Today is the fortieth celebration of Earth Day. To honor the event, the Atlantic Wire has selected the day's best themed writing from across the political spectrum.
- Challenges No Longer So Visible AP writer Seth Borenstein
chronicles the tremendous victories of the environmental movement,
turning toxic rivers into swimmable waterways with breathtaking
effectiveness and speed. Yet today's challenges involving global
warming, he writes, unlike rivers set aflame, "are largely
invisible--and therefore tougher to tackle."
- A Conservative Case for Conservation Steve Hayward at the National Review pulls out an excerpt from a passionate, poetic argument for the Endangered Species Act. He then reveals it to be not the words of some "Gore-worshipping greenie" but rather of Sen. James Buckley, writing in a National Review cover story in 1979. Here's the excerpt:
[The objective of the Endangered Species Act] represents a quantum jump in man’s acknowledgment of his moral responsibility for the integrity of the natural world he passes on to future generations. It is this which lends the Endangered Species Act its special significance. It recognizes values, be they ethical or aesthetic, that transcend the purely practical and admit to awe in the face of the diversity of creation. Not everyone will be moved by them, and they no more lend themselves to a cost-benefit analysis than does a Bach chorale. But surely it is an act of unseemly arrogance to decree the extinction of a unique form of life without compelling justification. Such an act is irreversible, and it diminishes by however small a fraction the biological diversity that has come down to us from eons past.
- 'The Economy and the Environment Are Two Sides to the Same Coin' At The Huffington Post, Conservation International co-founder and CEO Peter Seligmann
looks at the connection between solving environmental problems and
solving unemployment problems. More broadly, he writes, "The goals of
prosperity and sustainability can only be met together. Our society
urgently needs to come to the realization that people can only thrive
when nature does."
- Think Like a Child The New York Times' Allison Arieff highlights the work of twelve-year-old Adora Svitak, who suggests in lectures that adults need to be more "childish," approaching problems like global warming and the environment with the absolutist sort of idealism of the young, before they've learned to think constantly about reasons not to do something or why something can't be done. Here's Svitak speaking:
- Avatar, Earth Day, and the Contradictions of Liberalism and Modernity Thomas Hibbs, in a National Review column we singled out for our daily "5 Best,"
explores modern liberalism's complicated relationship with technology
and modernity, as seen in the film Avatar (released on DVD today in
order to coincide with Earth Day). "The threat of irrevocable loss" in
Avatar is "quite credible," Hibbs says, and similar to "a sentiment
that has often been at the heart of conservatism: the worry that
gambling on cosmopolitan forces of progress not only carries with it
unintended consequences but also exacts a cost in the erosion of
traditional customs and the destruction of intermediate institutions."
But the film is both facile and ideological incoherent, he says: the
Na'vi wind up seeming to embrace some of the technology that threatens
them. Ultimately, he implies, the world is more complex than either
Avatar or today's partisan rhetoric seem to recognize. The left's fear
of environmental degradation and the right's fear of cloning may share
an origin: an aversion to "a conception of the external world and the
body itself as mere property, raw material to be manipulated to satisfy
untrammeled human desire."
- Why Nuclear Power Is the Answer The Heritage Foundation's Jack Spencer
thinks "conserving the nation's environmental beauty and natural
resources is something that most Americans can agree on." He lists the
ways in which nuclear power, with tremendous energy production, can
meet goals in conservation, lower emissions, and fewer ecosystem
- The Failure of the Environmental Movement Celebrated writer and environmentalist leader Bill McKibben
argues in the Washington Post that, despite gains in cleaning up
rivers, "for 20 years now, global warming has been the most important
environmental issue--arguably the most important issue the planet has
ever faced. And there we can boast an unblemished bipartisan record of
accomplishing absolutely nothing." This is in part due to a weakness in
environmentalism itself, "which no longer does enough real organizing
to build the pressure that could result in real change." Not convinced?
He suggests readers "look at the average age of [environmental groups']
- What Does Obama Have Against Whales? Getting down to specifics, Change.org's Stephanie Feldstein wonders why, when "the majority of Americans agree that commercial whaling should be stopped," the Obama administration is considering lifting the ban on the practice. "Even George W. Bush upheld the whaling ban," she protests.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.