Essay: Environmentalism

Environmentalists Are Worse For The Environment Then Global Warming …

Now before you all start shouting at me there’s one thing I’d like to clear up to begin with. Firstly this is against Environmentalists and the Religion of Environmentalism, it’s not because I want to destroy the environment which leads me onto my second point, I’m all for protecting the environment however not the way that we are forced to do and personally we should be more concerned with protecting ourselves and in turn that protects the environment.

The basis on the principles I have just stated come from Steven Landsburg, Nathan Myhrvold & Trans-humanism. The first of the three is an American economist and author of the fantastic book The Armchair Economist which I highly recommend to any of you reading this note, the second Nathan Myhrvold works for Bill Gates and is considered by Mr Gates to be the cleverest person he knows. Finally Transhumanism (courtesy of Wikipedia) is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of science and technology to improve human mental and physical characteristics and capacities.

For too long, environmentalists have created their identities according to the very specific problems we hope to solve. While I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, I do care about many of the things that environmentalists work to protect and preserve. I care more deeply, however, increasing the world’s supply of job, keeping businesses as efficient as possible by increasing competition and therefore prices fall meaning demand increases. This means that the environmental movement that wants to speak they must first and foremost promise economic development and better quality of life.

However in the 25 years since the first Earth Day, a new and ugly element has emerged in the form of one side’s conviction that its preferences are Right and the other side’s are Wrong. The science of economics shuns such moral posturing; the religion of environmentalism embraces it. This political environmentalism — the ideology, as distinct from environmental science — comes with a bunch of baggage attached i.e. we should reduce our carbon emissions in order to reduce levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. We should reduce our consumption. Don’t drive, don’t fly. Use a composting toilet. Wear natural fibres. Eat less. Taken to the extreme, the deep greens would have us refrain from breeding and reduce our numbers to a level that could be sustained by agricultural technologies that use only renewable energy. In practice, that means draught horses and oxen. We’re talking mediaeval, here. To save civilization, we’ve got to destroy it. All according to the irrational doctrine that has developed from environmentalism.

I believe at this juncture it’s now best for me to use a quote from Landsburg ‘As environmentalism becomes increasingly like an intrusive state religion, we dissenters become increasingly prickly about suggestions that we suffer from some kind of aberration.’ Now most of you will be thinking that you can’t compare environmentalism to a religion however here I am not comparing BUT telling you it is a religion. Even under UK law it’s considered a religion and with an ever increasing infallible doctrine that falls apart under proper scientific querying. In many cases, they begin with the postulate that they hold the moral high ground, and conclude that they are thereby granted overall licence to disseminate intellectually dishonest propaganda as long as it serves the higher purpose of winning converts to the cause. Basically they seek not to improve our welfare but to save our ‘souls’. Unfortunately this leads to the fact that unless your solution happens to feed their sense of moral superiority then you’ll always get the angry environmentalist constantly shouting you’re wrong at you or they’ll give you some equivalent of the beatific smile of a door-to-door evangelist stumped by an unexpected challenge, but secure in their grasp of Divine Revelation or even just turning and running in it’s most primitive of forms – it’s fight or flight. The point being that their fight is definitely not worth listening to. This conveniently leads me to dismantling the Ecology Doctrine piece by piece that has become increasingly (if you don’t mind my repeating) intruding upon the state and upon our own liberties.

