"What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate – all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways" (Margaret Thatcher, Nov. 8, 1989). There was much to dislike about Margaret Thatcher, but she was no Ronald Reagan, the national leader with whom she will be eternally coupled. She was one of the first major politicians to grasp the damage that humans were doing to he earth; he assured us that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” Nor did Thatcher’s England bear much resemblance to Reagan’s America. While both countries suffered from the global economic affliction dubbed “stagflation,” Britain, in the 1980s, had become a sluggish place whose sclerotic labor movement and clubby conservatives both seemed to be forever looking backward.
The short-term benefits of liberalizing the economy were clear and necessary, but the long-term price of a philosophy that ignored the poor and blamed the victim, that undermined both the safety net and the social contract, has proved as divisive in England as it has in America. In the wake of Thatcher and Reagan, we have become heedless societies, increasingly unconcerned about creating an inclusive community.
And climate change? Thatcher recanted in 2003. An Oxford-trained chemist, she did not dispute the science. She was upset the issue had become a rallying point for liberals.