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It is Naive to Think that Civic Action Would Save the Whales …

I am sure by now my readers are familiar with the idea that private initiative “saved” the whales. They did not, of course, save the whales due to any concentrated effort to do so, but rather because the allure of making lots of money in the petroleum refining business after the Titusville well was struck. It’s been said that an image of Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller ought to hang prominently on the wall of every environmentalist. With that in mind (and a whole host of public choice economics), consider the following statement from another ecology book I just completed:

Our responsibility to control greenhouse gas emissions and our adaptation to their effects is increasingly a civic one, more personal and community focused than regulatory. While it is naïve to think that civic action alone will solve this problem – there is no doubt that it will take top-down policy changes, eventually – in the meantime, bottom-up actions are where change is taking place.

That was from Amy Seidl in  Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming, p. 135. Serious “E”nvironmentalists seem to me like jilted lovers. They recognize the futility of much government action. They recognize that if they want to see action, they must pick themselves up by the bootstraps and do it. They recognize that people do not wish to be forced into changing their lifestyles and that large-scale social changes have to evolve and they must be accompanied by cultural and attitudinal changes and that government action rarely if ever can deliver it. They recognize that the political process has often been hijacked by the major corporations they disdain. They recognize that there are people partaking in the political process with considerably different values than they have. Yet they cannot help but continue to believe that the only way to environmental salvation is to peer down the barrel of the state’s guns. I wonder if “E”nvironmentalists are more prone to stay in unhappy marriages than non-“E”nvironmentalists?

Call me a denier if you wish. If the world is going to be saved from Global Warming it is going to be in spite of government, not because of it. Consider that the world’s largest supply of natural gas reserves is sitting right here in the Northeast, and it has the capacity to dramatically alter geo-politics, energy prices and the cleanliness of the environment, and government planners just a decade ago fretted about the age of natural gas ending. An incredible revolution is occurring in natural gas and it is happening right beneath the planners’ noses. Yes, it is a fossil fuel. But it is considerably cleaner than the coal and oil it can and should replace. And natural gas also can be an incredible standy energy source to tie into the renewables of solar and wind, which cannot survive right now without other back-up energy sources. We’ll post on fracking and the entire natural gas sector in a few weeks time.

One final point, do not take the above post to mean that the government cannot and has not been able to do environmental good. For example for all of the graft surrounding the Clean Air Act, at least the air IS cleaner today than it was in 1970. Of course, not all of that can be credited to the government, air quality was on a steady upward march before the Clean Air Act was ever passed. I also believe the government can play a strong role in coordinating conservation efforts across small landholders and disparate areas among other things. But I certainly do not expect it to be our climate salvation any more than I expect it to be our economic salvation.

One Response to ““E”nvironmentalists as Jilted Lovers”

  1. Michael says:

    I’ve always wondered, what waste product are we allowed to generate (and at what levels)? Some waste must be generated in any process, even if it is just to produce solar cells (which I understand can be hazardous).

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