Cal  Thomas

Thursday (April 22) was the 34th annual "Earth Day" observance, and, like other progeny of a decade characterized by Robert Ringer's best-selling "Looking Out for No. 1," it is beginning to show its age.

Gallup's annual Earth Day Poll (was it printed on recycled paper?) found that the environment, which once ranked high on the list of concerns for millions of Americans, now resembles a baseball team that has fallen on hard times.

According to Gallup, environmental issues are next to last on a list of people's concerns, finishing just above race relations. Worse news for tree-huggers, 44 percent of those polled said economic concerns should take precedence over protection of the environment. That figure is up from 23 percent in 2000 and 19 percent in 1990.

One of those responsible for shifting opinion to a more balanced relationship between business and the environment is Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Founded 20 years ago at least in part to defend against the more extreme of "the Earth is your Mother" crowd, CEI has brought economic reality, sound science and an understanding of comparative risks to what was, for a while, a mostly one-sided debate.

Smith, who began his counterrevolution in 1984 at his kitchen table, has solid credentials. A former policy analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency, Smith became disaffected when he saw the environment elevated to near religious status with "congregations" full of earth worshippers.

No one who has ever seen a polluted river, or smelled air fouled by factories and cars, or viewed litter by the road could ever be against the environment or in favor of filth. But too many of those collectively known as "environmentalists" went too far, choking and inhibiting progress in the name of a pristine level of cleanliness that will never be achieved as long as humans walk the earth. Anyone who has been greeted in a motel room with a sign asking you to reuse your towel for the sake of the environment is reminded of how far the earth-first crowd has brought us.

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Cal Thomas' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.