The anti-environmental movement is aggressively promoting false ideas
and is having some success wherever the local economy is in decline.
Here, in reply to the 10 most popular anti-environmental myths, we
offer responses prepared by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in
MYTH No. 1: The public is fed up with extremist environmental
regulations which deprive people of their private property rights,
restrict recreational opportunities, and put animal rights before the
welfare of people. The anti-environment movement is a genuine grass-
roots response to over-zealous environmental regulation, representing
millions of everyday voters and taxpayers.
FACT: The anti-environment movement is really a loose coalition of
industry lobbies and other special interests that create storefronts to
make themselves look like grass-roots groups. Their "roots" are about
as deep as Astroturf. The members and contributors more often resemble
Fortune 500 companies --corporations who have, for decades, profited
from the unbridled exploitation of resources and public lands --and the
few (often wealthy) greedy individuals who have made their fortunes
feeding at the public trough. The regulations they seek to eliminate
and characterize as "extreme" are the very rules which protect the
human rights considered fundamental by all Americans: the right to
breathe clean air, drink clean water, and to protect their homes and
property from the environmental onslaught of those who would profit at
any price. Further, the anti-environment agenda betrays not only the
broad public interest, but contradicts the goals of its own supporters.
For example, shrimpers allegedly support the anti-environment agenda
because of its opposition to endangered species protections. But the
coalition's stated goal of undoing wetlands protection would wreak
havoc on the livelihoods of shrimpers, whose catch is dependent on the
survival of these critical ecosystems.
MYTH No. 2: Unbridled environmental regulation has resulted in the loss
of thousands of jobs in forestry, mining, recreation, and other
FACT: This is one of the anti-environment lobby's favorite fairy tales.
Environmental regulation has taken the rap for jobs lost to everything
from mechanization, exportation, and economic downturns, to downright
corporate profiteering. In fact, environmental protection is a growth
industry. Every year, the environmental industry grows by five to six
percent and what is today a $200 billion a year international industry,
is projected to rise to a $300 billion dollar a year industry by the
end of the decade.
To remain globally competitive, U.S. firms must compete with
international businesses that employ pollution prevention, energy
conservation, and new technologies to more efficiently produce
products. Environmental regulations will foster the innovation and
investment required for a strong business future. (For example, see
MYTH No. 3: For over 100 years, public lands have been available for
grazing sheep and cattle. Now, preservationists are threatening to lock
up the land and put family livestock operations out of business by
increasing grazing fees.
FACT: Only two percent of all livestock operators graze their cattle on
public lands. The government's cheap grazing fees give an unfair
competitive advantage to corporations and wealthy individual operators
over small family ranchers, who must pay the full cost of grazing their
cattle on private lands. Meanwhile, livestock overgrazing has eroded
soils and despoiled riparian [stream-side] areas, taking a huge toll on
wildlife habitat, and the scenic, archaeological, and recreational
values of public land that all Americans own.
MYTH No. 4: We don't need to save every endangered species and
subspecies, particularly when people's jobs are at stake. Extinction is
a natural part of evolution. Using science, we can determine a balanced
approach for protecting important species and jobs.
FACT: While extinction is a natural part of evolution, human activities
have accelerated it 10,000 times. Natural selection is the process for
strengthening biodiversity, while the unnatural selection prompted by
people artificially robs the Earth of its most important genetic
The genetic information inside one mouse would fill all 15 editions of
the Encyclopedia Britannica published since 1768. It is this wealth of
information which provides scientists with the key to new miracle cures
like taxol (derived from the Pacific Yew tree), which benefits women
suffering from ovarian and breast cancer, and digitalis (derived from
the purple foxglove), a drug used to treat over three million Americans
suffering from heart disease. The cure for diseases like AIDS may be
hidden in one of the 100 species which become extinct every day. And
many jobs rely on the health of species and ecosystems --from a billion
dollar fishing industry to the pharmaceutical industry. The annual
value of drugs derived from plants alone is over $40 billion.
MYTH No. 5. Wetlands regulation has denied ordinary citizens
opportunities to build homes and businesses. If protecting the
environment is in the interest of "the public good," then the public
ought to compensate individuals for the lost value of their property.
FACT: The number of individuals who are denied the total use of their
property from wetlands regulation are few and far between. In fact,
over 98 percent of permit applications for building in wetlands are
approved. Wetlands regulation protects millions of American property
owners whose homes would be flooded and access to clean water disrupted
by unregulated development. Not only do more than 40 percent of
endangered species rely on wetlands habitat, wetlands support billion
dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries.
