However, I have also always thought that environmental groups like the Sierra Club have been too alarmist and too extreme and, as a result, I have never sent them any contributions. (Although I am pro-choice, I have always thought the same about NARAL.) A balance must be struck. The balance at the federal government level is not sufficiently pro-environment at this time, but the opposite extreme is not the answer either.
Today, Nick Kristof has a thought-provoking column on this subject. Here is a taste.
At one level, we're all environmentalists now. The Pew Research Center found that more than three-quarters of Americans agree that "this country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." Yet support for the environment is coupled with a suspicion of environmental groups. "The Death of Environmentalism" notes that a poll in 2000 found that 41 percent of Americans considered environmental activists to be "extremists." There are many sensible environmentalists, of course, but overzealous ones have tarred the entire field.
The loss of credibility is tragic because reasonable environmentalists - without alarmism or exaggerations - are urgently needed.
Given the uncertainties and trade-offs, priority should go to avoiding environmental damage that is irreversible, like extinctions, climate change and loss of wilderness. And irreversible changes are precisely what are at stake with the Bush administration's plans to drill in the Arctic wildlife refuge, to allow roads in virgin wilderness and to do essentially nothing on global warming. That's an agenda that will disgrace us before our grandchildren.
So it's critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I'm afraid we don't have one.