Rational Environmentalism

Earlier in March we attracted the attention of a professional PR firm dedicated to exposing “deniers,” and felt personally what it’s like to have your integrity questioned by people with no idea who you are, or what you truly believe. As we stated in our response, we are not going to descend into hyperbole or personal attacks, and we are going to respect the opinions of anyone who presents a credible argument – no matter whether they agree with us or disagree with everything we write. The truth matters, and often only ongoing debate can reveal the truth.

We would much prefer to report on clean technology and the companies and entrepreneurs who are delivering it – as well as report on the status of species and ecosystems. But there is an urgent need to maintain a dialogue as to the nature of environmentalism, especially since it has suddenly acquired momentum orders of magnitude greater than it had ten years ago. There are a lot of new entrants into the world of environmentalism, and we all need to step back and think about what environmentalism means – what are the unintended consequences, what is the underlying philosophy, and what are the competing visions of environmentalism?

So here is an updated, and fairly spontaneous statement of our editorial position at EcoWorld. Anyone who has a different point of view is welcome.

(1) We believe in emphasizing limited government, free markets, and individual liberties.

(2) We believe “smart growth” is damaging the economy and the environment. Read “Taking on Smart Growth.”

(3) We believe there is not compelling evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing potentially catastrophic climate change. Read: “The Case Against Climate Alarm.”

(4) We believe in most cases, there is no shortage of land, and the hidden agenda behind “urban service boundaries” is to keep building fees and property taxes within existing jurisdictions at inflated values, in order to increase revenues of municipal governments who have utterly failed to keep their employee’s pension and benefit packages within sustainable (and equitable) limits. Read “California Land Use Choices.”

(5) We believe California’s government is using the “Global Warming Act” to create new regulations and fees relating to Lower Carbon Fuel Standards and Land Use, when a small additional improvement to vehicle efficiency could yield far more of the allegedly necessary reductions in CO2 emissions. We think the regulations that will govern new fuel standards and land use will be draconian, subjective and capricious, will tragically undermine property rights, and do grevious harm to California’s economy.

(6) We believe that public employee unions are backing new taxes and fees in the name of global warming to win new revenues to fund otherwise unsustainable benefits for their members. While we believe in the ideals of unions, we believe that all workers in the USA should get the same taxpayer funded guarantees when they are unable to work – social security and medicare. This reform would render public entities solvent again. While some defined-benefit early pensions may be necessary for government workers in hazardous or physically demanding jobs, these benefits should be brought down to earth. No public servant should make more when they’re retired than when they work, for example. We believe labor unions in the government sector should be strictly regulated, because they operate under few of the restraints that force unions in the competitive private sector to be reasonable.

(7) We believe nuclear power is safer than ever and should be part of the global energy future. We believe Yucca Mountain is a safe repository for nuclear waste and should be opened for business.

(8) We believe the “alarm industry” is far, far better funded than the alleged “denial industry,” by a factor of one-thousand to one or more. Read: “The Debate Goes On,” or “Carbon Fundamentalism.”

(9) We believe cars are getting smarter, cleaner and greener all the time, and that roads and freeways – which can convey busses, trucks and personal automobiles – are the best means to improve transit options for everyone.

(10) We believe genuine air pollution – now euphemistically referred to as “collateral pollution” – is what we should be concerned about, not CO2, and that the focus on CO2 emissions has distracted us from this more important environmental and health challenge.

(11) We believe that if anything is causing some elements of climate change, such as regional cases of extreme weather or drought, it is the result of tropical deforestation, not human CO2 emissions.

(12) We believe that since the 1970′s, green snake oil been one of the favorite currencies of charlatans, and that global warming alarm is making them come out of the woodwork. We believe the green mania currently sweeping the world will advance green technologies, but that most investors and entrepreneurs will lose.

(13) We believe that the green bubble, to the extent it relies on global warming alarm, is causing marginal business models to receive investment and subsidies and this is creating vested interests in politically contrived solutions and will inhibit genuine competitive green innovation.

(14) We believe there are compelling, urgent environmental problems, from deforestation in Borneo, to depleting aquifers and endangered ocean fisheries. But in general, we think threats to ecosystems, especially in the USA, are vastly overstated – and that more emphasis needs to go to rational cost/benefit analysis.

(15) We reserve the right to add, delete, modify or enhance all of these points, because we believe in evolving our position in accordance with whatever important new information we receive. Global warming alarmists – can you do that too?

These are some principles of what we like to refer to as rational environmentalism – focusing on the big picture, steering clear of hype and panic, respecting property rights, appreciating the power of humanity and the earth to adapt, and trying to remove ALL of our blinders when searching for hidden agendas wrapped in clean green cloaks.

2 Responses to “Rational Environmentalism”
  1. Al Clabaugh says:

    I could not have explained it better myself. Bravo to you as I am on board with your outlook and opinions. I have always felt that the hype was just that and intended to create fees and taxes that could have otherwise not been obtainable.

    I too feel that green energy is the way of the future and that I do not buy into the radicalized opinion of those who believe the result outweighs the means of getting there and the extremist will say and do anything to make it stick whether it is real or not!

    Thank you for your honesty and opinion and I am with you all the way

    Alan C.
    Sacramento California

  2. Roger Brown says:

    I do not view myself as an environmentalist, but as a person who desires that humanity should have a long and productive future on this planet. If this eventuality is to be realized we must learn to live within the ecological limits of a finite world. Living within these limits means abandoning composite growth of the overall economy as the invariable goal of all human communities. In particular the pursuit of continued composite growth by the OECD countries is crazy. We should be growing those parts of the economy which need to be grown (e.g. renewable energy, sustainable methods of food production, energy efficient housing etc.), shrinking those parts of the economy which are wasteful and unnecessary, and maintaining with maximum efficiency (i.e. without concern for sales volumes) those parts of the economy which require only maintenance.

    Even if global warming turns out not to be a threat, and issues like soil erosion and deforestation turn out to be more important, these problems are not going to be solved in the context of a global economic system where every resident of the globe is striving to get richer for the rest of the century and beyond. This debate between two different versions of environmentally responsible growth is a debate between two different version of economic insanity. As economist Kenneth Boulding wrote:

    Anyone who believes that economic growth can continue forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.


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