Since you are reading this and it is past April 22, that means you survived another Earth Day. But, how many more Earth Days can we survive? Many of the envirowacks who have made Earth Day a high holy day like to tell us that unless we change the way we live, the end is near. Highly exaggerated fears about pollution, global warming, chemicals, genetic engineering, and the like have become the focus of Earth Day rhetoric. In addition, attacks on science, technology, and big business have polluted Earth Day. “Passion and zeal routinely trump science, and provability takes a back seat to plausibility,” write Henry Miller and Jeff Stier, fellows at Stanford University and The National Center for Public Policy Research, respectively. In recent years, agriculture has found itself in the spotlight of the Earth Day debate.
Earth Day is controlled, for the most part, by an organization called the Earth Day Network. It determines the theme, coordinates the activities, and provides much of the talking points for participating groups and the media. The 2017 theme was “Environmental & Climate Literacy.” Yet much of what was promoted was anything but real understanding of the environment. Instead of a genuine concern for nature, many of those stumping on Earth Day share opposition to environmentally friendly advances in science and technology, such as agricultural biotechnology and renewable fuel.
Mainstream media coverage of Earth Day is equally as distorted and one-sided. Time, for example, in a story on “3 Easy Ways to Make a Difference on Earth Day,” suggested, in all seriousness, that we should all stop eating meat. “Widespread adoption of vegetarianism would slash greenhouse gas emissions by nearly two-thirds.” In a fear-mongering story by CNN on how climate change will impact the corn industry, CNN concluded, “The bottom line: Experts can’t know for sure what the future holds for America’s corn industry.” Wow — that is real environmental literacy.
In the beginning, Earth Day was a touchy-feely, consciousness-raising, New Age experience, and today it still retains much of that focus. This has always made it hard for agriculture to get much positive press. This year, however, with the major advances in soil health being seen on farms, the agriculture message is resonating with those who like to toss the terms “natural” and “sustainability” around. The growing use of cover crops and soil testing is a story that gets noticed during Earth Day. The use of precision technology which helps farmers minimize environmental impacts is more problematic for the nature worshipers because it involves science and technology.
The ethanol story is another stumbling block for the Earth Day crowd. A decade of facts have proven the food vs. fuel argument wrong, and a recent USDA study indicated that ethanol production is becoming even more beneficial for the environment than before, with a 43% reduction in greenhouse gases over gasoline. Yet, the barefoot environmentalists have rejected ethanol in favor of the inefficient and unreliable wind and solar sources.
As long as Earth Day focuses on emotional romanticism about nature and dismisses the role of science and technology in protecting and even improving our world, it is a threat to agriculture and to food security.
By Gary Truitt