Polluting Our Minds

Rich Denoncourt’s article titled “Colgate ‘Green Bigots’ Pollute the Barge” from the April 8th issue of the Maroon-News is one of the most condescending, insulting and more importantly, blatantly ignorant rants that I’ve witnessed since I’ve been at Colgate. Mr. Denoncourt bases his arguments against environmentalism on a homemade sign on display at the Barge, from which point he goes on to make all sorts of ridiculous generalizations. The alleged sign apparently says something about stopping development in Hamilton in the name of preserving the natural environment. Let me start by saying that I am not necessarily defending this display but rather responding to the gross conclusions which Mr. Denoncourt draws from it. I am unfamiliar with the development situation in Hamilton, but I fully acknowledge that growth is a necessary aspect of a healthy, functioning society. To denounce expansion altogether, if that is in fact what the sign’s maker is attempting here, is somewhat fanatical and ineffective. I do not deny that there are misinformed “environmentalists” out there, but there are similar individuals in every group; tasteless fanaticism is by no means particular to environmentalism. I assure you, however, that the vast majority of “environmentalists” at Colgate are extremely well-informed. From ENST concentrators to SEA members to Outdoor Ed. programs, Colgate is helping to foster the next generation of environmentally aware, thinking citizens at a time when the world needs them more than ever. Our past of environmental degradation seems to have finally caught up with us; the “environmentalists” of today are no longer concerned simply with the preservation of natural beauty, but even more with the effects our actions are having on the human population. Mr. Denoncourt attacks the environmental movement as “anti-industry, anti-development, and anti-technology.” I’ll address those one at a time. One of today’s leading environmental thinkers, Bill McDonough, with whom I got to spend some time while interning when him over Christmas break, is anything but anti-industry and development. Mr. McDonough has successfully partnered with industry leaders such as Bill Ford to clean up factories and create in them better working environments. He is transforming Ford Motor Company’s notoriously polluting River Rouge plant into a 21st century model for clean emissions and runoff, all the while maintaining production levels and increasing worker satisfaction. As for development, I alluded to one of his convictions earlier when I acknowledged that growth is not inherently evil. It is, rather, only when we expand without regard for anything but ourselves that we get into trouble by harming the environment and everything in it that relies on water and air for survival (ourselves very much included). And anti-technology? Caring about the impact we have on the air we breathe and the water we drink doesn’t make one regressive: wind farming, geothermal processes and hydroelectric dams (despite their occasional shortcomings), to name a few, include some of the most advanced energy sources around. At one point in his ranting, Mr. Denoncourt writes that by advocating open spaces and being “pro-clean air,” “environmentalists” have “denounced private property.” First of all, how can anyone in their right mind possibly not be pro-clean air? There is no debate that the technology exists today for the industrial world to curb pollution levels without sacrificing output. Industrial ties to political leadership, however, present constant roadblocks against passing legislation which would mandate the implementation of such technology. Secondly, linking environmentalism with communistic notions (i.e., the rejection of private property) as Mr. Denoncourt does is absurd. I might as well respond by equating all conservatives to anarchists.I have placed the term environmentalist in quotation marks throughout this piece because I do not particularly care for the word. Despite what Mr. Denoncourt would have you believe, environmentally-conscious students and faculty at Colgate are not all tree-hugging animal rights activists (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but rather, far more often, simply people who give a damn about the wellbeing of the human race and the future of the world in which we live. And they are people who have the grits to try to do something about it, rather than sit idly by and let their children after them bear the consequences of the mess we create today. It seems apparent that these concerns ought to be shared by all, and for the most part I think that this is, in fact, the case. Instead of labeling the vast majority who share these concerns on at least some level, maybe we should group together those who seem apathetic to such issues and call them regressive, a label of which they are very deserving.