Making Environmental Sense

Eric Herman Headshot

Eric HermanI’ve always found it peculiar that environmentalism is so controversial. Considering that we all depend on natural resources to survive and fuel the engines of society, it makes me wonder why would anyone in their right mind would ever take issue with protecting the earth and all it provides? 

That’s obviously a massively naïve question, however, to anyone who pays any attention to the public discourse over all things green. Ever since John Muir started proposing that we set aside massive tracks of land for national parks and especially since Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring” and triggered the modern environmental movement, the issue of just how to take care of the planet has been a hotbed of often-angry controversy. 

To my ears, the debates have become so rote, so annoyingly predictable, as to almost function now in the realm of mind-numbing cliché.  We’ve all heard it countless times before: those in favor of caring for the earth are often characterized as fanatic “tree huggers” while in the other direction those who oppose green initiatives are seen as self-centered, uncaring industrialists. While that thorny give and take rolls along, year after year, somewhere off to the side in an ironically tangential sense is the indisputable fact that nature itself just doesn’t care. 

Of course, over the past few years, the consuming polemic over global warming has pressed the two sides further into their camps with allegations of intellectual fraud flowing in both directions. What I find suspect about the climate change debate is that it’s created so many armchair climatologists. Ever since Al Gore shared his “Inconvenient Truth” the interpretation of climate data has been colored by political orientation to the point where the whole thing has now become far more an exercise in propaganda than anything resembling empirical discussion. 

All of this public palaver has continued to unfold during a time when concerns over the environment have increased in our collective consciousness. Despite the controversy, or perhaps in some cases because of it, the private sector and the government both have place all things “green” on the front burner. 

Personally, I see the controversy over environmentalism as a massive false dilemma. Ask yourself, do you really know anyone who wants to see our natural resources trashed in favor of a quick buck? Or do you know anyone who thinks that we should destroy private enterprise as a way to preserve those natural resources? 

Almost everyone I talk to, on either side of the intellectual divide argues for balance between the needs of the environment and the needs of society. And most fair thinking people will acknowledge that we need to honor and act in the best interest of both. 

The pool and spa industry has been no stranger to this macro trend and the divides that have sprung from it. From pools treated using natural biological processes to energy-efficient heating systems and pump technology to calls for efficient hydraulic designs, one of my personal favorite hobby horses, “going green” has become a standard part of our industry’s milieu. 

Yet, that constant drumbeat of packaged messaging had caused a sort of environmental fatigue in some who see the issue as more of a marketing scam than any kind of sincere effort. If consumers are interested in environmentalism, then let’s sell it to them, right? By same token there are those who believe the whole thing is a liberal-driven scam to consolidate power in government by pinning back the ears of industry with regulation. 

Those skeptics often point to the supposed fraud behind global warming as the stick with which this broad conspiring rabble comprised of tree-huggers and post-hippy burnouts are using to drive their agenda.

Personally, I don’t know if global warming is man-made or not, because no matter how much I study the data and read the interpretations there of, I’m not a scientist specializing in climate change – and my bet is neither are you. On one hand some of the worst-case prognostications strike me as extreme, while on the other I find it difficult to completely dismiss the mass of scientific opinion that supports concerns over global warming. 

So when in doubt, why not stick with what we do know for sure. Conserving energy makes sense, whether you believe in global warming or not. It saves money and ultimately reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources.  We also know that conserving water makes sense. Our entire existence relies on the availability of potable water, and in the case of the pool and spa industry, water is utterly indispensable. 

This is why, for as long-winded and often tiresome as the debates over all things green have become, I support energy-efficient design and treatment schemes that conserve water. It’s not politics, but simple logic, and that really should never be controversial. 

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