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13.3.05

A Poorly Informed NYT Columnist? *Gasp!*

'I Have A Nightmare'

... That essay [the Death of Environmentalism] by two young environmentalists has been whirling around the Internet since last fall, provoking a civil war among tree-huggers for its assertion that "modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live." Sadly, the authors, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, are right.

... The fundamental problem, as I see it, is that environmental groups are too often alarmists. They have an awful track record, so they've lost credibility with the public. Some do great work, but others can be the left's equivalents of the neocons: brimming with moral clarity and ideological zeal, but empty of nuance. (Industry has also hyped risks with wildly exaggerated warnings that environmental protections will entail a terrible economic cost.)

... Given the uncertainties and trade-offs, priority should go to avoiding environmental damage that is irreversible, like extinctions, climate change and loss of wilderness. And irreversible changes are precisely what are at stake with the Bush administration's plans to drill in the Arctic wildlife refuge, to allow roads in virgin wilderness and to do essentially nothing on global warming. That's an agenda that will disgrace us before our grandchildren.

-- via Juan Non-Volokh>


It's strange that he claims to be a fan of "The Death of Environmentalism," since his analysis is nearly the opposite of the one offered there. Schellenberger and Nordhaus claim that environmentalism has become too modest and wonky, whereas Kristof faults it for having too much sweeping vision without enough careful analysis.

His solution is to focus on a set of priorities determined by the Bush administration's attacks. Strangely enough, "extinctions, climate change and loss of wilderness" seem to be the actual priorities of environmentalists today. He admits as much in his own third paragraph, where he illustrates environmentalism's impotence by stating that it has failed to make progress on its priorities, which according to him are climate change and ANWR.

What we've really got here is another case of a columnist trying to burnish his "independent" credentials by slapping together a swing at one of his own side's constituencies.

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