Listen to this article

David Marrone’s recent letter is a perfect example of the argument against government action to counteract environmental catastrophe: It is wrong.

He starts with a wide swing at a favorite whipping boy of the right, teachers’ unions, which Marrone says send “90 percent” of dues money to “one political party,” which is incorrect. Union contributions to political parties are voluntary member contributions separate from dues.

He then cites a famous anti-littering ad “in the ‘60s,” which debuted in 1971, in which Marrone claims a “Chief,” actually an Italian-American actor and not even portraying a chief but a generic Native American, exemplified individual commitment. The ad was actually part of an industry propaganda campaign sponsored by Phillip Morris and other big polluters like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, to divert growing public pressure from corporate responsibility for pollution.

Next he cites Lady Bird Johnson, actually an advocate of government environmental regulation.

Marrone trumpets the successes since 1970, when the Environmental Protection Agency began, and falsely claims the Great Lakes cleanup, after decades of industrial pollution, as an example of individual action, ignoring the Clean Water Act of 1972 and other government initiatives as well as public-private efforts.

He is right about one thing. Ordinary people must take conscientious action to save our future on Earth, but we must do it by demanding our governments take this existential threat seriously and act with life-and-death urgency.