Veneer Environmentalism Strikes

Sometimes in Raleigh a legislator, with the best of intentions, can do a lot of harm.

Here’s one example: I call it veneer environmentalism. Environmentalism that sounds good. And feels good. But creates problems. Because it’s based on politics and not on science.

Back in 1999, a group of legislators said riparian buffers were the solution to water quality problems in rivers and lakes. The idea sounded fine. They meant well. And they passed a law requiring riparian buffers along rivers, including the Catawba River.

But, the other day, I learned a surprising fact: The City of Hickory owns over a hundred acres along Lake Hickory and would like to create a waterfront park with a riverwalk. Now a riverfront park sounds like an environmentally friendly idea. It doesn’t sound like a threat to the river. And the public would benefit. But the State Department of Environment told the city, No, because the riverwalk would have been beside the river in the riparian buffer.

Hickory had just given us an example of how veneer environmentalism creates problems. How it ignores facts. Ignores science. Picks an easy political target. And proclaims victory. But it’s a political rather than a scientific solution.

It’s time to stop playing politics and start identifying the real sources of problems. And using science to fix them. If, in one case, a riparian buffer solves a problem, fine. But, if in another case, it doesn’t solve the problem, well, let’s let Hickory build a riverwalk in a city park.

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