Earth Day propaganda, coming at us again this Saturday, has become an educational and political orthodoxy that is heresy to question. But do we really have to make drastic changes to “save the planet”?

First of all, the “planet” has already survived cataclysms worse than us several times over and lived to tell about it. Let’s be honest, we are not “saving the planet,” we are trying to ensure a better quality of life for ourselves and our children. Extremism is not required but dedicated common sense is.

Since I first became aware of it as a problem of modern life I have been concerned about the environment. In Sunday school I learned that it honors God to treat his creation with respect. In Cub Scouts I learned to leave a campsite in as good or better shape than I originally found it. In junior high my award-winning art project was a sketch of a domed city with a controlled atmosphere because of the conditions outside it.

On the first Earth Day I proudly displayed the green and white striped flag decal, with the Theta in the field, in my front window. Being a child of the 1950s in Kern County and living under the shadow of the Red Scare, radical environmentalism was suspected as being an outgrowth of Communist influence.

As the hypnotic mantra in the 1967 “B” sci-fi movie “Battle Beneath the Earth” put it, “Red is green and green is red. East sunrise and the West is dead.”

Sorry, I’m not ready to give up my personal liberty for the cause. But I always thought concern for the surrounding environment should be a natural part of good citizenship. Free people can be much more innovative in solving their own problems.

The best example of common sense environmentalism I can think of is the farmers in our valley. I have learned to appreciate what great conservationists farmers are. Through the years farmers have been asked to do more and more with less and less. Development has pushed farms farther out into wastelands, labor has opposed mechanization, and it seems every advance in production has been impaired by an environmental regulation trying to stop it from happening.

Still, production has continued to adapt and increase. Waste was eliminated and uses were found for almost every byproduct. Wastes from dairies are being turned to fuel and fertilizer. The expansion of orchard crops with drip irrigation has helped conserve water, mitigate our hot summers and reduce PM10 pollution. The costs compared to the price for crops due to onerous regulation and foreign competition has driven many farms to or near bankruptcy. Until recently the state has for years drastically reduced, and nearly eliminated, their water delivery. In spite of all this most of those farmers are determined to go on. Now that’s dedication.

Unfortunately common sense environmentalism isn’t nearly as common these days as are the once rare activists, now become bureaucrats, who want to force one-size-fits-all solutions on every problem. The rules being handed down from the federal EPA and Sacramento are costing us all more and more to protect us from less and less. The Californian’s Lois Henry has written extensively on how water issues and air standards have been used to punish the valley into compliance. I cannot improve on her work here.

We meet the standard on PM10 and ozone, and then they throw at us PM2.5 restrictions. God got tired of waiting for the state to use the bond money to solve our water problems so he answered the accumulated prayers and ended the drought himself. But even then the state still doesn’t want to let go of control.

Out of concern for “sustainability” the state has given us the strictest emission standards for vehicles, the most ambitious mandates for renewable power generation, and the strictest new construction standards in the country.

This is a good thing, to a point, but it also makes all of those things more expensive than anywhere else in the country. Before we totally convert to Earth worshippers we need to take into consideration whether all these standards are “sustainable” for our economy and our liberty.

Timothy R. Stormont of Bakersfield is a member of the National Professional Association of Architects and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-accredited professional.