A letter writer in today's Gazette makes an excellent point. Even those least sympathetic to the environmental movement ought to be willing to concede that there have been important benefits. Do you suppose they will?
The comparison with Russia is particularly telling. In 2002, Harper's magazine had an in-depth article about how the Aral Sea has been drained and poisoned into a massive cesspool. The author said that in the Soviet Union, just as in the United States, pollution concerns led to ambitious laws to protect the environment in the 1970s. The difference was that in the Soviet Union, the same people who made the laws were the people who enforced them and also the people who were expected to comply with them. In short, they were ignored.
So the next time you are bewildered and outraged by environmentalists' lawsuits blocking exploitation of natural resources, remember that an adversarial system like ours has powerful benefits, too. And the next time you hear someone like, oh, say, Sean Hannity saying that environmentalists aren't needed because we have learned to take care of the environment, think about how that happened, too.