What is this EcoWorld thing all about, anyway? Earlier this year, EcoWorld’s posts suddenly attracted a commenter who must have pasted a few dozen comments onto various stories within a week or two. Some of these comments were duplicates of previous comments, or had duplicate passages, and while the general thrust of the comments were well worth posting, it was getting to be a lot of work to read and edit the flow. Most websites have automatic blocks for this sort of thing, but we like most of what we get, including most of this. These many comments – all written in all-caps by the admitted hunt and peck typist – were very insightful and they looped into religion and civilization issues – and the writer was trying to tackle it all. That is a tall order. But this commenter’s digressions into the other great issues of humanity was a reminder – there is a person behind every editor. What do we believe – what philosophy underlies the opinions and analysis we’ve provided on literally thousands of many pages for over 12 years? Who is the man behind this editor? And doesn’t any editor who is crass enough to post a million dollar billboard owe his readers a goofy glimpse? So here goes…
There is an ideological struggle for the soul of environmentalism that anti-environmentalists don’t care about, and environmentalists barely grasp. There are two ways to address environmental challenges and they should be complimentary approaches. One approach centers on reducing consumption, improving efficient use of energy and water, conserving open space. This approach dominates environmental thinking today. But the other approach is vital – and that approach centers on increasing the production of clean energy and water, and developing land to accomplish these goals. We call these two complementary approaches demand side vs. supply side environmentalism. Without a balance between these approaches, solving environmental challenges (without incurring devastating economic hardship) is doomed to failure.
Global warming is not the principle cause of drought, for example, nor of extreme weather. Both of those problems on a global scale can be addressed by reforestation, especially in the tropics. Reforestation, reversing desertification, and refilling aquifers all over the world – actions that will mitigate global warming but are also extremely important to accomplish even if there was no global warming alarm – will require more energy production, to desalinate seawater and to operate pumps to relocate fresh water. As we document in “Revisiting Desalinization,” for $5.0 billion dollars (which includes a budget for mitigation and disposal of the brine) a desalinization plant can provide water for 5.0 million residential users, and would only require about 250 megawatt-years of electricity per year. This is an astonishingly low amount to those of us who bought into the conventional wisdom that desalinization requires too much energy – one good 1.0 gigawatt nuclear power plant can desalinate 4 cubic kilometers of water per year, enough to supply 20 million residential water users.
Using desalinated seawater to replenish aquifers and supply water to cities requires a lot of scratches in the ground – something the demand side environmentalists decry. But they are wrong. And speaking of scratches in the ground, why aren’t we building canals to redirect excess fresh water from the Volga to the Aral Basin, or from the Congo to the Lake Chad Basin? Compared to the costs to mitigate industrial CO2, redirecting huge volumes of water to restore the lakes and aquifers in Central Asia and in Africa’s Sahel is easily done – but it requires some big scratches in the ground.
The point here is sometimes we have to protect the environment from the environmentalists. The demand side environmentalists often seem to want no development, anywhere, yet in many critical areas development – more energy, more water – is what we need not only to service the world’s growing population but also to preserve and restore the environment. We should take all that CO2 tax revenue – and brace yourself, it’s coming – and use it to fund massive development projects to repower and rewater the planet, restoring rains, cooling the land, reforesting, moderating the weather and eliminating severe droughts. That would be a better use of funds.
So there is an attempt to summarize EcoWorld’s editorial philosophy – for the cautious reader’s examination – since the mission is more important than the money.