the laws instead of always kicking decisions to the EPA to avoid the displeasure of their constituents. By doing so the nation would suffer far less environmental, economic, social, and personal harm.