Is the novel coronavirus pandemic the end of environmentalism?

The Beer Flu panic has triggered massive changes in American (and world) society. These changes may or may not continue once the danger (and fear and panic) subsides. We have yet to see.

One of the critical areas is the environment. We have been told for two decades now that the world is coming to an end due to manmade global warming. That we are destroying the oceans. The rainforests. And more, if we do not change our practices massively.

Consider recycling. Already, the industry was gravely ill, due to China choking off imports of recycled paper and plastic, and greatly limiting cardboard and metal. And similar actions by other end-markets, such as India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Now, in the Fifty States, recycling has come to a virtual end.

Restaurants, serving take-out and delivery, are generating myriads of pounds of plastic and paper waste. Including much that can not be recycled: styrofoam, coated paper, aluminized paper and cardboard and such. Supermarkets and convenience stores, so recently FORCED and forcing customers to use reusable cloth bags, are now FORBIDDING the use of cloth and other reusable bags, for fear of virus contamination. Same thing for drinking cups – sorry, no refills allowed. Buy a new cup and throw it away after just one use.

And most cities appear to have ended curbside recycling programs and closed recycling dropoff points, for safety reasons. (Trash collection is an “essential” service for health and safety reasons. So the recyclables are getting sent to landfills with the rest of the trash.) And not much is getting shipped outside the country, as the world economy grinds to a government-forced halt.

Many of these shattered habits took years to impose and get people to habitually do. It may be very difficult to get people to go back to doing these things – which are often a pain to do. Especially in light of the massive fear of infection and contamination that has been created by the Beer Flu Panic.

But there is more. EPA and many state agencies are suspending rules. One common type of requirement is doing visible emissions monitoring: this requires people to be recertified every six months in “smoke school,” which is conducted every spring and fall in large groups, using very expensive and frustratingly-difficult-to-use equipment that produces measured amounts of smoke so that people can “calibrate their eyeballs.” They can then “read smoke” (and dust) and determine whether the source meets environmental permit conditions and regulatory requirements. But now, the states (and private companies) which run those smoke schools have been shut down for fear of COVID-19. By the end of April, there may be no one certified to do such observations.

So (for now) agencies are “cutting industry some slack” IF they are critical (essential) industries.

On the “Plus side” (depending on your point of view), the lockdown (36 states as I write this) has cut travel by 39% nationwide. Fuel consumption has dropped like a rock. So production and refineries are throttling back – even shutting down. In many major urban areas, the freeways and downtown streets are nearly completely empty. And the cops are going around with loudspeakers ordering people to stay in their homes (in one case, threatening fines of $5000 and a year in jail). Expect consumption to continue to drop. The skies above many urban areas are cleaner than they’ve been in nearly a century.

Combined with this drop in traffic is the effort by Russia and Saudi Arabia to destroy the American oil industry. This is the main cause (according to information from those in the industry – NOT the media) of oil prices collapsing (down to $20.31 a barrel as I write this). And therefore punishing economies of Texas, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Dakota, Alberta, and even Colorado even more. AND reducing the environmental impact of those operations.

Tourism is dead, at least for 2020 – both across the Fifty States and worldwide. Just as ground traffic has collapsed, so is air traffic (down to 20% of normal at last report) and sea traffic. Those vast oil carriers and container ships are now rusting in port, and may be for months to come. Air and water pollution is dropping as well.

These things have undoubtedly thrown a kink into the vaunted and hyped doomsday calendars of the environists. How long this lasts, and how much things change permanently, may either speed up their countdown to doomsday, or get people to realize there are more important things to worry about.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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