An open letter to Nicholas Kristof
Look, I think it’s a great thing that the environmental movement is taking a hard look at itself, and I’m as critical of some of its tactics and rhetoric as anybody. But your latest op-ed is a lazy, risible piece of shit.
In the great tradition of progressive pundits establishing their Beltway bona fides by taking swings at their own side, you peer down your nose at the “alarmists” and “extremists” who have taken over the green movement. Enviros, you tsk-tsk, just keep crying wolf about things that don’t pan out. As evidence, you cite three examples from the 70s. It’s 2005, Nic. Is that the best you can do? I won’t repeat your charges here — they will be familiar to fans of right-wing green-bashing everywhere. For instance, you can hear eerie echoes of them in this Michael Crichton piece, from which they could have been lifted almost without alteration. Indeed, Crichton could have written your whole essay.
Oh, except for the part where you acknowledge that climate change is “the single most important issue to Earth in the long run.” You’re also worried about species extinction and the loss of wilderness — you know, the very things environmentalists have been going on and on about. But we greens, we’re just so … unreasonable, right? In fact, you sniff, we’ve been talking about those problems for so long we’ve become “just an irritating background noise.” It’s so hard to enjoy civilized conversation at D.C. coffee klatches with the unwashed rabble raising their voices, isn’t it? Why it’s downright gauche!
Alarmism and extremism? Nic, the chairman of the House Resources committee says we are “unnecessarily concerned” about mercury pollution. The chairman of the Senate environment committee says global warming is a “hoax.” The Vice President says energy conservation is a “personal virtue.” The President says nuclear power is a “renewable source of energy.” They’re trying to get oil and gas drilling into every nook and cranny of the American West, into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and off the U.S. coasts. They’re trying to gut the Endangered Species Act, starve Superfund, and abandon the Roadless Rule. I’m not talking about activists out waving placards on the street, Nic. I’m talking about the upper echelons of the U.S. government.
If you are really concerned that “a poll in 2000 found that 41 percent of Americans considered environmental activists to be ‘extremists,'” perhaps you shouldn’t reinforce the same gross caricatures of environmentalists that the modern right and its industrial backers have spent decades and billions of dollars establishing. You really want to carry water for people whose environmental agenda you yourself say will “disgrace us before our grandchildren”?
There are thousands and thousands of dedicated people out here — in science labs, in the field, in neighborhood groups, in local government, even in wee small internet magazines — busting our asses to turn this big ol’ ship in the right direction. Instead of using some of the most valuable real estate in the media world to take potshots at us, why don’t you give us a hand? You say it’s “critical” to have a “highly respected environmental movement”? Start by showing us some damn respect.
If you’re really so desperate to be accepted by the kool kids of the Beltway dinner-party circuit as “reasonable” and “sensible” and “nuanced,” go back to waxing indignant about Howard Dean. Leave us alone. We’ve got much bigger fish to fry.