|image – Tim Cantor|
LETTER FROM RINGSIDE
THE ECOWORLD PHILOSOPHY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LAND RIGHTS, WHY DO THEY MATTER?
THE PROPERTY RIGHTS REBELLION
By Bruce Yandle
Reprinted from PERC Reports, October 1995
Bruce Yandle, a professor at Clemson and one of the most entertaining and astute speakers I have ever heard, also has editorial skills aplenty. One of the patriarchs of the land rights rebellion in his own right, he has collected a series of essays written by a number of free-market environmentalists. This book is a must for serious students of the environmental dialogue that is reaching new heights in the U.S. A reaction to regulations that have allowed our government to effectively destroy the value of a parcel of land without having to compensate the owner for it. The price we have paid to protect the environment has fallen on our citizens shoulders unequally, and enough of the unlucky ones have rallied together to form what is today a potent national political grassroots movement. Dr. Yandle´ essay printed here was edited from the preface to his book, “Land Rights.”
FLAGSHIPS OF THE FOREST
THE GREAT BOREAL NORTH
By Ed “Redwood” Ring
The Boreal regions cover 11% of the earth´ surface, a belt encompassing Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Northern Russia. These vast lands contain stands of Aspen, Birch, Poplar, Alder, and various cold tolerant Conifers. These trees are being logged much faster than they are currently regenerating. Even more than in the tropic and temperate forests, the effect on the soil of clear cutting is hard to reverse. Once the thin layer of topsoil erodes and exposes the permafrost underneath, the earth´ surface degrades into a sterile and virtually unredeemable muck. Moreover, Boreal timber grows at a much slower rate than in warmer parts of the world, even if the soil can be preserved. What can be done? For starters, governments can stop subsidizing this activity. In many cases, the destruction of the Boreal forests do not even make sound business sense without massive government financial assistance. Just as welfare as we know it wreaks its destructive havoc in our inner cities, corporate welfare is destroying the forests of the north.
COMPENSATION FOR “TAKINGS”
THE OMNIBUS PROPERTY RIGHTS ACT OF 1995
An Outline by Nancy Marzulla
“Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” The fifth amendment to the constitution was meant to safeguard property rights, which are perhaps the prerequisite for all other civil rights. But what happens if a landowner cannot use their land as they see fit, even though they still hold title to the land? Aren´ regulations that restrict use of land to the point where the value of the land to the owner is severely dimished considered “takings?” Senate bill 605 which will be debated early in the next session of congress attempts to provide relief to property owners affected by government regulations. Depending on their perspective, readers should find either sweet irony or stark terror in the provision that agencies attempting to enforce any environmental regulations file a “Takings Impact Statement” on a case by case basis. This bill is going to be a hot potato. Get primed on it now by reading this outline by noted property rights lawyer Nancy Marzulla.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE SUN
THE GAIA OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Gaia, the theory that the earth is a single organism with a great soul, is a prevalent belief in many strains of environmentalists. Without discussing the merits of the theory, let’s extend it to the solar system. Why should ecosystems be limited to our planet? Isn’t it the sun that keeps us alive? Aren´ environmentalists afraid of asteroids? Talk about an environmental impact! Let’s get some of those greater ecosystems out in space where they surely would belong. Let´ put some biospheres in solar orbit!
GUYANA, SOUTH AMERICA
A Message from the World Rainforest Movement
This time we go to South America where Georgia Pacific has inked a deal to log 4.1 million acres in the tiny nation of Guyana. This equates to 6,406 square miles, which is 7.7% of Guyana´ national territory. The insatiable desire of the world for timber makes this phenomenon repeat itself over and over, from Guyana to Papua New Guinea, from the Solomon Islands to Zaire. Let´ establish some nurseries there.
This issue features the Boreal Forests of the world, which currently are being converted into pulp and chopsticks as fast as money and capital can get in and get out. The ecosystems of the Boreal regions of the world at large are threatened, the whole cold but alive mass of sea and land that circles the arctic pole. They are not only threatened by rapacious and completely non-sustainable (and government subsidized!) timber cutting, but by fuel and mineral extraction as well, and even by a proposal to commericalize a shipping lane from Asia to Europe over the top of Siberia. This sounds just like another leftist environmentalist tract, doesn´ it? Is Ed “Redwood” Ring selling out?
