Matthew Simonson has a column in the Nov. 30 Record pointing out that the environment is something all of us should be concerned about.

Just because a majority of Williams students don’t go to Greensense meetings or e-mail College Council about paper towels doesn’t mean they think protecting their environment is unimportant. Likewise, in the country at large, environmentalists are not the only ones who care about the environment. From backyard astronomers who abhor smog and excessive lighting, to recreational hunters and fishermen who enjoy the outdoors, environmentalism is a concern of millions of Americans, even if they don’t call it that. In the end, environmentalism can’t be rightfully classified as a special interest. It affects all of us.

This is obviously true. Those of us who find some of the campus environmentalist groups a little too zealous for our tastes, however, do not argue that the environment does not matter. Instead, we recognize that environmental concerns have to be weighed against other concerns.

For example, environmental regulations limit economic freedom, which in turn stifles economic growth. So we should ask ourselves whether it is fair for first world countries to ask third world countries to act as oxygen sweatshops for the West by encouraging growth stifling regulations on their economies. Further, As Sen. Kennedy and Walter Cronkite have recently demonstrated by refusing to have windmills built in the Nantucket Sound visible from their Cape Cod homes, there is a tradeoff between “environmentally-friendly” sources of energy and the natural beauty we each enjoy.

Matt points out at one point that recently two dozen House Republicans got cold feet during reconciliation about opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. Yet it’s worth also looking at why the Labor-HHS approps bill got sent back to committee. Namely, over the extent to which the federal government should be providing low-income heating assistance. It is probably not worthwhile to have a debate over ANWR on this message board, but there is a certain irony in simultaneously voting to limit supply while complaining that prices are too high.

So I agree with Matthew that the environment matters, but the more interesting questions are what tradeoffs are required when we become too religious in our desire to protect the environment and whether government regulation is really the best way to evaluate these tradeoffs.

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