Average Americans vs. Environmentalists

The American Enterprise magazine (May/June 1999) carried an insightful article by Karl Zinsmeister, the magazine's editor, titled "Environmentalists vs. Scientists." It's mostly a report on research published by two academics Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter in their book titled Environmental Cancer: A Political Disease. The authors survey a cross-section of environmental leaders at organizations such as National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. Identically worded surveys were administered to different groups of scientists. Among the groups surveyed was the American Association for Cancer Research. Its members are specialists in carcinogenesis or epidemiology.

I turns out that scientists and environmentalists hold markedly different views. Sixty-seven percent of cancer specialists believe there's no cancer epidemic while only 27 percent of environmental activist hold the same view. Only twenty-seven percent of cancer specialists agree with the statement "industry causes rising cancer rates", while 64 percent of environmentalists do. Scientists don't trust the media. Only 22 percent of cancer specialists consider the New York Times' reporting on cancer topics to be trustworthy and only six percent trust the TV network news.

When 400 climatologists, oceanographers and atmospheric scientists were asked whether evidence supports the "greenhouse effect" theory, 41 percent agreed compared to 66 percent of environmentalists. Similarly, 51 percent of energy scientist say nuclear power plants are safe compared to only 10 percent of environmentalists.

Environmentalists not only differ from scientists but are markedly different from general public as well. Environmental activists are a narrow elite: 76 percent are male, 97 percent are white and a third have incomes over $100,000. They are unrepresentative of America politically as well. Sixty-three percent describe themselves as liberals compared to 18 percent of the general public. Only six percent are Republicans; ten time as many are Democrats. To the question, "I'd fight for my country, right or wrong," 57 percent of all Americans answered yes while only 9 percent of environmentalists said yes.

Environmentalists support causes like race quotas, easy abortion and homosexual rights at rates of 70 to 80 percent, versus 34 to 40 percent of the general public. Rothman and Licther summarize, "Although most Americans are willing to describe themselves as environmentalists, from these data it seems clear that environmental activists do not speak for the public. . . . The perspective and background of this movement's leadership are considerably removed from those of the majority."

The authors of the study don't quite reach the conclusion I've reached about environmental activists, whose agenda calls for property confiscation and control over the lives of ordinary citizens. Back in the 60s and 70s, they called themselves socialists and communists. These were the people who paraded around our college campuses singing praises of support to beastly tyrants like Mao Zedong, Ho Che Minh, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot. Today, communism and its promises has been revealed as a failure and a system of unprecedented cruelty. Calling themselves communists or socialists has become an embarrassment, so environmentalism is the name for an old agenda. Environmental activists have had considerable success as a result of a gullible public, strong support in Congress and in the White House in the person of Al Gore. Plus, the news media spares environmental organizations the kind of scrutiny other organizations receive.

H.L. Mencken warned, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." That's the environmentalist's strategy for control.

Walter E. Williams
July 1, 1999
Return to Articles Page