Who Is Greener?

We are seeing an interesting phenomenon in Europe and in the U.S.  "Green" candidates and officeholders are vying to outdo one another in boasting of their environmental credentials.  In debates here and abroad, it's not uncommon to hear those office seekers asking voters to give them ever more power because, they claim, the "planet" is in dire need of their help.

Some of our European friends, especially those from the formerly Captive Nations held down for half a century by the power of the USSR, jokingly call the new Greens "watermelons."  Why so?  They may be green on the outside, our newly freed friends say, but they are red (Communist) on the inside.

Whether it's Al Gore proclaiming that the sky is falling or President Obama promising that the oceans will cease to rise if he is elected, left-wing politicos see no contradiction between granting vast new powers to functionally what often are socialist bureaucracies and addressing perceived environmental concerns.

We should perhaps recall that it was socialism toward which the Soviet Union (USSR) strove for 70 years.  They taught that "scientific socialism" was the answer to all the world's problems.  All you had to do was give "all power to the Soviets" and, of course, give up your superstitions.  That is Marxist talk for your religion.  They didn't want you clinging to your guns, either.

In 1986, we learned what socialism can produce for the environment.  It was called Chernobyl.  That massive nuclear power plant meltdown occurred in Soviet Ukraine.  Many died, and many more were exposed to sickening radiation.  Large areas were contaminated.

Some Bible scholars soon pointed out that the English translation of that word is "wormwood."  And wormwood is noted in Scripture for its bitterness, also as a symbol of a great fall.

Of course, to Marxists, with their belief in the inevitable triumph of socialism, the Bible is pure fantasy.  Still, with the USSR already spinning out of control in 1986 and with the Red Star falling from Moscow's Kremlin towers in just five short years after Chernobyl, it does make one wonder.

Nor is this an isolated incident for countries in the grip of centralized, socialist regimes.  Lake Baikal in the old USSR suffered grievously.  "Baikal, too, must work," said the Communist Party boss, Nikita Khrushchev.  He was a committed Marxist socialist atheist.  Khrushchev forced polluting paper mills onto the great Siberian lake's once pristine shoreline.

Yet like so many others in the Soviet Union, Baikal's sacrifice for the good of the people was for naught. By the time the mill opened at the new town of Baikalsk in 1966, its super-cellulose fiber was already obsolete. On the shores of this most extraordinary body of water, the new plant would produce only the most ordinary of commodities — low-grade paper pulp, toilet paper, and newsprint.

Meanwhile, its unofficial product line over the past 40-plus years has included millions of tons of toxic waste – pumped into the air above the lake, into earthquake-vulnerable pools on shore, and into the water. Government reports document pollution releases in recent years at up to nearly fifty thousand times legal limits, and the emissions have been linked to widespread environmental and public health problems.

This report on Russia's magnificent body of water – which once contained twenty percent of Earth's fresh water – was filed by an NPR environmental researcher.

And not just Russia is a case against socialism.  Despite some market-style reforms, China remains a dictatorship.  China's rulers still repress Christians and other believers.  China's population controllers are still cruelly implicated in massive forced abortions.

China is still ruled by the Communist Party, a Marxist and hence socialist outfit.  Mao Tse-tung was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 60 million Chinese, but his portrait still dominates Tiananmen Square.  Environmentally, China is a major polluter.  In 2008 Beijing hosted the "most polluted Olympic Games in history," says this report in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

And according to a report released earlier this month, almost 80 percent of 367 Chinese cities studied had pollutant matter that "was … more than four times the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)" by one calculation.

Contrast all of this environmental degradation with our own record.  The United States and our free enterprise system recognized pollution problems long before the centrally directed economies of the socialist bloc did.

In Pittsburgh, coal-fired steel mills in the 1940s and '50s belched so much smoke that lawyers and bankers working indoors had to go home at noon for lunch and a change of shirts.  Ohio's Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969.  That event sparked passage of the Clean Water Act.  America cleaned up air and water.  But, as TIME Magazine reported last June, help was already on the way.  Our Great Lakes are once again home to one fifth of the world's fresh and clean water.

Even our own very liberal Enviromental Protection Agency acknowledges that "emissions from a new car purchased today are well over 90 percent cleaner than a new vehicle purchased in 1970."

Our system of free enterprise is buttressed by a governmental structure of federal, state, and local authorities.  As such, it is ideally responsive to the people through regular elections.

Our system surely has flaws.  But socialism is a cure worse than the disease.  More often than not, socialism brings environmental destruction in its wake.  Don't fall for the socialist bait.  Reds don't deliver on Green promises.  This is one Watermelon Party we can pass on.

Ken Blackwell, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Club For Growth.

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