by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
Have we become a society of people who want to regulate others, but not ourselves? We laugh at those who object to some policy that seemed perfectly OK, when they thought it only applied to others. We make fun of Al Gore proposing the end of fossil fuels, while jetting around the world in his private plane. We chortle about politicians advocating gun control while surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards. In truth, such hypocrisy is common, because the desire to control other people’s behavior is human nature. Yet our attempts frequently come back to haunt us.
In Hamlet’s most famous speech, he predicted that a would-be assassin might end up being “hoist with his own petard.” A “petard” is a bomb, so it simply means that the bomb maker might be blown up (“hoisted” off the ground) by his own bomb. Today that Shakespearean phrase is a common proverb describing poetic justice, another way of saying “caught in his own trap,” or “what goes around comes around.”
San Francisco officials are once again learning the meaning of the word “petard,” as they struggle with water shortages. Several times, endangered species issues have come back to haunt some of the nation’s most unyielding environmental campaigners (San Francisco is the birthplace and headquarters of the Sierra Club) and their elected officials. Yet the city has never moderated its in-your-face, holier-than-thou environmentalism. When President Trump announced the U.S. exit from the Paris climate deal, for example, San Francisco announced that it would comply with the intent anyway, limiting the local use of fossil fuels. The city has banned plastic straws, grocery bags, and Styrofoam, and even required solar panels on private buildings. If it is on the environmental industry wish list, San Francisco is leading the way.