The Unintentional Costs of Environmentalism: It’s easy to be ‘bamboozled’

In the U.S., environmentalism has become a driving factor in our politics, economy, and culture. Most individuals consider environmental decisions with benign motives. We all want clean lakes and lush forests. That means there is a lot of demand for the supply of environmentalism.  As sophisticated as environmental conversations have become, it no longer resembles the conservationist movement of the past. Considered by most to be our Conservation President, Mr. Teddy Roosevelt embraced a movement calling for the conservation of wild game and game habitat. Today however, we often merely consider single attributes, and we forget to look at the whole context of how things are produced, thus producing the unintentional costs of environmentalism.

In the sales pitch of environmentalism, we boil everything down into manageable sound bites, and in some cases, the end results are completely unintentional.

For instance, Bamboo has become a ubiquitous ingredient recently. You can buy bamboo flooring, dishes, paper, you name it. One reason bamboo has become so popular, is it’s an easily renewable source, and therefore easy on the environment.

But is it really?

The messaging surrounding bamboo is interesting, in that, the conversation focuses on one attribute; that it grows fast. Corn grows fast, yet we know of several problems with ethanol production. The farming of Bamboo primarily requires intensive imputes such as fertilizers and additives to boost productivity for an export market to break even. When we label a product as ‘green’ we often do not associate the energy required for manufacturing, production, or transportation.

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC recently fined several companies for falsely advertising bamboo as ‘green.’ In a bout of cleverness, they dubbed the campaign, “don’t get bamboozled.”

All this to say, while many of us want to promote conservation and environmental protection, we want to protect our own interests first and foremost. Today’s environmentalism has less to do with being a Roosevelt type of “good steward” to the environment. Being “Green” is simply big business for many. While I am not suggesting the movement of reminiscent of snake-oil salesmen, a sizeable portion of being environmentally conscience is nothing more than pandering to our emotions.

If you follow the money, you will find the incentives.

Remember when ethanol was thought to be the next great energy breakthrough? Ethanol turned out to not be as green as promised. Ethanol is big business, requires lots of natural resources. Did I mention that aside from being extremely corrosive, it actually takes more energy to make than its fuels generate? And you’ll be shocked to know some of the politicians who subsidized it had their own incentives.

Al Gore recently admitted at a stump speech in Athens, his push for ethanol was fundamentally based on too much attention to farmers in Tennessee, and a fondness for farmers in Iowa, as he was about to run for President.

Two points Mr. Vice President for being honest at least.

Jill Donovan, a graduate of California’s Polytechnic University in San Louis Obispo, is the Communications Director for Nouveau Corporation.

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