On Thursday, President Barack Obama celebrated Earth Day by flying from Washington to New York City and back again. Vice-President Joe Biden did the same. As far as carbon footprints go this was a stomp.
I’m not saying this to criticise the president or vice-president, not anymore than I would criticise the millions of Americans or others around the world who say the environment is their top concern and act in a different manner. In today’s world politicians are expected to pay homage to Mother Earth and so after his 450 mile return trip aboard the private presidential jet, Obama did pay homage to the environment. At a reception in the White House Rose Garden, Obama spoke of legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts passed in the 1970s and his investments in clean energy since taking office, of the importance of doing more to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren.
That President Obama’s rhetoric and his actions on the environment are incongruous should not be a surprise, many people claim to care about the environment even if they act in different ways. I can think of the fellow at work who complains the government is not doing enough for the environment but who drives only a few blocks to his office in an old Chevy Impala. There are the people I know who complain about pollution while smoking (tobacco is a crop laden with pesticides) and then throw the butt of their cigarette on the ground all the while saying how awful it is that the Kyoto Protocol is not respected.
Now to be sure, we have come a long way from building homes with little insulation and driving gas guzzling cars several decades ago. Today, the air we breathe and water we drink, at least in the developed world, is far cleaner than in the early part of the last century. All of this has been the result of ordinary people, and politicians, saying that something needed to change, that polluting our air and water was no longer acceptable. Yet today, as has often times been noted here, we have a quasi-religion in environmentalism and bowing to the right gods is more important than actual action, just look back at Obama’s flight plan for April 22.
When he was campaigning to reach the White House, Obama famously said, “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times.” Except that when Americans stopped buying SUVs and drove the ones they had less, he started a stimulus program and offered cash for clunkers to get Americans buying new cars again. Obama was not alone and in fact some of those clamouring the loudest for a new and tough international treaty on climate change in Copenhagen last December were also those running their own massive stimulus programs to get consumers spending again.
If we all woke up in the morning and decided that yes, we would all do our part as individuals to fight climate change and cut our personal consumption by 25%, the government would panic. Suddenly that silly number known as the GDP would plummet, there would be real job layoffs, less trade and not coincidentally less pollution and fewer greenhouse gases. The result would be another round of government backed, global stimulus programs aimed at getting each of us driving our SUVs, eating as much as we want and heating our homes back up to 72 degrees.
Caring for the earth, the creation God has given to us, is in the best interest of us all. The questions are how we do it and why? Doing more with less is a laudable goal that makes economic as well as environmental sense, we should all strive for thrift and frugality in our own homes as a way to conserve and build wealth, of the monetary and planetary kind, for future generations. We must keep in mind that preserving the earth is different from worshipping it and that humans are a central part of life on this planet and not a threat to its continued existence. None of this may put you in the good books of mainstream environmentalism today, but don’t worry, leaders of that movement are too busy flying to New York for day trips to notice.
Brian Lilley is a political journalist and the Ottawa Bureau Chief for radio stations Newstalk 1010 Toronto and CJAD 800 Montreal. He is also the Associate Editor of Mercatornet. Follow Brian on Twitter.