Another observation from Landsburg shows Environmentalism goes beyond science when it elevates matters of preference to matters of morality. A proposal to pave a wilderness and put up a parking lot creates an occasion for conflict between those who prefer wilderness and those who prefer convenient parking. The conflict arises because each side wants to allocate the same resource in a different way. Jack wants his woodland at the expense of Jill’s parking space and Jill wants her parking space at the expense of Jack’s woodland. That formulation is morally neutral and should serve as a warning against assigning exalted moral status to either Jack or Jill. Environmentalists claim that wilderness should take precedence over parking because a decision to pave is “irrevocable.” Of course they are right, but they overlook the fact that a decision not to pave is equally irrevocable. Unless we pave today, my opportunity to park tomorrow is lost as irretrievably as tomorrow itself will be lost. The ability to park in a more distant future might be a quite inadequate substitute for that lost opportunity. A variation on the environmentalist theme is that we owe the wilderness option not to ourselves but to future generations. But do we have any reason to think that future generations will prefer inheriting the wilderness to inheriting the profits from the parking? Alan Stockman suggested to Landsburg in The Armchair Economist that ‘There seems to be general agreement that it is better to transfer income from the relatively rich to the relatively poor than vice versa. It seems odd then to ask present-day Westerners to make sacrifices for the benefit of future generations who will almost surely be richer than we are.’ Bear in mind when I say richer I do not necessarily mean money you also have to count the larger amount of benefits they’ll get compared to us through services etc. such as leisure and of course parking facilities.

Recycling. Now I’m sure if you were to meet an environmentalist they can quote reams of statistics on the importance of trees and then jump to the conclusion that recycling paper is a good idea. However the opposite conclusion makes equal sense. Landsburg made the observation ‘I am sure that if we found a way to recycle beef, the population of cattle would go down, not up. If you want ranchers to keep a lot of cattle, you should eat a lot of beef.’ Recycling paper eliminates the incentive for paper companies to plant more trees and can cause forests to shrink. If you want large forests, your best strategy might be to use paper as wastefully as possible — or lobby for subsidies to the logging industry. And this all leads to you mentioning this to an environmentalist and as stated they will turn and run or I suspect that they don’t want to do that because their real concern is with the ritual of recycling itself, not with its consequences. The underlying need to sacrifice, and to compel others to sacrifice, is a fundamentally religious impulse. Again furthering the argument that they don’t realise the severity of their illogical arguments and that if they truly cared they’d look into the long term consequences of recycling.

To press this further on the ‘Pollution Problem’ the world has is a) Destroying the ozone layer and b) contributing to global warming at least this is what an environmentalist would say. However the primary cause of pollution is economic activity so do we get rid of all this activity just for the sake of ‘some’ clean air if that’s the case then fine but get ready for everyone to turn and attack you for getting rid of their livelihoods and careers. Does this lead to exporting the most polluting activities to LEDCs then? This would increase their wealth giving them a chance to develop and MEDCs get the relatively clean air. To most economists, this is a self-evident opportunity to make not just Westerners but everybody better off. But when the economist’s observation was leaked to the media, parts of the environmental community went ballistic. To them, pollution is a form of sin. Ok so how about the possible ban of pesticides in the agricultural industry – Bruce Ames a prominent Biologist noticed the problem and stated ‘here this leads to a rise in prices on fruit and vegetables causing people to buy fewer and consequently cancer rates rise.’ If they wanted to make sure the best was happening for the human population on this planet then they’d actually take the time to weight this effect in balance but no it’s instantly dismissed all for ‘the greater good’ of the reduced use of pesticides.

The main cause for concern amongst environmentalists is the amount of CO2 that’s being pumped into the atmosphere. Last time I checked the tree population has benefited from this increase. The increase in CO2 means more trees can live and live longer as well as have a ‘healthier’ life. The CO2 emissions however mean that we should all sacrifice our cars for mass transportation. I bet you walk up to many of the general public and they’ll say it’s an inefficient system and that they’d prefer the comfort of their own car. When it comes to sacrificing cars the ones hit the most are 4×4’s the ‘Gas Guzzlers’ and ‘Highest Polluters’ it never occurred to an environmentalist to actually substantiate the statistics. IF they did, they’d find that the average household dog has a larger carbon footprint over it’s life the average 4×4 say for example a Land Rover. So the suggesting here is if you truly want to cut Carbon emissions then kill off the dog population or do something even better with them – eat them … it’s not against our nature and some countries actually do this. It’s also pretty much the same with other animals: German shepherds: 1.1 hectares, compared with 0.41ha for a large SUV. Cats: 0.15ha (slightly less than a Volkswagen Golf). Hamsters: 0.014ha (two of them equate to a medium-sized plasma TV).Goldfish: 0.00034ha (an eco-footprint equal to two mobile phones).