MYTH No. 6: Much of the so-called "wetlands" acreage protected by the
Clean Water Act are not really wetlands. Some areas aren't even wet.
FACT: It is true that not every wetland appears wet. But, does the
inability to distinguish between a priceless diamond and a worthless
piece of glass make the diamond any less valuable? In fact, scientists
tell us that so-called "part-time" wetlands are among the most
ecologically valuable in preventing floods, recharging groundwater and
filtering out pollutants. Determining which wetlands merit protection
requires competent scientific judgments, not political rhetoric driven
by profit-hungry special interests.
MYTH No. 7: "Global warming" is a myth generated by scientists in the
pockets of the environmental lobby; the extreme predictions of the past
several years have not come true. This is the environmentalists'
traditional Chicken Little approach to obstructing development and
FACT: Global climate change has been established by credible scientists
as a real threat to public health and safety. Natural factors, such as
the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, may temporarily mask the effect of global
warming. Still, if left unchecked, global climate change could develop
deserts where croplands now flourish, dramatic sea-level changes would
flood low-lying areas, and shifting rainfall patterns would affect
crops and fisheries. The industries who try to hide the inevitability
of global warming distort the facts in order to protect short-term
profits, but may be hurting themselves in the long run. Some foreign-
owned companies have already responded to American consumers' demand
for products that produce fewer greenhouse gases, while others are
profiting from the technology used to cut emissions. By ignoring these
trends, American businesses may be left in the dust in the race for
MYTH No. 8: All public lands should be managed for multiple use:
mineral/hydrocarbon development, timber harvest, grazing, and public
recreation. All these activities can be safely conducted in national
parks and wilderness areas without destroying critical ecosystems.
FACT: The Federal Land Policy Management Act (P.L. 94-579) requires the
federal government and the Secretary of the Interior to carry out "...a
combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that takes into
account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and
non-renewable resources including, but not limited, to recreation,
range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish and natural
scenic, scientific and historical values; and harmonious and
coordinated management of the various resources without perma-nent
impairment of the productivity of the land and the quality of the
environment with consideration being given to the relative values of
the resources and not necessarily to the combination of uses that will
give the greatest economic return of the greatest unit output."
"Balanced" and "multiple" use of resources are policies set down in law
for the responsible management of public lands. Unfortunately, the
environmental destruction lobby has adopted these as buzzwords to
justify the dominant exploitative use of public lands at the expense of
every other natural resource value --trees that prevent global warming,
riparian areas critical to wildlife survival, and clean groundwater for
human drinking water supplies.
MYTH No. 9: Environmentalists essentially practice pagan tree worship.
Environmentalists are disconnected from what's important to people.
They're anti-God and anti-American.
FACT: This argument is based in as little truth as the absurd McCarthy-
era witch hunts of the 1950s with suspected "communists" lurking behind
every door. Today, more than 80 percent of Americans consider
themselves "environmentalists," and conservation is as patriotic as
motherhood and apple pie.
The conservation ethic has its foundation in Judeo-Christian faiths.
The Book of Genesis tells of God giving humankind dominion over his
creation. Those who suggest destroying natural resources destroy not
only God's gift, but the resources essential to the survival of
MYTH No. 10: Nature is a hierarchy, and humans are at the top of the
heap. Science can achieve a balance between the needs of people and the
environment, and can even improve on natural systems. Extreme
environmentalists stand in the way of human progress and threaten the
quality of human life.
FACT: The fate of the natural world and survival of humans are
inextricably linked. The environmental movement has made great strides
over the past twenty years to improve the quality of life for people --
from improving air and water quality by pressing for the Clean Water
and Clean Air Acts, to warning communities about the danger of toxic
releases from manufacturers. The naive belief that corporate scientists
can replace what nature took thousands of years to create will deprive
our children of natural resources.
Contact: Environmental Working Gropup: 1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW;
Suite 600, Washington D.C. 20009; 202-667-6982.
Descriptor terms: environmental working group; wise use movement; anti-
environmental movement; wetlands; species loss; biodiversity; jobs;
global warming; takings; unfunded mandates; mining; forests; timber
industry; right-wing extremism; wildlife habitat; habitat destruction;
multiple use; trees; christian philosophy;