A Reply to Al Gore’s Rant from Walter Russell Mead

I already posted my reply to Al Gore’s obnoxious article in last week’s Rolling Stone.

Walter Russell Mead has written a rather remarkable three part essay on Mr. Gore. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

I found Part 3 the most interesting, especially,

The serial rise and fall of these vacuous civil society movements [Gore's 'global warming' crusade in this case] and the peculiar grip they exercise over the minds of some otherwise intelligent people is an important subject: why do so many people who want to help solve global problems waste so much time and money and, sometimes, do so much harm?  Is there some way to harness that energy and idealism to causes and strategies that might do more good?  What does the repeated rise and fall of clueless but well educated and well placed enthusiasts teach us about the state of our civilization and the human condition?  

Are there ways we could nip these Malthusian panics and idealistic feeding frenzies in the bud?  Is there some way we could teach future generations to be a little smarter about politics and power so that the 21st century, which is going to have plenty of serious problems, might spend less time chasing mares’ nests?

I have often said that we live in a “gesture society” — that rather than actually accomplishing something positive, a gesture (a picket sign, wearing the right ribbon, speaking in politically correct ways, etc.) is considered sufficient. And, in some cases, a gesture gets a person more praise than actually making measurable contributions to society.

Let’s consider three examples. As I have written many times, a far more important and immediate environmental problem than global warming is foul drinking water. We know how to fix it and it can be fixed at reasonable cost. It doesn’t require massive government intervention nor does it require billions. In fact, for a single small village, the order of magnitude is lower tens of thousands of dollars. That doesn’t interest Mr. Gore and his friends…it is unlikely they would get wealthy improving drinking water a village at a time.

Yet, my brother, Phil, through tireless work, has just installed a fifth water purification system in rural Guatemala, this one in the village of Antigua (see above, fyi that is not Phil in the photo).  For the first time, the people of the village will have pure drinking water! For Phil and his many contributors and helpers, this is a labor of love and it will make a genuine difference in peoples’ lives.

How about malaria in Africa? We know how to solve that one at very low cost. We could save a million lives a year! All it takes is a little DDT judiciously used indoors, but on a larger scale than attempted currently. But, we don’t do it because it is politically incorrect. How? It would imply that Rachel Carson, the secular patron saint of the environmental movement was, in many ways, wrong about DDT. So, people needlessly die in the name of political correctness.

Or, how about Rotary’s work to rid the world of polio? We want to end this disease once and for all. It is being done almost entirely with private dollars. Getting the chilled vaccine into remote India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. is extremely difficult, especially given that the nearest electricity is usually hundreds of miles away. Yet, we continue and soon we will achieve our goal.

All three of these indisputable environmental problems receive a tiny, tiny, fraction of the media attention of global warming. The people working on these efforts receive almost no recognition, let alone Nobel Prizes.

Like Mr. Mead, I do not understand why global warming has received such overcoverage and Mr. Gore (who has become, according to some, the first global warming billionaire) so much non-deserved praise — when compared to the people who working on water, malaria, polio because of dedication to their fellow man rather than being motivated by wealth.

I suggest it is time to reexamine our priorities and our attitudes toward earth’s many environmental problems.

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