WHAT’S SO FUNNY ‘BOUT LOVING PLANET?

Earth Day was last week, and the reaction I heard most was laughter. People snickered. They rolled their eyes. Comedians used it in monologues.

Why such glee? When did people concerned about the environment get lumped in with UFO sighters and folks who believe Elvis is alive?

Sure, the idea of having a “day” may be silly. Mothers have days. Secretaries have days. Groundhogs have days. “Earth Day” may sound like something cooked up in a first-grade classroom. But that doesn’t explain the high school-like bullying it takes.

My guess is that global warming is behind the friction. For whatever reason, this issue has become as nasty as politics and as provincial as sports. You either believe in global warming or you don’t. And if you don’t, you may dismiss those who do as fruitcakes, tree-huggers and environmental kooks.

Some of this mocking is orchestrated by conservative talk-show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, who delights in calling experts “hysterical” and “pseudoscientists,” and who claims that there is no reason to believe in global warming – unless you’re a liberal lunatic blah, blah, blah.

Others follow suit. It’s easy to do. Making fun of environmentalists is prejudice without penalty. You can insult them all you want, and nobody wags a politically correct finger or pulls the plug on your broadcast. The Industrial Age

But it still doesn’t answer the question: Why? What is the big rush to discredit anyone who sounds an alarm on the environment? OK. Maybe you don’t believe global warming will end the world with floods and fires. Fine. But do you honestly think the way we live is GOOD for the environment?

Do you really think the exhaust and trash we create is HELPING? Do you really think oil refineries, coal plants and industrial waste facilities somehow date back to the Garden of Eden?

I am no environmental expert. But when I hear about the Earth’s temperature being raised by a degree, possibly more, when I read the basic facts about how the Earth is constructed and the fragile balance it requires, my immediate reaction is not to say, “What a load of crap. Fill ‘er up with diesel.”

I am inclined, like most thinking people, to believe that we have harmed the environment with the things we’ve created – as we have harmed our own bodies, which nobody disputes – and that we continue to do so. As to the degree, well, who knows? There is debate.

But the debate is not a “Does God Exist?” debate. It’s a question of how bad. So why does one side want to crush the other? A battle of causes

I look at who has a dog in the hunt. On the one hand, you have environmentalists. There’s not much money in it. There are more fun things to do. Maybe they scream a little loudly, but near as I can tell, that’s because they believe in their cause. Life would no doubt be easier for them if they simply ignored gases, pollutants, sludge and chemicals and went on blissfully shopping and driving.

On the other hand, there are oil companies. Energy companies. Car companies. Manufacturers. There’s a lot of money in that. It is well worth it to these concerns to pay lawyers and lobbyists huge sums to insure that nothing stands in their way of a profit.

So you tell me: Who is more inclined to exaggerate for their cause? To spin the story?

And who are you going to believe?

Personally, while I recognize there are alarmists everywhere, a little cutting back, a little less waste, isn’t going to ruin my life. Because one day in the future, if our children have to hear, “See, we told you,” I’d rather it not be from the side that, right now, so many of us make fun of.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.

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