On January 31, 1968, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army began a series of over 100 surprise attacks across South Vietnam. Although the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were taken by surprise, most attacks were quickly contained and tremendous casualties were inflicted upon the communist forces. Tet failed militarily and the communist forces suffered losses that should have eventually cost them the war.
However, Tet succeeded in the realm of public opinion and created the impression in the U.S. that the war was unwinnable. President Johnson shuffled military leadership, and the strategy shifted to one resulting in withdrawal and the fall of South Vietnam. This is analogous to the public relations war being waged by the environmental movement.
The ongoing success of the environmental movement is based on the effectiveness of its public relations. As voters and consumers, we must be sufficiently convinced by the urgency of the green message to make changes in our economic choices. But the environmental movement is failing. Worldwide, people want bigger houses, more cars, richer diets, and other trappings of the wealthy Western lifestyle. And the world’s population is increasing, creating greater numbers of aggressive consumers.
Here in the U.S., the desire for bigger and more luxurious houses helped to fuel the real estate bubble which has burst so dramatically. Years of hectoring us about biodiversity, endangered species, old-growth forest, etc., have failed to stop the global population from becoming increasingly consumptive of the world’s resources. The quiet rural farmland in the Midwest where I grew up bicycling and hunting has been plastered over by suburban sprawl. Each former woodlot sports a new air-conditioned home atop a chemically manufactured lawn, an SUV in every driveway.
The environmental movement has had some symbolic successes. We recycle more bottles. Industrial technology is cleaner. There are more wolves and bald eagles in North America now then there were thirty years ago. Fewer bars allow smoking. We seem to care more about environmental issues, and our cars are plastered with all sorts of bumper stickers to that effect. We give our old clothing to Goodwill so we can buy new wardrobes of organic cotton and hemp. But as a species most of us are not interested in pruning our economic choices to consume fewer resources. We want ever expanding lifestyles. As a species, we are gluttonous.
The environmental movement knew that its public relations efforts were failing. But the movement had a new weapon: the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
Finally they had an urgent message of impending global doom, focusing on carbon dioxide emission, no less — an inescapable consequence of so many primary components of our modern lifestyles. The intense effort to saturate our media consciousness with AGW was the Tet Offensive of the environmental movement — a desperate attempt to take control of the public perception. Submit now, before it is too late!