For years we were told the right answer to "paper or plastic" was plastic. Now San Fransisco has banned plastic grocery bags. For years we were told that having too many kids would be our ruin. Now the UN says, whoops, never mind, and ohbytheway the developed world's economy just might crumble because there's too few people. Walk instead of drive? Apparently, because of the replacement cost of the calories you burn, walking is far more harmful to the planet than driving is. Even diesel fueled buses can be more earth-killing than driving a Hummer. You health conscious organic food eaters? According to global warming scientist Chris Goodall, it's your fault the world will soon be on fire.
Flatly stated, it's just too hard to do what's right, because what's right keeps changing. It's to the point where even Al Gore can't escape criticism.
Of course, that might be the point. Environmentalism has long had the rap of being anti-people. Extremist, even. Why do their pronouncements and predictions seem to be wrong so often? It might be explained by ethics like these:
"Now, in a widening sphere of decisions, the costs of error are so exorbitant that we need to act on theory alone, which is to say on prediction alone. It follows that the reputation of scientific prediction needs to be enhanced. But that can happen, paradoxically, only if scientists disavow the certainty and precision that they normally insist on."
or, put more directly:
"We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."
But these scientists are well intentioned. Right? I mean, they've found a possible catastrophic problem, so what's the harm in trying to prevent or fix it?
The harm is that science once thought overpopulation was a grave problem. A finding which led to theories like, "To feed a starving child is to exacerbate the world population problem." Science once convinced the world to stop using DDT, despite its proven prevention of malaria. A policy which led to millions of deaths in Africa, to which the lead scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund said, "This is as good a way to get rid of them as any."
Science is the answer you say? Well, which answer? The one that said we're all gonna die from global cooling, or the one that says we're all gonna die from global warming? The one that says DDT kills humans, or the one that says DDT saves humans? There's a lot of money, and a lot of lives, riding on the answer. Choose, as they say, but choose wisely.