Off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, two million old tires are pounding into reefs, destroying the ecosystem and littering the shoreline. It’s an environmentalist catastrophe.
That’s right – environmentalist. This disaster might as well be sponsored by your favorite left-wing environmental group. Do-gooders launched this project back in 1972 to save the oceans, spawn fish and rid the earth of mountains of tires that posed health and fire hazards.
Only it didn’t quite work that way. Environmentalists and their usual fans in the media are whispering a collective “oops.” As the October 2 Washington Post reported it, “Now the idea seems daft. But in the spring of 1972, the dumping of a million or so tires offshore here looked like ecological enlightenment.”
Someone should have told Gang Green about the law of unintended consequences, because it took decades for researchers to realize the extent of the mistake. The Post piece estimated it would take three years and cost $3 million to $5 million just to clean up this one error.
That’s nothing new for the American environmental movement. They warned us about the devastation that never happened from the Alaskan pipeline; stymied nuclear power with the help of Hollywood and convinced the world that DDT was dangerous – costing millions of lives.
Back at the time when supposedly great minds were envisioning dumping millions of tires off the coast, other environmentalists were battling what they called “oil industry propaganda” about the planned pipeline in Alaska. A Nov. 14, 1973, New York Times editorial claimed “passage of the Alaska pipeline bill is the triumph of scare propaganda and economic pressure over reasoned public policy.” Oops. The pipeline has been a miraculous success.
Environmentalists consistently whine about energy sources, from coal to oil and natural gas. The French have found an easy solution – nuclear power. But most environmentalists oppose that as well. It’s good enough for their friends in France, though. That nation gets about 80 percent of its power from nuclear energy. Still the Sierra Club and other enviro-extremists fight it, saying in a recent statement, “Nuclear power is considered to be the least safe alternative to fossil fuels as well as the most expensive alternative.” Oops again.
Of course, the Sierra Club once considered DDT one of “the world's deadliest poisons,” according to a March 2001 comment from Michael Gregory. He represented the organization with the U.N. to “stop the production and use of these toxic chemicals, dubbed POPS – persistent organic pollutants.” Millions of malaria deaths later, the U.N.’s World Health Organization  (WHO) endorsed using pesticide DDT for malaria control in poor nations.
According to WHO, “each year, more than 500 million people suffer from acute malaria, resulting in more than 1 million deaths.” Most of that suffering happens in sub-Saharan Africa, a place that already has more than its share of tragedy. They can lay the blame for preventable malaria squarely on environmentalists.
The WHO press release made that much clear: “Environmental Defense, which launched the anti-DDT campaign in the 1960s, now endorses the indoor use of DDT for malaria control, as does the Sierra Club and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.”
Oops, they did it again. Maybe Britney Spears can take some time away from motherhood to be their spokes-celeb. Only the tune the environmentalists are singing isn’t current. It’s straight out of the ’60s and ’70s. The eco-movement still is bellowing “Big Yellow Taxi” complaining how business “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Now we find the environmentalists were in the driver’s seat of numerous man-made mistakes.
The tire reefs are just one more example. The first ones appeared in the 1950s, but the idea caught on as used tires were increasingly seen as an environmental problem. According to the Atlantic and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, “throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s millions of un-ballasted tires were systematically placed” off the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Those are the exact kind causing havoc off the coast of Florida.
The Fisheries Commission explained that “most coastal states have restricted or formally banned tire use in artificial reefs” because of all the problems. Fortunately, technological innovation created a market for recycled tires and helped stop the environmentalists.
A Huntington Beach fishing club spokesman was quoted by the Los Angeles Times in 1986 after another failed artificial reef littered the shore with tires. He explained, “The road to hell is paved with our good intentions – and our tires.”
Is that the kind of road America wants to take on the enviro-issue du jour – global warming? Only if we care more about good intentions than good results.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.