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By Frederick B. Meekins
To the undiscerning, environmentalism connotes an effort by the selfless and altruistic to save the planet and create a better quality of life for all creatures dwelling upon it. However, closer scrutiny reveals these efforts are little more than a front to impose near total control upon the lives of average citizens.
According to the April 24th editorial appearing in suburban Maryland's Prince George's Journal, most Americans would be shocked to learn that, in the minds of some, our obligations to the biosphere transcend the perennial dilemma between paper or plastic. Some green radicals contend these responsibilities ought to impact and reshape every facet of existence.
The Journal editorial lists a number of these suggestions available at a website called checklists.com. Among these include picking up other people's litter, living in smaller houses, or renting rooms out to others if you own a larger home, using public transportation, and not going out as often.
In other words, the only way to save the environment is through the diminution of personal freedom and one's sense of individuality. Each of the suggestions above requires that we relinquish control over our own lives to various communal authorities.
For example, relying on mass transportation means having less control over when one goes out and where one goes. Living in more compact residential arrangement means neighbors will be able to get into your business to a greater degree, especially when they share housing with you.
A common tenet regarding public policy contends that today's voluntary guideline will eventually become tomorrow's mandatory regulation. In the future, citizens will probably be compelled to dwell in collective housing units, no doubt being encouraged to report to the authorities any "counterrevolutionary" attitudes found among their housemates longing for the individualism of the good ole days.
Employees at the University of Maryland will soon be subject to seeing this kind of process first hand. A memo was distributed detailing an upcoming transportation survey conducted by the University's Department of Environmental Safety to determine how many employees ay the College Park campus use alternative modes of transportation and why some insist of committing eco-atrocities by driving alone to work.
Frankly, it's nobody's business how someone gets to work, whether one rides in on a mule cart or hovers in by jetpack. Most employees aren't provided a palatial mansion on campus like that enjoyed by the school's President.
The memo reads, "Your responses will be integral to developing incentives and improving transportation services to the campus." In other words, this is no mere exercise at information collection. This information will be used to impact the lives of university employees, no doubt punishing those who continue to pursue their lives apart from the collective. Students at the University's School of Architecture have already drawn up plans to redesign the campus into an "auto-free" school zone.
Maybe University President Dan Mote has a few rooms he can spare in that mansion the school provides him. Since us dumb regular folk are supposed to surrender living space, shouldn't the same sacrifice be made of those deemed to be society's leaders?
Often government officials couch these kinds of issues not even related to the missions of their assorted agencies in terms henceforward causing them to fall within their respective jurisdictions.
For example, in Picture Maryland (Where Do We GO From Here?): A Citizen's Guide to Shaping the Future of Maryland, published by the State Department of Natural Resources with funds from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the ubiquitous environmental boogieman urban sprawl has been cast as a public health threat since it is blamed for increased reliance upon automobiles which supposedly leads to the epidemics of obesity and cardiovascular disease and social pathologies such as traffic accidents and sedentary lifestyles.
If the response to the current hoof and mouth crisis sweeping Europe is to serve as any indication, governments are exceedingly quick to use these kinds of challenges as an excuse to rein in their populations through excessive control. Maryland has already canceled an upcoming 4-H rally out of fear of this pestilence. For the geographically challenged, it should be rembered that Maryland isn't even in Europe.
In the future, Americans could find themselves forced out of their homes into the tight confines of eco-hamlets with their neighbors on grounds as preposterous as a spate of consecutive bad air days or a region's consumption of too many fossil fuels.
To combat urban sprawl, the State of Maryland suggests that residents be initially motivated through a series of carrot and stick incentives such as tax credits to find places of residence in the communities in which they work.
Yet before being kicked out by his old lady over a rumored affair with a staff member, Maryland Governor Paris Glendenning maintained a residence in the Maryland suburb University Park while the state's seat of government is nearly 20 miles away in Annapolis. And the miles wracked up in such a commute violating one of the Governor's most cherished principles of public planning pale in comparison to those wasted ferrying him to pointless public appearances.
The Journal editorial concludes, "If you've got to mess with all these little things, the least the federal government, oil companies, and so forth can do is to stop running those commercials with the uplifting music and start following checklists of their own."
Once politicians and other public personalities are compelled to comply with the same standards they seek to impose upon the average citizen, Americans will miraculously discover that the environment is not quite as bad as originally estimated.
This is Mr. Meekins' first contribution to Enter Stage Right. (c) 2001 by Frederick B. Meekins
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