Magazine article Sierra

Alive and Kicking

Magazine article Sierra

Alive and Kicking

Article excerpt

The backlash lobby is back. Every few years, driven by the need to trumpet a new trend, the media excitedly report that environmental values formerly cherished by the American people have been repudiated.

This year the motivating force behind the rejection is said to be unemployment. In January, announcing that he would "do better in emphasizing jobs over environmental concerns," George Bush invoked a moratorium on new regulations, including those that would protect the environment. Time magazine reported in February that far fewer people cited the environment as the nation's most serious problem than had done so around Earth Day 1990. The New York Times chimed in with an article headlined "Environment, Inc. on the Defensive." We were all, it seemed, a paler shade of green.

Is the American public really so fickle? Consider Grant County, North Dakota. In late 1991 the county commissioners, seeking jobs for their depressed rural area, proposed siting a low-level nuclear-waste dump in the county. This March, however, apparently not sharing the media's certainty that jobs come first in hard times, voters threw every one of the commissioners out of office and replaced them with a slate opposed to the dump.

This is not the first time that politicians have fooled themselves into believing that the public has forgotten the environment. Previous supposed lapses of memory have been attributed to high energy prices, inflation, and international competitiveness.

Today, despite the change in public sentiment dividend by the major media and some politicians, polling data reveal an environmentally concerned electorate. …

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