The trouble with this poll, as with most others, is that too many Americans are poorly informed about jobs being created and economic gains being made because of environmental regulations. Extracting and burning coal poisons to death thousands of people each year, disables others and lays waste to the land and water, while ever advancing mining technology and techniques take their jobs.
At the same time, too few politicians—including ones who promise coal jobs will come back—give a hoot about miners or we’d have long since had laws and programs assisting those miners and other workers in coal-related fields get prepared for new jobs and then making sure they actually get them. Environmental laws aren’t luxuries. Saving endangered species isn’t a silly invention of New Agers. Stopping industries from forcing toxic waste products into people’s bloodstreams isn’t an unfair stifling of business enterprise. But providing nets, parachutes and ladders for the workers affected by these eco-laws is essential too.
Corporate propaganda plus a policy failure to provide bridges for workers displaced by the laws has gone a long way toward creating the 34 percent in the poll who say eco-laws cost too much. As we know too well, some portion of that 34 percent is made up of hopelessly stubborn people who will never change their minds. To them, environmental restrictions is inherently bad, climate change remains a hoax, green-minded Americans are actually reds, and national parks should be turned over to private corporations.
But, some portion of that third of Americans opposing these laws is persuadable. One way to change their minds—indeed, the approach we should be taking regardless of how much it persuades—is to adopt environmental policies that include both regulations and programs to ease the impact on workers of the changes mandated by those regulations.
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