Everybody likes clean air and water, right?

There are at least three major focal points of modern environmentalist activism: endangered species, climate change, and toxins in the air, water, and food supply. Endangered species and climate change seem to get a lot more press than pollution does in the recent past. That’s unfortunate. Endangered species is an issue where decent people can disagree with rational and legitimate arguments on each side. Climate change is an issue for which I think the scientific consensus is overwhelming and the denial and skepticism is extremely weak.

However, it is also an issue that does not resonate well with the natural functioning of the human brain. The lack of clear connection between cause-and-effect and the long timeframe make it hard for most people to make sense of the science. This leads most people to choose between a future unknown and some immediate impact. For obvious reasons, most people really have no choice but to think pragmatically about this topic. And, pragmatism often means sticking one’s head in the sand with regard to far-off, long-term consequences.

On the other hand, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t care that the air that they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat are all free of deadly toxins.

Gallup has been asking a question about environmental protection for the past 35 years. It is interesting to see that there has been a sustained shift in recent years toward environmental protection reaching levels not seen in a sustained way since the Clinton administration.

From https://news.gallup.com/poll/1615/environment.aspx:

Obviously, the wording of the question is open to interpretation. However, it is unlikely that most people who answered this question prior to the year 2000 were thinking about anything other than air and water pollution. I don’t think global warming got on the radar of a majority of the population as a major political issue until Al Gore ran for president that year.

There is disagreement, to be sure, as to what things are truly toxic and at what level. However, those are scientific matters for which an honest and ongoing debate can be had in an evidence-based fashion. it is unfortunate that there has not been more focus on this issue and less on the others. It is easy to get people behind the concept of clean water and air. You don’t have to grasp or accept the science of climate change. You just need to want a little control over the things that go into your body. There’s a good reason to want this control. https://www.ccair.org/why-clean-air-matters/

The cool thing about focusing on environmental pollution is that it’s a trifecta without ever having to mention the other two legs of the stool. By and large, clean air equals reduced greenhouse gases. Clean air and water and less toxic residue from pesticides and herbicides in the soil will reduce significant threats to many species. A green-energy economy would be less polluting, but the impact on endangered species would be less certain. It really depends upon the implementation. Rooftop solar should be low or no impact. Building solar farms that span thousands of acres of desert in Arizona or wind farms doing the same in Nebraska may not bother many humans, but there is a native ecosystem already there. Nuclear power will have a waste disposal problem if new plants continue to use plutonium but not if new plants are built to use thorium.