Strive to find middle ground for environmental politics

Column by Brett Nolan

It was only a few weeks ago that American box offices were plagued by another overly dramatic “mockumentary” on global warming. “The 11th Hour,” which came out Aug. 17., is actor Leonardo Dicaprio’s impersonation of former vice president Al Gore as he narrates a film about current environmental dangers and the impending apocalypse they might cause.

It’s a shame Dicaprio had to put such a huge blemish on his otherwise prestigious career. (Careful readers will have picked up on the sarcasm as they recount the year “Titanic” was in theaters.)

Environmentalism is a tricky issue in United States politics. The simple fact is that regardless of their political affiliation, the big shots in Washington, Hollywood and wherever else they might be don’t actually care about the planet.

On the left, you have those claiming to be the supporters of any and all environmentally friendly movements. This claim is primarily to appeal to their base of supporters who really do have a genuine desire to save the planet.

Unfortunately, it’s led by people like Gore, who spends his time polluting the earth on his private jet and heating his Tennessee mansion with an obscene amount of energy.

Then on the right, there are those who take some sort of sadistic pride in not caring about the environment. It’s not that they want to destroy it — they just go out of their way to pretend like it doesn’t exist. You could compare the Republican’s view on environmental problems with the Democrat’s stance on terrorism: If we pretend it’s not there, it might just go away.

The problem here is that keeping our earth clean is a win-win situation, but no one can seem to figure that out. If the Democrats really believed in environmentalism like they claim, they wouldn’t have wasted the entire first half of the year without any significant environmental initiatives. Talking about the environment doesn’t fix it.

Republicans, though, don’t seem to understand that promoting an environmentally conscious community doesn’t have any negative effects.

Encouraging environmentally smart decisions doesn’t mean jumping on the global warming bandwagon, and it shouldn’t be an embarrassing stance for conservatives to take.

So is there is a solution to this battle of wills?

The first step would be to eliminate all government subsidies to oil companies. Let Americans pay the real prices for a tank of gas and we’ll see how fast innovation and the free market creates an affordable alternative fuel.

The less control oil companies have on our everyday lives, the more freely the politicians in Washington can discuss environmental issues reasonably. Whether it be federally funded recycling programs, or reforestation, it’s much easier to discuss these issues without being divided over oil and its effect on global warming.

Furthermore, environmentalists need to quit being so abrasive. In the same manner we are turned off by the preachers outside the Student Center who tell us we’re all going to Hell, no one likes being given an eco-guilt trip.

The pretentious attitude that looms around most tree-huggers who seem ready to pounce at the opportunity to throw their worldview in our faces only causes tension — which is something we need to eliminate to effectively cooperate.

Living sustainable lives is something that every American can do with a little bit of effort. Having been guilty of not doing so in the past, allow me to put my foot forward first in an effort to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

This isn’t an issue that should divide liberals and conservatives. It should unite us.

Brett Nolan is a philosophy sophomore.  Email at [email protected]