Everybody wants clean air and water. Everybody wants to conserve America's abundant natural resources. Everybody wants to protect ecosystems and wildlife. Americans came together in a public consensus on these issues decades ago and remain united in support of these goals to this day, in no small part because tremendous progress has been achieved in all of these areas since creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
But who wants to turn one of the world's most fertile farming regions, an area that long fed millions of Americans and provided jobs for countless workers, into an arid wasteland, all on behalf of a small fish? Who wants to force the U.S. to walk away from the abundant oil, coal and natural gas stores under our land and coastal areas, thus deepening the nation's dependence on foreigners who hate America and exposing our waterways to more spills and related disasters, just because environmental zealots prefer windmills and solar panels? Who wants to tell countless suburban families to give up their homes, their automobiles and backyard barbecues, their very way of life, to move back into crowded cities, to please government planners and ideological fanatics on bicycles? These are official policies today.
What's wrong with this picture? Somewhere along the way things got out of balance between the public consensus on the environment that emerged in this country decades ago, and the oppressive new reality of government-entrenched environmental extremism that threatens to suffocate America's economic freedom and the prosperity, progress and innovation this freedom produces in abundance. The admired conservationists of yesterday have become the privileged, arrogant, powerful and unaccountable special interests that collectively constitute the environmental movement described this week in The Examiner's Special Editorial Report on Big Green.
There are countless reasons that help explain why this happened. But they all come back to this fundamental fact: American public policy has been shaped by a determined movement, not by the daily economic, political and social needs of the American people. As a result, federal environmental policy attaches greater importance to saving the delta smelt than to protecting the people and economy of California's Central Valley. Similarly, federal policymakers heed the apocalyptic claims of global warming advocates, while telling American families their utility rates must "necessarily skyrocket." And officials at every level of government pursue "smart growth" plans that if fully implemented would force millions of Americans to return to a 19th century model of social organization.
There is a dangerous extremism behind the view that human beings are a blight on the Earth, that the supposed interests of trees and animals and geographies of all description must come before the needs of people. It's time to end such thinking in government. It's time to restore a human balance to environmental policy, to remember that the health, safety, liberty, and prosperity of the American people must always come first.