A Firing Line Debate: "Resolved: That the Environmentalists Are Going Too Far, Too Fast"

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Taped on March 14, 1997. "If you know anybody," Mr. Buckley begins, "who prefers unclean air or dirty water or barren forest lands, pray keep him away from here and, pray, pray for him. The affirmative side happily concedes the historic advances in environmentalist goals ... But we all recognize that pretty good movements sometimes end up in fanatical hands." Mr. Linden fires back that so far from going too far, environmental protection has encountered serious setbacks ever since the end of the Carter Administration. "The U.S. has had some successes: Delaware Bay has been cleaned up. In World War II, pilots could smell it at 5,000 feet, and it now supports a multi-billion-dollar recreational industry. I guess you could call that a giving rather than a taking." However, "The U.S. is one of 76 countries that have less than 1 per cent of their frontier forests remaining," and the destruction of species "is not just an amenity issue. [Species diversity] is vital for the functioning of ecosystems." And off we go on a fast-paced exchange over how much the incremental improvement in air quality is worth, how much we can do in this country given that pollution and greenhouse gases don't recognize borders, and whether environmentalism has been turned into a religion-with, from Mr. Brown, an argument based actually on religion: "Philosophers, theologians, for millennia have warned against pride, envy, greed, and gluttony.... When there were 250 million people in the world with spears and primitive tools, the impact was minimal. When there are six billion ... with powerful technologies and a philosophy of nonsatiety-never enough-we get the very problem that is the subject of this debate." Summary by Firing Line staff.moreless

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