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Subscribers William B. Owens, Jr. and Norman L. Webber say our January 1998 report on the effects of El Nino on Christmas Island (“Has El Nino Ruined This Island Paradise?” pages 1-3) was anti-environmental in tone. Both subscribers object to our including environmental organizations in what we called an “unholy alliance… that threatens our ability to act wisely.” Owens says the report insulted him as a “responsible environmentalist who endeavors to create dialogue and find solutions to problems that others (this writer included) are content to sweep under the carpet.” He challenges us to describe our commitment to the environment.

First, it pleases us to know that we have among our subscriber base, people who obviously care as deeply as Owens and Webber do about the environment. We share that concern. Given enough space in this newsletter, we could make that clear, too. Under the circumstances, about all we can do is spell out how our environmental insights apparently diverge from those of Owens and Webber.

Basically, we believe environmentalism has long since moved from being a fringe issue to being a mainstream concern. One of the biggest threats to it, we think, is a loss of faith by millions of everyday people who have come to agree that we need to save the Everglades, rescue trout streams and wisely manage our National Forests. What will cause that loss of faith is the kind of irresponsible science and reporting we deplored in our Christmas Island story. It’s just not true that there has been an “environmental collapse” at Christmas Island or that the ocean temperature reached 98 degrees.

With apologies to those who disagree, we think the tale of the little boy crying wolf applies. If environmental scientists and others don’t quit shrieking in the streets about things that are demonstrably false no one is going to believe there really are environmental problems out there. And whose hands is that going to play into? – Don Causey.

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