Lately the news seems to be all disasters all the time (although the one in New York was fortunately averted). Silver linings seem few and far between.
But Paul Krugman makes some interesting points about a possible silver lining in the Gulf disaster in today's New York Times. He notes that the environmental movement has been declining in influence for many years, largely because of successful efforts at reducing visible pollution. But
as visible pollution has diminished, so has public concern over environmental issues. According to a recent Gallup survey, “Americans are now less worried about a series of environmental problems than at any time in the past 20 years.”
This decline in concern would be fine if visible pollution were all that mattered — but it isn’t, of course. In particular, greenhouse gases pose a greater threat than smog or burning rivers ever did. But it’s hard to get the public focused on a form of pollution that’s invisible, and whose effects unfold over decades rather than days.
The decline in visibility made it easier for the right wing and business groups to push back against environmental regulations.
Then came the gulf disaster. Suddenly, environmental destruction was photogenic again.
It's too soon to tell if this will lead to a change in attitudes, but images are powerful things.
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