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Environmental Researcher:
It's Time to Think Small

by Don Jenkins
Capital Press, June 1, 2022

"Does anybody care about this but me?"
-- Todd Myers, Washington Policy Center

Washington Policy Center environmental director Todd Myers, with his bees in the Cascade foothills, has stinging criticism of how government approaches environmental issues. CLE ELUM, Wash. -- Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center has written a book on the conservation-minded doing "cool, positive things that are collaborative, rather than combative."

It's due for release in November, and he wonders if anyone will read it.

"Like once a week when I was writing the book, I thought, 'Does anybody care about this but me?'"

Myers argues that individual actions, though not flashy, are what's needed now to improve the environment. He acknowledges that landmark laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act cut pollution from smokestacks and wastewater outfalls, but maintains that the source of environmental problems are more diffuse now and that politicians, addicted to the grand gesture and overreaching, are ill-suited to solve them.

His book is called, "Time to Think Small: How Nimble Environmental Technologies Can Solve the Planet's Biggest Problems." On the cover, a bee straddles a cell phone.

The book's premise is that, like bees, people can work together to be productive. Connected by technology, people can prevent blackouts, conserve water, track endangered species, foil poachers and otherwise improve the environment one nongovernmental innovation at a time.

Myers, the environmental director for the Seattle-based free-market think tank, calls them "small personal solutions ... more flexible ... more dynamic" and in contrast to government environment policies that are "unbelievably expensive, unbelievably ineffective."

"What I want to do is give people more power," he said. "I make the point in the book that the more concerned you are about greenhouse gases, the less you should put the future of the planet in the hands of politicians and the whims of voters."

A decade ago, Myers, 52, wrote, "Eco-Fads," excoriating what he saw as the vanity and hubris of environmental policymaking.

He wrote that science and economics were yielding to the social value of being perceived as "green" and that "follow the science" meant pushing a predetermined position rather than committing to disinterested inquiry.

Myers said he is as frustrated as ever about how government approaches environmental problems.

"Environmental policies and decisions that we make are not connected to good environmental outcomes," he said. "We make it based on what feels good and what makes politicians look good.

"They think being big and being bold reflects on them," he said. "They get an ego boost from saying, 'I'm literally going to save the planet.'"

They would be more humble and careful if they had to patch leaky pipes, he said.

"If they failed to fix the plumbing, they would feel the cost. But if they fail at environmental policy, they don't feel the cost of messing up people's lives."

Myers has analyzed and commented on environmental policies for two decades, choosing whatever subject strikes him. "Generally, what sucks me in is where there is a gigantic gap between the rhetoric and reality," he said.

Graphic: Wild Chinook runs to the Lower Snake River as counted at the highest dam in place at the time. (1961-2020) His favorite topics include the Snake River dams, Washington's snowpack, wolves and the "science" of round numbers.

He recently noted that spring chinook salmon runs, as counted at the farthest upriver dam on the Snake River, have increased in the past three years.

The counts contradict the claim that the dam and three others must be breached to save the run from extinction, according to Myers, who sits on the Puget Sound Recovery Council, a state advisory body.

He called dam breaching a "good example of how environmental fads take hold," leading politicians to ignore data and make wildly inaccurate claims.

In that vein, Myers likes to point out that Washington's snowpack has so far held up, even though the state law that requires carbon emissions to be cut by 95% by 2050 lists "lack of snowpack" as evidence of a climate emergency.

A newspaper columnist mocked Myers' observation on the "continued existence of snow" as a "zingy rejoinder to the irrefutable evidence of a warming planet."

To which Myers replied that it was environmentalist activists, not he, who made claims about the snowpack.

On wolves, Myers says Washington's recovery plan was based on the flawed assumption that wolves would spread across the state.

They have not, he wrote in a recent blog. Wolves are bunched mostly in northeast Washington, making a small group of people bear the costs, "so we can all enjoy the recovery of a magnificent animal."

It's Myers' turn to mock when he observes that policies that purport to be scientific are always divisible by five.

He calls the state's cap-and-trade law to reduce greenhouse gases from manufacturers by 50% by 2030 an example of a purportedly science-based policy landing on round numbers and of government getting in over its head.

Consider, he said, the response to COVID. "How is affecting the entire energy system of Washington easier? It's not. It's harder."

Don Jenkins
Pattern of Inaccuracy Doesn't Stop Dam Destruction Advocates
Capital Press, June 1, 2022

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