The Environmental Spectator

The First Church of Chicken Little

The Sierra Club's releases are a major source of mind pollution.

By 3.25.13

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Rich Trzupek’s insightful piece in Friday’s American Spectator (“Obsessive-Compulsive Environmentalism”) outlines how Big Environment is a well-financed industry, just another political player in the Washington establishment -- like Big Labor, Big Business, Big Education, et al. -- and as manipulative, shrill, and self-interested as anyone in town. 

Environmentalism for many of its members is also a religion, replacing the faith of our fathers with concern for the spotted owl, and other fashionable but inconsequential eccentricities. The groups in the green lobby -- The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, et al. -- amount to upscale Earth worship cults, peddling a form of eco-paganism to Lexus luddites. The meaning that traditional religion has supplied in the past is pumped back into otherwise vacant post-everything lives through competition to see who cares for the planet most. Care for the planet being expressed through support of fantastical policies that would destroy our economy but would not improve the environment.

Back to the industry point, environmentalism is hardly an economic weak sister. Ian Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in his 2008 book, The Really Inconvenient Truths, reported that these eco-groups have hundreds of thousands of members each, more than two million in the case of Sierra, and had annual resources then in excess of a half billion dollars. We’re not talking about a dowdy group of down-at-heels bird-watchers. These folks have lots of money and enormous clout.

Unlike large financial institutions that have been declared too big to fail, Big Environment is too big to succeed. No one on this gravy train wants to step off of it, even though America is a much cleaner place than it was in 1970, in many cases as a result of sound legislation whooped up by environmental groups decades back when their goals and methods were more sensible. If America ever became so clean the entire continent could pass a Marine Corps white-glove inspection, no one in the Sierra Club would ever say, “Mission accomplished.”

As Eric Hoffer taught us, great causes almost invariably evolve, in a straight line, from a justified moral crusade, to a business, to a racket (see the civil rights movement in America). Environmentalism has reached the racket stage, where the folks running the enviro-organizations grossly exaggerate environmental problems and make up new ones (see global warming) in order to keep the members worked up and the money rolling in. They use the most extreme and emotional rhetoric, and are uncivil to anyone or any group that opposes their fantastical agendas, which are based at least as much on left-wing ideology as on concern for the environment.

Enviros are more conspiratorial than even the tin-foil hat division of the far right. They’re apocalyptic. At the Sierra Club, the end of times is always right around the corner if we don’t immediately turn the economy over to Al Gore.

For those tempted to say -- “Well, they may be a little extreme sometimes, and their policies, if adopted, would turn America into a third world country. But they’re well intentioned” -- please look over some purple prose from recent Sierra club press releases. Then determine how well intentioned you believe the granola crowd is.

In a March 15 release, the club urges President Obama not to support vehicles that use natural gas, as gas is a fossil fuel and therefore evil, contributing as it does to what enviros call “the climate crisis.” Sierra wants no new drilling for oil and gas and no fracking:

The President should instead go all in on electric vehicles and clean energy sources like wind and solar, while boosting common sense climate solutions like energy efficiency. 

A March 12 release demonstrates that Sierra’s concerns for the birds of the air and the fish of the sea can be stretched to support a more general left-political agenda. Here are some temperate remarks by Sierra executive director Michael Brune on Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, which in enviro-think is nothing more than Republican’s perverse desire to pollute the planet:

With this budget, Paul Ryan is trying to revive the dirty fuels agenda that the American people rejected in last November's election. It's policy that nobody but the big oil and coal billionaires who bankrolled his campaign could love. Today, Ryan and Congressional Republicans released a budget proposal straight out of the polluters’ playbook -- one that doubles down on dirty fuels, throws open the gates of our public lands to destructive drilling, mining, and fracking, and hands billions in tax breaks to the biggest oil companies in the world.

Wow. Makes you want to check under the bed for oil speculators before turning in. 
Catching his breath, Brune goes on:

Polls show the American people want investment in clean energy jobs and climate solutions. But instead, this proposal tries to gut our clean energy economy while decimating programs that keep our air and water clean and subjecting our families to more climate-poisoning tar sands, oil, and coal. Of course, if Paul Ryan listened to the American people, he might be in the White House right now. Instead, he’s doing the bidding of fossil fuel billionaires, forcing their reckless agenda into our national debate and forcing American families out. 

Hmm. I guess I was out of town that weekend and didn’t catch the polls Brune is talking about. If a large number of Americans wish to dismantle the economy in the name of global warming, and wish to see more Solyndras, word has not reached me.

America has sufficient domestic oil and gas to tell the Saudis and the Venezuelans to bugger off and to return to economic growth. But thanks largely to policies pushed by the Sierras and like-minded types, we’re prevented from recovering and using a large fraction of these resources. A big part of our energy future, if we can sneak it past the granola crowd, is natural gas. The Sierra Club not only doesn’t want America to use natural gas, it doesn’t want us to export it either.

