Kemp: Clean Up the Planet with Sound Science: The Earth Day Crowd Has It All Wrong

Is mankind the greatest threat to the earth, as Vice President Gore and Greenpeace would have us believe, or the best hope for stewardship? That is the question we should have been asking ourselves this past Earth Day.

All living creatures create waste, and to a large extent the ecosystem accommodates that waste, indeed exploits it to maintain ecological balance.

Has the human race done ill-advised things that exceeded the planet’s capacity to accommodate and exploit its waste? Yes, of course. But at the same time, free people also use their intellect and ingenuity to increase the earth’s carrying capacity and to improve the conditions of life for all.

We use natural resources, but we use them infinitely more efficiently than our ancestors did. We take land for agricultural production, but every year we produce ever-higher yields from each acre of farmland. We hunt and raise animals for food, but we are the only creatures on earth to take it upon ourselves to protect other species, not just out of self-interest but from due regard to the miracle of creation and the diversity of life on earth.

Must more be done? Of course. Isn’t urban sprawl tearing up the landscape, driving wildlife out of their habitats, and wasting energy? Even in the 21st century, human beings occupy less than 6 percent of the land in America. Plenty of space remains for our fellow creatures to roam freely. And, while the Sierra Club frets over the fact that 400,000 acres per year are being lost to development, they fail to mention that that represent a mere 0.02 percent of the entire land mass of the United States

The late, great Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource, originated the idea of people as “the ultimate resource” for enhancing the quality of life for all earth’s inhabitants, and we would do well to heed his wisdom.

Poverty is not “green,” it’s life-threatening. Primitive technology is not “closer to the earth,” it’s just more wasteful, inefficient, and harmful to other species. It’s no accident that the freest, most advanced economies in the world also have the best record in preserving and protecting the environment through both public and private action.

So if you’re concerned about global warming, don’t junk your station wagon or SUV. Rather, support sound scientific inquiry unencumbered by political fads.

The Third-Way green movement resorts to almost any kind of scare tactics to push their political agenda. They tell us weather disasters are caused by warming, but even the key UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change denies that “extreme weather events” increased in the 20th century.

We must reject this fear-mongering and free up enterprise and entrepreneurs to bring technology and more efficient energy supplies to the market. Most of all, we must encourage the economic growth that is the only sure path to a cleaner, greener planet.

Human freedom and ingenuity have brought us the wonders of modern medicine, the green revolution in agriculture, the Internet, and countless enhancements of the human condition.

The true spirit of scientific inquiry will do the same to preserve wildlife and open spaces for future generations, so long as we don’t let the green ideologues—truly the flat-earthers of the 21st century—steal that precious inheritance.

Jack Kemp is a distinguished fellow at CEI and co-director of Empower America.