There is a saying that goes like this: those who speak, do not know; and those who know, do not speak.
For decades, environmentalists (such as Al Gore) have proclaimed the urgent need to save our environment. Organizations like Greenpeace have initiated many projects and public awareness campaigns. Yet, the effects of these efforts are minuscule and limited.
What will really change people’s driving habits is when crude oil prices shoot past US$120 per barrel. What will get people to save water is when drinking water prices match the price of crude oil. What will convince them to save paper is when every piece of paper they print costs them US$1.
Most people listen to environmentalists just as much as they do to telemarketers and preachers trying to convert them to a new religion. The words of wisdom goes in through one ear and comes out from the other, since these issues are not directly relevant to their personal lives in the short term.
In order to awaken the common man and woman in the street, you will need to hit them where it hurts – their wallet or purse. Likewise, if you want to convince them to support your environmental initiatives, you should reward them where they care about – their wallet or purse.
It is very hard to save water if water only costs US$10 per gallon. It is very hard to switch to your energy saving light bulbs when they cost over 10 times that of an ordinary light bulb. It is very hard to switch to a hybrid car unless you want to pay at least 3 times the price of an ordinary car.
Bring down the prices of products and services that will save the world, and the world will take care of saving itself. This is probably a job for the “greedy” business-people rather than the passionate environmentalist.
Likewise, for environmental campaigns. Maintaining crude oil prices at US$150 per barrel or higher is the most effective publicity campaign we can make to encourage people to switch to renewable fuels. I can almost imagine that if oil prices hit US$1,000 per barrel (at 2012 prices), we will see lots of solar panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors sprouting up all over the world.
The environmentalists are right about one thing: there are too many humans using too few resources. But they are wrong about their assumptions of reality and human behavior.
Take for instance, the so-called global water crisis. Our ET friends are probably gloating over our foolishness right now: 2/3 of our planet is covered by water. We are just like the ancient Chinese who value salt as much as gold, because they have no idea how to get salt from the vast ocean.
The real water shortage is that of fresh water. Like the ancient Chinese who pay exorbitant prices to mine their salt, we can only obtain fresh water from limited sources, giving the impression of scarcity. Unlike the ancient Chinese, we already have the technology to obtain massive quantities of fresh water from salt water for centuries. The only question was: how do we do this economically? Problem solved if we can find a way to drop the cost of energy by a hundred-fold.
Why do people have strange beliefs? Because they do not think deeply about the issues.
“Dumb it down. Dumb it down. Dumb it down even more.” The media does it. The politicians do it. So do the environmentalists. It seems much easier if we let someone else do our thinking for us, isn’t it? However, if we want to change the world, we must think for ourselves.
Do you know that a energy saving light bulb containing many toxic components is very difficult to recycle compared to a traditional light bulb (which contains only simple, non-toxic parts)? In the end, this standard prescription may only benefit the bottom lines of light bulb companies (who can earn a larger margin from these expensive light bulbs).
Do you know that the world has a simple solution to global warming called iron fertilization but the people in power do not permit it? Just imagine how far we can go if we focused our energies and efforts on gathering international support for this initiative and finding out a safe manner to implement it?
Genetically Modified Foods offer practical and effective solutions for boosting our food supply? Yet many environmentalists are opposing it, labeling it “Frakenfoods”. What is wrong? Scientists playing God? I do agree that we should avoid experimenting with animals due to potential animal cruelty, and that improper abuse of biotech can wreck the ecosystem. However, there is nothing inherently wrong with genetic engineering combined with strong safeguards. In fact, the soybean drink or tofu in your supermarket is already GM. The issue today lies with the unethical corporations who exploit the small farmers, not the technology.
The question concerning the environmentalists is: Are you willing to give up your job? Are you willing to make the environmental movement obsolete by providing the true solutions to our global problems?
I suspect that most will answer “no”. They have committed their lives to their cause. They have an axe to grind against certain enemies. They have no idea what to do if they stop “fighting the sacred war” to save Gaia. This is when I remember the bumper sticker that read: “God, save me from your followers!“