Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D


Stupid Tourist Questions

Rangers at Mesa Verde National Park were asked:

Did people build this, or did Indians?

Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?

What did they worship in the kivas -- their own made-up religion?

Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?

Why did the Indians decide to live in Colorado?

The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said
Workman Publishing.

A Dim View of the U. S. from Abroad

Linda Stout Deak, an American residing in the Netherlands, 
writes the following in The Online Journal (6/2/01). Read it and weep!  

It is surprising to a friendly, open, swashbuckling American to feel the contempt that so many others feel for us . . .

Americans have a very limited notion or regard for world history and geography.  The outsiders consider us dumb.  Oh sure, we have our technology and bravado and friendly service, but most of us cannot separate the Balkans from the Baltics or Palma from Palermo.  Is Jakarta close to Madagascar?  I daresay, in the shrinking world, we have done ourselves a disservice.  the media's dumb-down has not been very helpful either...

Why do the Europeans dislike Bush so much?  He embodies the characteristics they find most distasteful in Americans: the fake smile, the absolute disregard for anything not American, the lack of curiosity about them as evidence by his woefully few visits to Europe, for starters.  The callous use of the death penalty in Texas truly galls almost all Europeans.  The politics of reducing taxes for the rich and allowing forty percent [correction: forty million -- Gadfly]  of Americans to go without health insurance is considered to be primitive beyond.  The bombing of Iraq at a time in history when peace is breaking out all over was shocking...

The blow to democracy that allowed Bush to occupy the White House has stunned the world.  We no longer have any right to swagger onto the world stage and brag about our democracy and our American values.  The Europeans know, and I can speak with some certainty that the rest of the world knows also, that fraud and an errant Supreme Court put Bush in the White House....  How can this new president be demanding civility when he took the presidency in this underhanded manner?  Where is the shame?... [Bush's handlers] are never going to be able o blow enough smoke to cover the fact that they stole this presidency and brought this globally public shame to America.

How can I say this"  How do I know this with such certainty, with such authority?  I am a Europeanist, just ask me.  Ask any man on the street in Europe.  They will tell you.  I am telling you this because my American heart is breaking and this has to be said.

On Failing to See the Connection....

Several years ago, on a trip through Utah, we found the following in the Provo (Utah) Daily Herald

I am almost 57 years old and have 8 children, 20 grandchildren and prospects for more posterity than that...  I am so angry because as a family, we have been going down to the beautiful southern parts of "Our Utah" for many years.  We have been able to teach our children about the beauty and history of the Indian nation and of our own ancestors who suffered and worked so hard to settle this beautiful state for us....

Every trip for the last three years we have found new restrictions in place....

We are not a bunch of fanatics of dummies, we value what we have here and want to preserve it and keep it for all to enjoy for years to come.

Ya Gotta Read it to Believe it. . . .

"Cut down the last redwood for chopsticks, harpoon the last blue whale for sushi, and the additional mouths fed will nourish additional human brains, which will soon invent ways to replace blubber with olestra and pine with plastic.  Humanity can survive just fine in a planet-covering crypt of concrete and computers."

Peter Huber
Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists
 -- A Conservative Manifesto.
  Basic Books, 2000


On Religious Belief and Public Policy

The direct influence of prophecy belief on nuclear decision making surfaced as an issue in the 1980s as the eschatological interests of several Reagan-administration officials became known.  Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, asked about the subject in 1982, replied, "I have  read the Book of Revelation, and yes, I believe the world is going to end -- by an act of God, I hope -- but every day I think that time is running out."  Interior Secretary-designate James Watt, questioned at his confirmation hearing about preserving the environment for future generations, forthrightly replied, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns."

Paul Boyer, When Time Shall be No More: 
Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture
(Harvard University Press).
Reported in Science, 27 November, 1992


The following occurred each average minute of the past year:

The net amount of tropical forest in the world was reduced -- mostly by burning -- by an area the size of sixty football fields.

In the US, suburban sprawl consumed over 2.5 acres of land.

Twenty-three children died of starvation or malnutrition.

Fifty people died of pesticide poisoning.

The global economy burned up an amount of energy (mostly fossil fuels), each minute that the planet took 10,000 minutes to produce through solar energy collection and photosynthesis.

"Matters of Scale"
July/August, 1999

Since the first "Earth Day" (1970):

Number of "media conglomerates" that dominated the U.S mass media -- including newspapers, books, magazines, film, radio, television and recorded music.     Fifty.

Number today:            Ten

Number of Prison Inmates in the United States in 1970:                200,000

Number of inmates expected to be reached this year:            Two Million

World Watch, March/April, 2000

Good News:

            Global average price for wind power in 1981:        $2,600 per kilowatt
                                                                ... in 1997:           $800 per kilowatt

            Average factory price for solar panel (photovoltaic) modules in 1975:   
                        $70 per watt
                         ... in 1997:      $4 per watt

            World production of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in 1988:
                        1,260,000 tons.
                       (legitimately) in 1996:              141 tons. 

   World Watch, March/April 1999

Bad News:

            Televisions per 1000 US citizens                                         805
            Daily Newspaper subscriptions per 1000 US citizens:          212

            Working vocabulary of average US 14 year old in 1950:      25,000 words
            Average vocabulary in 1999                                                10,000 words

World Watch, January/February 2000

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .