The Making of an Environmental Conservative by Gordon Durnil
by Carolyn Chase
f you are interested in helping forward environmental
issues from a conservative point-of-view, or are an environmental strategist,
you simply must read this book. When I attended Congressman Brian Bilbray's
speech to the Industrial Environmental Association last month, I took a
copy of this book and trotted right up to the podium with it. His eyes really
lit up when he saw it. Right away, his aide mentioned that they had ordered
it and were expecting it any day.
The idea that there is such a thing as an environmental
conservative can strike some as odd in these days when more and more industry
lobbyists seem to be setting the agenda in Washington, D.C. But with impeccable
conservative credentials - former State Chair of the Indiana Republican
party and Republican National Committee member - Gordon Durnil is able to
articulate why conservatives should be, and indeed are, morally bound to
take a stand for a healthy environment.
He makes it clear that pro-environment is pro-life and that what is at stake
is the health of future generations.
Durnil was reluctant at first to "cross-over"
into the world of consensus decision-making and environmental regulations.
But as President Bush's appointee to the U.S.-Canada International Joint
Commission charged with maintaining the quality of the environment in the
Great Lakes, he was compelled to review the scientific evidence as well
as hear testimony from thousands of individuals.
His conclusions are radical and shocking. Were conservatives to heed his
call to action, the environmental movement and - dare I say - the environment
itself could be rocked as never before.
" ... the consequences to humans
and their children cannot even be predicted. However, the increased risks
of cancer to the exposed adult, and more worrisome, the effect on the unborn
progeny of the exposed, are frightening.
"It is not as if these things are not happening
and not being reported. They are. So how can we ignore them, especially
when they raise such serious questions about today's societal problems?
Here are some ponderables:
What if, indeed. He assesses each group of players in turn: government,
industry, environmental groups, scientists, health care professionals, the
media, education officials and the public at large. Though behind the "eight-ball"
in general, Durnil maintains that the public is and must be the key player
in catalyzing and demanding environmental security. He notes that bureaucrats
and industry cannot get it done on their own.
- ·What if, as current research suggest, the startling decrease
in male sperm count and the alarming increase in the incidence of male genital
tract disorders are in fact being caused in part as a result of in utero
exposure to elevated levels of environmental estrogens?
- ·What if, as current research suggests, the increasing numbers
of breast cancer victims are being brought about in part by the great numbers
and quantities of estrogen-like compounds that have been and are being released
into the environment?
- ·What if the declining learning performance and increasing
disobedience of our children in schools is not so much a function of the
quality of our educational system but is, in part, related to the great
numbers and quantities of developmental toxins that are being released into
the environment, or to which these children have been exposed in utero?
- ·What if the breakdown of traditional values, such as two-parent
homes and parental responsibility, monogamous relationship, and sexual preferences,
are not related to the breakdown of traditional morality but instead to
the government-permitted immorality of the unknowing or uncaring harm related
to the discharge of persistent toxic substances into our environment?"
"As in Agent Orange, leukemia
clusters, other cancer clusters, clusters of babies born without brains,
Love Canal, and on and on, it is a common a scenario for the public to suffer
an effect, see a potential cause, then tie the two together. Scientists
who cannot find definitive proof will, however, deny the linkage. Government
and industrial scientists and other bureaucrats will work hard to convince
the public that its conclusion is wrong. Quite often, maybe fifteen, twenty,
or twenty-five years later, the affected public is found to be correct.
That doesn't happen because the scientist and bureaucrats are bad people,
it's just that they are trained to operate within the framework of scientific
certainty, when we live in a world of uncertainty.
He goes on to discuss good science, bad science and
other issues currently being given lipservice by elected officials. His
"An uncertain world is a world where decisions
delayed may be a gamble too great to suffer. When we think in terms of children
not doing well in school, in health, and, as they age, in reproductive prowess,
we know that absolute scientific proof of harm is not the criterion for
precaution. The potential for harm is a much more reasonable standard for
decision making, when we are making decisions about the ability of our species,
and others to procreate. Too often the lack of absolute scientific proof
is deliberately used as an excuse not to change our way of doing things."
"The Time for Toxic Tolerance is Past", "Don't
demand 100 percent proof of harm before action. Think about morality and
the Golden Rule. I have come to the conclusion that we are unintentionally
putting our children and our grandchildren in harm's way. I have concluded
that we need a basic change in direction. The future depends on you. Tell
your neighbors. Tell your state legislator or your member of Congress that
you want and demand environmental change. Tell local industry that you want
proper stewardship get involved. Make some noise. Kick up some dust...your
words, your actions, do matter ... we should be leading the parade!"
I really couldn't put it better myself. The White House comment line is:
(202) 456-1111. The Congressional switchboard is (202) 224-3121.
The Making of an Environmental Conservative by Gordon Durnil, Indiana Press, ($19.95) ISBN 0-253-32873-X, (812) 855-6804; iupressindiana.edu.