In a love triangle betwixt people, their common sense, and passion for the environment, the seduction of so-called green choices is leaving rational choices out in the cold, so argues environmental policy expert and author Todd Myers in his new examination of errant environmentalism, “Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism Is Harming the Environment” [for Kindle ($9.95) or in hardcover ($26.95) at Amazon.com or the Washington Policy Center website].
The people of the Pacific Northwest have a special connection with the natural world around them, one that transcends appreciation to approach what some might call love. Take a ferry ride, drive over a mountain pass, or just walk outside and open your eyes. In the case of a lack of emotional response, check your pulse.
It comes as no surprise to long-time Northwesterners then that, as a global conversation about environmental dangers has grown, people in our Cascadia region have often been first-responders in the cause of saving the planet. Nothing motivates mankind to act like the mixture of hot passion and perceived imminent danger. In the realm of myth, twelve hundred Spartan ships raced across the Aegean to rescue the beauteous Helen; today a green movement of millions of individuals are being urged by powerful special interests on a crusade to save Mother Earth.
Myers’ “Eco-Fads” is a reminder to environmentalists that while love is intoxicating, when taken to blind excess it can become toxic. In its rush to adopt and endorse anything blessed as green by champions of the environment – a mad scramble in which politically correct action is assigned greater value than measurable benefits – the whole Gaia-loving green world has gone mad.
Whether in Myers’ debunking of expensive green schools (they most often use more energy than traditionally-built alternatives), compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulbs (they contain compounds long known to be toxic to humans), or dozens of other “eco-fads,” he has asked critical questions to assess the true impact of green policies and solutions.
A former employee in the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and current director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environmental, Myers is certainly not a newcomer to the business of evaluating the environmental gain from the choices consumers and businesses make. Nor can Myers be painted into the corner of being unsympathetic to the goal of keeping our environment clean.
“Eco-Fads” is a caution to Greenies to stop behaving like a herd of color-blind bulls, charging en masse every time a green cape is waved in front of their eyes without first pausing to consider the full impact of their actions. In this way, the greatest value in Myers book is not the shockingly long list of green flops he documents. After all, if monetary costs and benefits were the only factors affecting people’s decisions about green products and policies the free market would have sorted this out by now. But Myers cracks open the mind of a green-minded individual to suggest that the critical exchange functioning in the green movement has nothing to do with money.
Nowhere has green madness taken hold more in the U.S. than in the Pacific Northwest, an ecotopian Petri dish and a politically correct society in which the emotional satisfaction of conspicuous environmental consciousness also has value as social currency. As Myers writes, “Green is the new blue-blood.”
Myers makes a strong case that perceived morality and social standing are what many consumers are really buying when electing to pay more for green options, an observation that provides a good explanation for why accountability for results is often dismissed or ignored as long as the intent is for a green outcome.
But the fact that Myers’ bases his skeptical approach on science and metrics – most often using environmental impact as the standard – is why the green movement should resist reacting to “Eco-Fads” as a vampire to holy water. Ill-considered eco-fads tread harshly on public goodwill and as their inefficacy is revealed over time will make it harder to convince the public to adopt real, rational and beneficial solutions. If we have a common goal to keep the world around us clean, it only makes sense to have a smart conversation not only one that makes people feel good.
Myers’ well-written, meticulously documented book draws upon anecdotal evidence, academic work, and the author’s own solid use of logic to identify why eco-fads bypass science to gather support on a sociological level. “Eco-Fads” should be required reading for anyone with a voice or a vote on environmental policies.