Coronavirus Exposes Environmentalism As Not Just Stupid, But Dangerous

Coronavirus Exposes Environmentalism As Not Just Stupid, But Dangerous

Responses to the coronavirus pandemic are exposing both the folly and the danger inherent in many of the environmental movement’s favorite causes.
David W. Almasi
By

Responses to the coronavirus pandemic are exposing both the folly and the danger inherent in many of the environmental movement’s favorite causes.

Amidst the panic, most people probably forgot to acknowledge “Earth Hour” on the last Saturday in March. People are traditionally urged to turn off all their lights for an hour that day to “spark global conversations on protecting nature.” But, realizing the “exceptional challenge” of the coronavirus, organizers this year sought to “realign our Earth Hour work appropriately.”

One of those more appropriate ways was to turn off the lights while turning on a computer. People could observe Earth Hour “digitally” by signing online petitions and streaming videos about the evils of using too much power. Too bad a laptop uses about the same amount of power as a light bulb.

Plugging in and powering up would seem to defeat Earth Hour’s goal. But then you’d miss Greta Thunberg talking about “mass extinction” and the “need to stop burning fossil fuels.”

Actually, fossil fuels are vital, especially now. Not only are they powering many of the hospitals treating coronavirus victims, but there are countless ways fossil fuels are helping humanity fight for survival against an invisible enemy.

An N95 respirator, for example, often depends upon polypropylene fibers derived from fossil fuels. A lot of the plastics used today are made with oil, natural gas, and coal. Aspirin and penicillin are made with petrochemicals, as are the coatings and capsules for many other drugs. MRI scanners are cooled by natural gas byproducts.

Another thing made with fossil fuels is the much-maligned plastic shopping bag. While city and state governments spent the last few years acceding to environmentalists’ “Ban the Bag!” campaign to tax or outlaw plastic grocery bags, new fears of spreading the coronavirus have led some jurisdictions to ban the reusable bags that were touted as the future of shopping.

San Francisco, which was the first municipality to ban “single-use” plastic grocery bags in 2007, just enacted an emergency ordinance banning people from bringing reusable cloth and plastic bags and mugs into stores for fear they would spread the coronavirus. Mayor London Breed said she “can’t reiterate enough how important it is for all of us to continue to comply, for all of us to continue to be good citizens” by not abiding by the 2007 law that only allowed for reusable bags.

These are the same types of people who also ban plastic straws. San Francisco banned them in 2019, and paper straws can only be given out upon request. There is an exception for medical need, and that need will now only be increasing there and everywhere. Bendy straws are a staple in hospitals.

In those same hospitals, you’ll also find paper towels—another environmentalist target. While green scolds tut-tut America’s alleged obsession with them, don’t expect health-care professionals to mess around with hot-air hand dryers like you find in so many public bathrooms—and with good reason.

A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University found that these dryers blast fecal and other unhealthy bacteria circulating in a bathroom. A petri dish left standing in a bathroom for two minutes might grow one colony of bacteria, but researchers found one under a dryer for just 30 seconds grew more than 250!

Green mandates may be rooted in the best of intentions, but many are downright detrimental when it matters most. Emotionalism typically trumps logic when discussing these issues. It’s time for that to change.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promoted Earth Hour, he got a Twitter feed full of newfound logic from his followers. More than a few people mocked his appeal, assuring him they were “[t]urning off the ventilators to save the planet.”

It’s time for environmentalists to embrace science over fear, and for lawmakers to call their bluffs. As we now know, our health depends on it.

David W. Almasi is the vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

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