Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with Adam Houser, the national director of collegians of CFACT – Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow.
CFACT is a national, non-profit organization that advocates for free-market environmentalism. According to Houser, CFACT seeks to protect the earth from serious environmental issues while at the same time distancing itself from radical environmentalists who “put the earth before people’s lives.”
“Free-market environmentalism” is central to CFACT’s mission. According to Houser, promoting free-market environmentalism means “allowing free markets to solve environmental problems” especially through technology, innovation, and free enterprise.
CFACT has been spreading the word on college campuses about environmental innovations that both help the environment and protect people. One example of such an innovation is the bird decal, a device that is placed in the windows of buildings and reflects incident ultraviolet light that birds can see, deterring birds from flying into windows: “about a million birds die every year from flying into windows.” Another example is the deer whistle, a device that is attached to a car and emits a sound audible to deer but inaudible to humans when the wind moves through it. The sound startles the deer, causing them to avoid roads and moving cars. This prevents potentially-lethal deer-to-car collisions. In ways such as these, capitalistic free-market environmentalism can “benefit the economy, but at the same time benefit the earth and people.”
Houser told me that his interest in this movement has roots in his religious Christian upbringing: “I believe that God made it our responsibility to protect [the earth].” His interest was solidified at Lafayette College through his experiences with the government, law, economics, and business program there. When others seemed to believe that going to extreme lengths to protect the earth was more important than people’s lives, he was convinced they needed to reevaluate their priorities. For instance, though many environmentalists believe that humans should not build more power plants, Houser expressed his feelings to the contrary: “[There are] millions of people living around the world who don’t have access to those things we take for granted every single day.”
Now, Houser works through CFACT to help college students nationwide advocate for those causes that affect human life. CFACT provides counter-arguments to the common media-hyped talking points, questioning whether fracking truly is always bad and whether global warming is indeed an imminent catastrophe.
At some schools, CFACT has helped students start petitions to make genetically modified foods — which often have the advantage of being able to feed more people — available to hungry people across the globe. “You might not want to eat it here because of some misinformation you’ve heard. That’s fine; we’re not going to force it on you,” he explained, but, as he later stated, people around the world with food insecurity should be allowed to make that choice for themselves.
CFACT has also helped students testify to the EPA regarding a clean power plan and challenge restrictions to free speech on college campus. Additionally, CFACT seeks to educate students on facts they have likely never heard before, such as the “great pause” over the past 18 years during which NASA confirms no statistically significant global warming has occurred. By presenting this kind of information, members of CFACT encourage even the students who don’t completely agree with them to question the often-inaccurate ideas on climate perpetuated by biased media sources.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is an issue on which Houser is particularly passionate. Fracking is the process of extracting natural gas and other sources of energy from the deep earth using pressurized fluid. Houser indicated that fracking contributes to lower gas prices and reduces the United States’ dependency on foreign oil.
He also pointed out that cheap natural gas especially benefits low-income households by reducing the cost of heating, thereby making utility bills more affordable. He claimed that fracking uses fewer resources – namely, less land and water – than extracting other forms of energy such as biodiesel, ethanol, and solar power. Therefore, fracking has less of an impact on ecosystems and may be “better for the environment” than typical so-called clean energy.
He mentioned that, despite claims, that primarily come from the Left, that fracking is dangerous to the environment and the water supply, even the EPA under President Obama concluded in a 2015 study that fracking is not majorly affecting our country’s drinking water. Additionally, citing 2012 data, he asserted that the natural gas boom bolstered by fracking has decreased US carbon emissions. “So if you’re concerned about global warming . . . fracking is your way to go.”
In its nationwide college campus activities, CFACT has sometimes been met with less than admiration from certain students and professors. Just before our interview, CFACT had been demonstrating support of fracking at Temple University. The focus of this event was to encourage people who want to learn more about environmental issues to come talk to them. “If you disagree with us, that’s fine,” Houser explained. “We’re not shoving this down anybody’s throats.”
Nevertheless, one student tore up their sign and cursed at them, and a professor “told [CFACT] we should be ashamed of ourselves for supporting such an event.” Houser believes there is a pattern of intolerance of disagreement from certain radical leftists: “The ‘tolerant left’ is only tolerant if you agree with them. The fact that anyone could even disagree with them at all – that just blows their minds and angers them.”
But with the exception of these occasional students who have been “impossible” to reason with, Houser believes CFACT appeals to many college students on both sides of the political spectrum. Many current college students have been taught from an early age that “industry is evil, we’re destroying the Earth, people are evil, there are too many people on this planet,” – all of which makes it difficult for students to be open to free-market environmentalism. As a result, CFACT must explain to college students that they are on the same side on many issues: CFACT’s stance is not that they “don’t care” if industry pollutes the environment, but rather that industry can better the environment and people’s lives in many ways.
Ultimately, working with people who hold different opinions is a central part of CFACT and of politics in general. Houser said that when he worked as a legislative assistant in New Jersey for two years, he found that “maintaining and forming relationships with people from across the aisle” to find common ground without sacrificing one’s principles is the most effective political strategy. He observed that legislators who were able to put aside their differences and reach common ground were by far the most accomplished. In the same way, CFACT seeks to bring together liberals and conservatives who care about the Earth to do good for our planet.
If you would like to learn more about CFACT, visit their website at http://www.cfactcampus.org.