[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]
The story of environmentalism is generally portrayed as one of citizens triumphing over evil corporate polluters, of public awareness, science, and affluence working together to solve pressing problems. There is no problem so huge or so abstract that we cannot solve it if we put our minds to it And solving these problems yields all sorts of positive side-effects and no drawbacks.
While that may be the perception, it is far from the fact. Public awareness is easily swayed by media campaigns that are little more than propaganda and supported by a press that would rather take sides than present balanced reports. Science is largely bought and paid for by politicians who control the agenda and the outcome. And our affluence, or what is left of it, is viewed as an inexhaustible source of revenue for whatever fantastic ideas the political class can dream up. Negative consequences of such folly are viewed as so impossible as to be unworthy of discussion.