The only thing that separates an environmentalist capitalist from a non-environmentalist capitalist is the time frame they keep. If you don´ have to deal with confiscatory taxes and regulations, you can pass your land on to your progeny. If you believe in families and tradition, then you have progeny to care about. Hardly a leftist notion. Just a narrower set of priorities. But how much narrower, ultimately? Won´ a landowner want to protect his land from despoilation? Isn´ land and it´ yield the only truly inflation hedged asset? But if you have to turn your land over to the government instead of to your heirs, why take care of it? If your profits are ground to dust by taxes, if your initiative is diminished if not squelched by regulations, why think in the long term? Why protect the living forest? Why protect anything?
If socialism destroys the spirit and the standard of living of those persons unfortunate enough to live under its iron hand, how on earth can we turn to socialist philosophy to save the earth!
Long term capitalist thinking will save the Boreal Forests, and the rest of the forests, for that matter. If Charles Hurwitz, the owner of the Headwaters Forest, were a long-term capitalist thinker, he would log one tree per year from his precious forest, perhaps after 100 have been set aside to be forever spared. This one yearly tree would be priceless. Bidding could start at $1,000,000. So the millworkers could still have jobs, Mr. Hurwitz could open a theme park in the forest, erecting non-invasive Bed & Breakfasts (and the infrastructure to support them) amongst the giant trees. Tourists would flock to the exclusive cabins, everyone would work, and the forest would be saved.
How can such a solution even be considered, in our present over-regulated, over-taxed United States of America? Erecting a Bed & Breakfast isn´ expensive, it´ the fees and taxes associated with starting up and operating the enterprise. Imagine all the permits Charles Hurwitz would need if he decided to save his forest in this way! And make no mistake about it, it is his forest. He bought it and paid for it. Now admittedly, by all appearances, Charles Hurwitz is not long-term capitalist thinker. But neither is he a criminal. And if Charles Hurwitz lived in a land of fewer taxes and regulations, perhaps he would be more inclined to think long-term.
This issue deplores the havoc wreaked on the Boreal Regions of the world. The Boreal forests (along with the forests of the Pacific; Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands), are being quickly and quietly ground to dust as we eat rainforest crunch and put “save the rainforest” bumper stickers on our cars. Deforestation is really just beginning in these unheralded, un”chic” regions. But forget about speculating as to how governments are going to increase the world´ timber mass. We´ try to figure out more creative solutions, such as game parks, adventure tourism, sustainable forestry, limited and safe mineral/fuel extraction. Perhaps not every environmental problem can be solved this way, but it is time to start trying. Environmental solutions that are being proposed need to be expressed in terms of their capitalist merit. Most if not all of them can be so expressed, and they will, right here.
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THE ECOWORLD PHILOSOPHY
Issue #4, Fall 1995
Nature and Technology in Harmony…
This issue examines the grassroots property rights rebellion in the U.S. and particularly in the context of the upcoming property rights legislation in the U.S. Congress. “Land Rights, Why Do They Matter?” discusses the origins of property rights protection in the Magna Carta, the protections afforded property owners by the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the forces behind the current resurgence of interest in property rights protection. “Flagships of the Forest” this month takes a look at the Boreal Forests of the world, which deserve at least as much attention as the Tropical Forests. We try to quantify some of the forest areas in the world in this article, but are mostly thwarted by inaccuracies from surprising sources! “Compensation for Takings” is an outline of the current bill before the U.S. Senate which attempts to strengthen 5th Amendment protection of private property. “A Conversation with the Sun” features the visionary artwork of Tim Cantor, along with musings on Gaia, solar energy, and interplanetary civilization, “Rainforest Update” this month goes to Guyana, South America, where another forest is biting the dust as we speak. These things are happening now. More trees would take pressure off these ancient forests. Let’s get planting.
Reactions and rebuttals to these articles are encouraged.