Sierra and other enviro groups worry

that natural gas exports will raise domestic energy prices, disproportionately harming the middle class and manufacturing, while further exacerbating the climate crisis and leading to more dirty and dangerous fracking and drilling on our nation’s lands. The expansion of drilling and fracking will further pollute our air, water and put the health and safety of our communities at additional risk. Expanded drilling will also substantially increase emissions of methane, which is a powerful climate disrupting pollutant that puts the public at risk of worsening climate change. 

Sierra fell in with the hysteria over sequestration, managing to fit this hustle into the group’s obsession with oil and gas. And the club is as much against the Keystone Pipeline as Dracula was (is?) against sunlight and the True Cross:

Tonight, Congress failed to act to prevent massive cuts that will take a significant toll on critical programs that protect our air, our water, and American families while maintaining huge tax breaks for the oil and gas companies. This afternoon, the State Department released a cynical report in support of the dirty and dangerous Keystone pipeline, ignoring the stark effects it will have on the security of our nation and our planet. And, tonight, gridlock and obstruction by Congressional Republicans will result in new threats to our air, our water, our food, and our families.

From an earlier release:

This morning, 48 environmental, civil rights, and community leaders from across the country joined together for a historic display of civil disobedience at the White House where they demanded that President Obama deny the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and address the climate crisis.

Included in the civil disobeyers, in addition to Sierra’s Brune, were such disinterested climate experts as Julian Bond, Daryl Hannah, and, as seems to be required in séances of this sort, a Kennedy or two. Speakers included such scientific clarifiers as the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, and a couple of Indian chiefs. Surely there is ample room in the American mosaic for Indian Chiefs and for whatever the Hip Hop Caucus is. But what does any of this have to do with science, or a reasoned argument about climate or tar sands?

Sierra has enlisted Nanny Bloomberg in its campaign against coal: "If we continue to use coal, we will continue to kill our citizens," Bloomberg huffed in a Sierra release. "With every 50,000 megawatts of coal taken off line, more than 3,600 deaths are prevented and $1.7 billion in healthcare costs are saved each year. I couldn't be more proud of our work to ensure that all Americans have clean air to breathe."

In a Feb. 27 release, we learn that even the Arctic is too environmentally sensitive to withstand oil drilling. Here the club high-fives Shell’s decision not to drill in the frozen north:

It is encouraging that America’s pristine Arctic has been given a reprieve and we are happy Shell has now officially recognized they cannot safely drill in the Arctic. Now, it’s time that the Obama Administration recognizes the same thing. 

To show just how far Sierra’s concerns can drift from clean air, clean water, and the preservation of natural habitat, in January Sierra applauded Jean-François Kerry’s confirmation as Secretary of State because he will be, in Brune’s words, “our nation’s top climate negotiator. We are excited that he will bring his strong credentials on climate to the critical decisions facing our planet, including increasing access to affordable clean energy options and stopping the expansion of dirty tar sands and coal worldwide.”

Perhaps the Obama administration has re-written the Secretary of State’s job description when we weren't looking.

Sierra has bought into and promotes all the unsubstantiated horrors climate change is supposed to bring, as this language from Brune demonstrates:

President Obama’s second term will be a pivotal four years in the fight against climate disruption. In his victory speech, the President invited a national climate conversation, but we also need swift, decisive action to prevent more erratic weather, super-storms, and wildfires.

From another release:

2012 was the hottest year on record for our nation. It was a year rife with droughts, wildfires and extreme weather events like super-storm Sandy. In addition, the number of weather catastrophes driven by climate disruption across the world has tripled since 1980, with the greatest increases in North America. The situation is dire and requires nothing short of bold, decisive action by President Obama and our leaders to cut our addiction to fossil fuels and build a clean energy economy.

And here’s how Brune dismissed Mitt Romney after Romney’s August acceptance speech and how he puts Hurricane Isaac at the feet of global warming:

Mitt Romney's speech Thursday night marked an all-new low for the candidate. His comments added insult to injury for the millions of American families and businesses affected by devastating events like this summer's drought and Hurricane Isaac. Make no mistake -- we are witnessing the effects of the climate crisis today. Americans need bold action and solutions to mitigate the threats of climate disruption - not glib mockery and denial of the problem. 

Brune of course was much more keen on Obama’s acceptance speech:

Whether it is reducing our national dependence on oil, putting Americans to work in clean energy jobs, or addressing climate disruption, the goals President Obama laid out tonight are those he has been working toward over the last four years. In the face of relentless attacks from dirty energy billionaires, President Obama has led the way for America to become the global leader in clean energy investment. Wind installations have doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans at work in clean energy jobs. That is progress to be proud of and momentum that can only be seized if President Obama is re-elected.

No surprise then that Sierra and the rest of the enviro-groups endorsed Obama for re-election. Election night Brune had this cheery message: “Tonight's victory isn't Barack Obama's -- it's the planet's.”

The level of analysis required to make these statements and propose these policies makes Shirley MacLaine seem like a deep thinker by comparison. Well-heeled Sierra Clubbers now make themselves feel better about themselves by spending most of their time attacking the very form of energy that has made long life and prosperity possible on the planet, and, ironically, has made the Sierra Club possible. It’s silly. It’s irresponsible. And from where I sit, light years from “well intentioned.”

Photo: UPI

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.