April 24, 2006
Save the Green Movement by Stopping the Insanity
By Michael D. Shaw
This column has always tried to inject hard science into the environmental movement, and in so doing, often goes up against wild myths that seem to gain a stranglehold on the public’s imagination. The strength of many of these myths often draws on celebrities with way too much time on their hands, and little notion to spend it learning the issues. While it would be nice to avoid personal attacks, the true Green movement is going to have to abandon collegiality, and speak out on some of the worst offenders, lest it lose credibility and popular support.
Consider Laurie David, the resident activist and opponent of anything fashionably deemed environmentally dangerous. Ms. David, the wife of Larry David, the erstwhile comedian and co-creator of “Seinfeld,” is exactly the wrong person to trumpet environmentalism and practical change. Notwithstanding her lack of formal credentials (she was formerly a talent booker before she met her wealthy husband) and her apparent hypocrisy (she has used private jets as a principal means of transportation), her Johnny-one-note extremist takes on Green issues—global warming being a favorite—lock out the very dialog that should be encouraged.
Let’s start with mobility. She insists that people drive hybrid cars, an idea that—despite its appeal among the glitterati in Beverly Hills and Malibu—is far too expensive for most middle class Americans. This simple fact, that these cars are not affordable and are largely a status symbol—never mind the technical problems with them—seems beyond her grasp. The same principle applies to Ms. David’s latest campaign against…toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.
Comparing Americans’ use of toilet paper with national security, Laurie David believes the paper industry is responsible for the destruction of the environment; she now only buys post-consumer waste products. (See my previous column about this subject, which, despite Ms. David’s political rant, conclusively establishes that the paper industry is, in fact, a strong proponent of conservation, and was very early into the Green movement. More to the point, we have more protected forests today than at any other point in American history.)
“I started reading about paper and toilet paper and cutting trees down to make toilet tissue for the country and I was doing a contest with myself to see which member of my family would complain about the toilet paper first.”
For the curious, Ms. David’s husband was the first to complain; he was apparently unable to sit without enduring pain because of the family’s new toilet paper.
Even worse is David’s chic but hypocritical environmentalism at her summer home in Martha’s Vineyard. She was issued a “notice of apparent violations” for building a 26-foot-long barbecue station, stone-and-concrete bonfire pit, and outdoor theater on an environmentally sensitive patch of their 14-acre North Road property without the proper permits. They were also cited for tearing up protected vegetation to make way for a lush, sodded lawn, among other crimes against nature.
The commission has since ordered her to remove the offending structures and restore the area to its previous state. All these violations were allegedly done to prepare for a political fundraiser hosted by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (another faux Green). Alas, there’s no such thing as cheap environmentalism on the Vineyard.
Laurie David has been labeled a “Gulfstream liberal” by Eric Alterman, himself a proud member of the Left and a regular columnist for the Nation. He recognizes that Ms. David’s brand of environmentalism is nothing more than a facade, a distraction from the financially secure yet intellectually boring life of the fabulously wealthy. But this hobby has dire consequences for the rest of us. By transforming her politics into a religion, and by demonizing all who question her positions, including the author Michael Crichton, who actually is a Harvard trained scientist and physician, Laurie David makes the environmental movement seem bizarre and more than a bit ridiculous.
This Earth Day we should celebrate Mother Nature without waving the banner of politics. Will Laurie David follow our example?