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Time for a rational approach to environmental issues

climate change earth protest
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U.S. President Joe Biden’s first day in the White House included signing 17 executive orders. Three of them related directly to the environment: rejoining the Paris agreement on climate change, revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and reviewing regulatory measures pertaining to industries with high emissions.

These executive orders were expected to materialize during Biden’s presidency. He had regularly expressed the need for a clean break with many of former president Donald Trump’s policies. The speed at which this White House rammed them through still caught many a columnist, pundit and commentator’s eye.

Unsurprisingly, a wide gap exists between the political left and right when it comes to the environment. Both sides tend to support basic concepts such as clean air, clean drinking water and lowering emissions. The major differences are often found in the language, methodology, messaging, politics and economics.

The left has dominated this debate. Activists like Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough, Jane Fonda and Al Gore operate differently, but are all focused on a global effort to protect the environment. These eco-warriors distrust big business, private enterprise and free markets, and steadfastly refuse to listen to any side of the story other than their own.

Whether they’re on the right path or wrong path means little to them. Everyone has to be on the same page because “the science has spoken,” “there’s no room for discussion or debate” and “we don’t have any interest in the views of climate deniers.”

Fortunately, some writers and thinkers still believe in healthy debate and intellectual discourse on the environment. One of them is Peter Foster.

The British-born journalist has a degree in economics from the University of Cambridge. He worked at the United Kingdom-based Financial Times and has been a longtime columnist for the National Post. He’s authored 10 books, including The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: Canada’s Superbureaucrats and the Energy Mess (1982) and The Master Builders: How the Reichmanns Reached for an Empire (1986).

His newest volume, How Dare You!, is a collection of National Post columns published by The Global Warming Policy Forum in London, England. The book’s catchy title may ring a bell. It’s the infamous line uttered at the 2019 United Nations climate summit by Thunberg – who is either the world’s most visible young environmental activist or the most annoying young left-wing radical environmentalist, depending on your perception.

Foster’s columns explore topics like climate change policy, junk science, civil society and cancel culture. His goal is to provide counterbalance to the political left’s worldview. As noted in the preface, “it’s important to understand the origins of the demonization of fossil fuels, and how it represents more than a threat merely to prosperity. It is an assault on freedom, and even the environment. That is what this collection is about.”

With an intelligence, wit, charm and superior writing skills, Foster tackles these issues with great gusto and a welcome level-headedness.

“The environmental movement, like the Jesuits,” he wrote in a July 2, 1999, column, “understands the importance of moulding young minds early.” In particular, “‘environmental education’ attempts to freight young minds with concerns about complex issues they cannot understand. Johnny might not be able to read, but he can be persuaded that he might ‘save the planet’ if he marches on McDonald’s demanding an end to Styrofoam containers.”

He described Canadian businessman Maurice Strong on June 3, 2000, as “not an intellectual,” but an individual who “borrows ideas as they serve his interventionist purpose. His vision of environmental apocalypse is predicated on the conventional left-liberal view that free markets are obsessed by the short term, and that people are all giddy grasshoppers.”

Foster depicted Earth Hour as “far from being a harmless gesture of support for the environment … [it] is symbolic of spreading soft eco-fascism” on March 26, 2008. Moreover, he critiqued the “mindless conformist tendency to support ideas such as Earth Hour, which are aimed at the levers of both electrical and political power. If you love civilization, freedom and the use of reason, keep on all the lights you need on Saturday. Take Back the Night.”

That’s only the tip of the (still standing) iceberg.

Sensational lines like “the Orwellian framing of skeptics as ‘deniers’ has played a key role in shutting down debate,” “Pope Francis doesn’t want to save the poor from bad weather, he wants to save them from Walmart,” and David Suzuki turning into “the grand wizard of eco-fright” on Halloween are peppered throughout this wonderful book.

Biden reportedly plans more executive orders this week, including a ban on new oil and gas drilling. If so, we need to start reading the important words of Foster (and others) on these environmental issues – and more.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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