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[greenyes] Conservative Conservation

This is worth reading. And, no, I do not agree with the author. Life is a
bit more complicated than free marketeers seem to think.


Posted on Thu, May. 05, 2005: (from The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Conservative conservation

Jonah Goldberg is a nationally syndicated columnist

There are conservatives who love the environment - more of them than you
might realize. More important, young conservatives are willing to fight for
the environmentalist label, and that's a sign of progress.

For decades, a certain type of environmentalist has laid exclusive claim to
this set of concerns, terming anyone who disagreed with them as
"anti"-environment. It was a twist on the "for-the-children" gambit devised
by Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children's Defense Fund. She
discovered that you can push favored policies further if you claim they are
"for the children." Thanks to this insight, the same old tired suite of
Fabian programs were recast as efforts "for the children," and anybody who
opposed them became, in effect, anti-child.

For years, environmentalists have done the same thing with their favored
policies. Even though recycling is often a monstrous waste of time, energy
and money, the Greens have insisted that if you don't separate your plastic
from your paper, you are "against" the environment.

The truth is that nobody is anti-environment. I have lots and lots of
conservative friends and colleagues. I go to many of the most sinister
right-wing meetings and parties. I've simply never heard anybody say they
want to hurt the environment. No matter how many pave-the-planet jokes
conservatives tell to annoy liberals, the truth is none of them really wants
to. Some may not care that much one way or the other. But if given a
cost-free option to maintain clean water, clean air and prospering
ecosystems, there's really not a conservative - with his marbles intact -
who wouldn't leap at it.

In other words, all of the serious arguments are about means, not ends. For
decades, Greens have insisted their means - heavy-handed government command
and control - were the only way to those ends. Obviously, there are some
exceptions: Some organizations have raised money to buy land and then manage
it themselves. But at the national level, where impressions are formed, the
enviros have become indistinguishable from any other special-interest group
that wants the government to do its bidding.

Don't take my word for it - google "The Death of Environmentalism" by
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. "We believe," write these two
respected veteran liberal Greens, "that the environmental movement's
foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its
very institutions are outmoded. Today, environmentalism is just another
special interest. Evidence for this can be found in its concepts, its
proposals, and its reasoning."

The authors' remedies aren't necessarily my cup of tea, but they clearly
recognize the political problem their movement faces. For decades,
environmentalists have relied on scare tactics and doomsday scenarios that
never had any chance of becoming true. Does anybody remember Paul Ehrlich's
prediction that 65 million Americans would die of starvation by the early
1980s? If you haven't checked, obesity is a much bigger problem than

The future of environmental success is to move away from romantic
gobbledygook about Gaia and semi-pagan mumbo jumbo about communing with
nature, and instead to foster a more mature understanding of costs and
benefits. The great flaw in conventional environmentalism has always been
its view of capitalism and, to a lesser extent, technology as enemies of all
things Green. This way of looking at the world comes from the Industrial
Revolution, with its belching smokestacks and poisoned air and waterways.
It's no coincidence that the Industrial Revolution gave birth to both
romantic environmentalism and socialism.

It's also no coincidence that socialism's environmental track record is a
disaster. Which is why governments around the world are crafting
environmental policies that "monetize" resources, recognizing that people
tend to take care of things they own better than things nobody owns. If a
fisherman knows that his competitor will grab any fish he leaves behind, he
will in all likelihood grab as many as he can. When everybody subscribes to
this "tragedy-of-the-commons" logic, there are no fish left for anybody.
That's one reason why many global fish stocks are in danger of crashing. But
if you sell someone exclusive rights to fish in a certain area, he will
leave enough fish behind for another day. This is why many governments are
moving in the direction of assigning property rights to all sorts of
environmental resources, from fisheries to wetlands, with very encouraging

Obviously, not every problem can be solved through tax credits or property
rights, but the exciting solutions these days are coming from the people at
least willing to entertain that possibility.

David Biddle, Executive Director

P.O. Box 4037
Philadelphia, PA 19118
215-432-8225 (mobile)


Read In Business magazine to learn about sustainable
businesses in communities across North America!
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