TCS Daily

Earth Day's Disparate Impact

By Duane D. Freese - April 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Does Earth Day need a disparate impact statement? The thought may make many political conservatives cringe, but an accounting given at a forum on April 22 called "Eco-Imperialism: Reflections on Earth Day" at the National Press Club ought to give liberals pause as well about what extremist environmental positions mean for the world's poor and minorities.

For those who don't recall what disparate impact is, it was first enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. in 1971, when it ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act "proscribes not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation. The touchstone is business necessity."

Simply put, even if a policy or practice wasn't racist in intent it could have a decidedly bad discriminatory result, or impact, and an employer would have to change it unless he or she could demonstrate the policy or practice was necessary for the business.

By that standard, many of today's environmental laws and standards simply wouldn't pass muster.

As Niger Innis, a spokesperson at the Congress of Racial Equality, told reporters and others at the press club forum, environmental extremism has saddled people of color in the world with "debt and death." "It stifles infrastructure," Innis pointed out, preventing the development of more modern economies so that developing nations can get out of debt. Worse, it leads to death by denying people in developing nations simple treatments against many scourges.

"We must stop trying to protect our planet from every imaginable, exaggerated or imaginary risk. And we must stop trying to protect it on the backs, and the graves, of the nation's and world's most powerless and impoverished people," Innis said.

Paul Driessen, author of he book Eco-Imperialism and director of the Economic Human Rights Project, provided a Circle of Death promulgated by extreme environmentalism's anti-electricity, anti-development, anti-biotechnology and anti-pesticide, in particular anti-DDT, agenda.

"When Hurricane Isabel left the East Coast without power, we all felt how miserable it was to be without electricity," Driessen noted. "And that was only for a few days. Two billion people around the world never have electricity. ... They are deprived of light, and heat and power. ... They lack refrigeration to keep their food from spoiling and power in hospitals for sanitation and other purposes."

"The world's poor don't need sustainable development, they need sustained development," he argued.

Tech Central Station science host and Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas pointed out that the environmental agenda against the use of fossil fuels, as typified by the Kyoto protocol's call for cutbacks in their use, has dire consequences in a world where "1.8 million individuals die due to respiratory infections" caused by burning solid fuels such as wood and cow dung. For people in developing countries, second-hand smoke from cooking and heating needs is something they can't avoid by giving up cigarettes.

She said the Kyoto protocol -- and such American counterparts to it, as the McCain-Lieberman Act -- "overshadows energy poverty victims' ability to develop electrical power" while at the same time it would "fail to reduce concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" that environmentalists say threatens global warming.

"Kyoto would create a carbon cartel that would leave the developing countries of the world with the enormous burden of living without energy," she said.

Another extreme environmental policy -- controls of genetically modified foodstuffs, especially by Europeans -- has contributed to starvation in parts of Africa, where food aid has been rejected because it included GM grain, C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee Institute.

He said irrational fears of the technology, which he describes as a more precise extension of older cross breeding agricultural practices, is discouraging the development of new drought resistant crops and vitamin enriched ones, such as Golden Rice, which could provide the Vitamin A needed to prevent half a million cases of blindness and 100,000 deaths in the Third World annually.

Meanwhile, the ban of DDT, initiated for political and not scientific reasons by the Nixon administration back in the 1970s and now enforced on the world by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other groups, is killing one African child every 20 to 25 seconds, according to Roger Bate of the health advocacy groups Africa Fighting Malaria.

Developed nations used DDT to eradicate the malarial mosquitoes, but they are depriving African nations of using it in even environmentally safe manners to protect themselves from malaria, Bate said.

"It's time Congress put all these environmental policies in the cross hairs because the policies are killing people," Bate said.

Indeed, anti-electricity and anti-pesticide environmental policies contribute to 16.5 million deaths annual in the world from lung infection, internal diseases, malaria, typhus, yellow fever and dengue. Cancer is "no problem" because only the "lucky ones" live long enough to get it.

Norris McDonald, president of the African American Environmentalist Association, was even more blunt: "Earth Day is dead! At the tender age of 34, Earth Day is dead." Thanks to elitist attitudes in the environmental movement, that ignore the needs of minorities, McDonald proclaims, "Earth Day committed suicide."

Summing up the feelings of presenters, John Meredith of Project 21, the son of civil rights activist James Meredith, asked, "Is denying minorities here and abroad a chance at a better life really a cause worth pursuing?"

Celebrate Earth Day? For minorities around the world, environmental policies and practices have produced a disparate impact of death that make it a day for mourning, instead.


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