The Great Environmental Awakening

Increasingly, we are all environmentalists," Richard Darman, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, observed in a 1990 speech. "The President is an environmentalist. Republicans and Democrats are environmentalists. Jane Fonda and the National Association of Manufacturers, Magic Johnson and Danny DeVito, Candice Bergen and The Golden Girls, Bugs Bunny and the cast of Cheers are all environmentalists."

Yet, in Darman's view, the embrace of environmentalism is nothing to celebrate. If Americans want to keep faith with the American Romance and its commitment to individual initiative, risk-taking, and economic growth, he went on, they should reject the ideology of the environmental movement. "Americans did not fight and win the wars of the 20th century to make the world safe for green vegetables," he complained, warning that we seem to be turning into "a risk-o-phobic society."

Darman is hardly the first to contend that the values of environmentalism contradict those that have traditionally defined the American national character and the American Dream. Nonetheless, public opinion research amply confirms the popularity of environmentalism. An August 1991 Wall Street Journal poll revealed

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