Mhyrvold made the observation that solar panels do more damage to the environment then is being told to the general indoctrinated public. “The problem with solar cells is that they’re black, because they are designed to absorb light from the sun. But only about 12 percent gets turned into electricity, and the rest is re-radiated as heat — which contributes to global warming. Although a widespread conversion to solar power might seem appealing, the reality is tricky. The energy consumed by building the thousands of new solar plants necessary to replace coal-burning and other power plants would create a huge long-term “warming debt.” To add to the evidence of Mhyrvold’s claims, in 2002 a study found that the greenhouse gas emissions necessary to build a solar plant are about 2.75 times larger than the emissions from a coal plant of the same net power output. So for every watt of electricity they generate, current solar cells throw about 10 watts into the climate as heat. This is one of the dilemmas we face as a society. If we rapidly invest to make a new renewable-energy infrastructure, the very fact that we are making that investment can delay the onset of the benefit. It’s really hard to cut emissions quickly unless you cut consumption quickly, which society doesn’t seem very keen to do and the current social climate makes it impossible.

Now to turn more attention to more ACTUAL solutions that currently, yet again, get instantly dismissed by the environmental community as a ridiculous idea that should never have been even thought of. On the other hand these geo-engineering based solutions actually show the most promise of solving the overall climate change issue. Mhyrvold made the suggestion of building a ‘Stratoshield’. ‘This shield would consist of pumping liquid sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere through nozzles in a hose lifted more than 15 miles into the atmosphere, using helium-filled balloons and dim the sun in critical areas of the world by just enough to reduce or reverse the effects of global warming.’ $20 Million to set up $10/year to run and overall cheaper then the $1.2 Trillion we currently forgo as a global community in systems like recycling and renewable energy as stated above which do little more then damage the environment further at present moment in time. Further proof environmentalists don’t actually try to solve the problem that is put before their feet.

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus (writers of The Death Of Environmentalism) suggest that it’s time to re-examine everything we think we know about global warming and environmental politics, from what does and doesn’t get counted as “environmental” to the movement’s small-bore approach to policymaking. There is a pattern here then as pointed out by Landsburg. ‘Suggesting an actual solution to an environmental problem is a poor way to impress an environmentalist; Subsidies to logging, Killing off the dog population, exporting pollution and advocating the use of pesticides all ,fall outside the catechism. Solutions seem to fall into one category or the other not according to their actual utility but according to their consistency with environmentalist dogma.’ So I’m saying ultimately it would be ideal if there was an eradication of the indoctrination of the masses using scare tactics such as that used in religious documents, and let people make their own mind up about what to do to ‘save the planet’ but to be honest if we truly are going to do this we need to improve our own lives first because with this brings new technology in wonderful rational solutions such as geo-engineering and technology is one of the only ways we can fight this … not with rituals of self sacrificing.

Notes of Reference:

Steven Landsburg – The Armchair Economist: http://www.shrubwalkers.com/prose/list/not.html

Nathan Mhyrvold – Stratoshield and Solar Panels: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/are-solar-panels-really-black-and-what-does-that-have-to-do-with-the-climate-debate/

The Reference to Eating Dogs: Firstly I have Joe Watson to thank for pointing this piece out who in turn, I’m sure would thank Freddie Witherden: http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/2987848/Save-the-planet-time-to-eat-dog

Then finally: Bruce Ames and Alan Stockman who contributed their references through aforementioned reference of Landsburg and The Armchair Economist. As well as Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus for their comment in – The Death Of Environmentalism.

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