Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Messages

With all of the coverage of Earth Day, in a time when even local governments may quote from Tom Friedman and proclaim that "Green in the new Red White and Blue", I find it useful to contrast two Earth Day OpEds, one that ran in my local paper (Morgan Hill Times) and one that did not.

The one that ran is by Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Institute. You can, if you have a strong BS filter, read it from the ARI web site.

Berliner pulls not punches in his attack on environmentalism, deeming deeming the goal of environmentalism as a 'subhuman world where "nature" is worshiped like the totem of some primitive religion.'

While I don't think that many pay a lot of attention to the Ayn Rand Institute any more, there are aspects of this that are picked up, distorted and used, maybe subconsciously, in order to justify the continued robber baron attitude about world resources that was the foundation of American prosperity in the 20th Century and could well be the down fall of it all in the 21st.

At the other extreme, is the challenge today from Wallace J. Nichols* to become an EcoDareDevil.
Today, we face more serious crises—loss of biodiversity, a warming planet, collapsing fisheries, looming food and water shortages, and pollution in every corner of the globe. Scientists forecast a “2050 Scenario” in which Earth is hotter, dirtier, and overcrowded with nine billion people who are left to wage wars for what little remains.
Using the metaphor of Evil Knievel, Nichols is challenging young people, really all of us who still remember what it was to be young and full of energy, to "jump the chasm" and to act.

Needless to say, this one did not appear in my local newspaper.

For myself, I admire the spirit of Pete McCloskey, who was along with Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a CoChair of the first Earth Day. He has not quit. He never will. In fact, McCloskey is helping with the legal challenges to the remaining shell game that Charles Hurwitz is trying to play with Pacific Lumber Company, the remaining old growth redwoods in California and the livelihood of the citizens of Mendocino and Humboldt Counties.

We have a lot of work to do. We need to make sure that those like Berliner who would put some idealize man, supreme over nature and free to loose his avariciousness on the world unchecked. Nichols has given us the picture of the world where Berliner and his rank and file of takers prevail. We must not allow that to happen.

* Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is a Senior Scientist at Ocean Conservancy and a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences.

8 comments:

Favela Cranshaw said...

"While I don't think that many pay a lot of attention to the Ayn Rand Institute any more..."

If your wish is for people to ignore the articles circulated by the Ayn Rand Instute, you shouldn't be spreading their words.

Wes said...

You may be right. I should have done a better job of warning everyone about the dangers to all mankind from the perpetuation of such drivel.

robert574 said...

I have learned in my studies of history that, whenever tyranny seeks to expand, it always finds a new form of collectivism, a new social goal, new victims and the same old enemy: human achievement. Most telling is that they always claim a scientific base that invariably turns out to be psuedo-science and an activism that requires action before thought (in a word, faith). When they say, "We know everything we need to know; it is time to act before it is too late," you know you are witnessing a new con. As for me, I am proud of my "carbon footprint."

Richard said...

Having been a research biologist and teacher since 1970 I have read more than a few Environmentalist works. In the '70s I had serious doubts about "Silent Spring", that 'pivotal work' by Rachel Carson. Since then I have noticed that we still have 'Noisy Springs', and that Robins still abound (she predicted their extinction in suburbia by 1985, or thereabout). I have read several reports concerning the works she cited. It turns out that she misrepresented or utterly fabricated the data she used to make her claims. This business of misrepresenting ideas, while using elements of truth, is the main 'stock in trade' of the environmentalist movement.

I have also been following climate change, since the days when Man's evil ways were going to cause an ice age.

For those able to recognize fundamental factors from derivative or coincidental factors, the weight of evidence is clear. Climate change has been occurring naturally throughout the Earth's history.
*This is primarily due to grand scale, cosmological forces, planetary precession and ocean currents, some of which are cyclical.
*In the year 100 AD Scotlanb had the climate of Southern France, they had vineyards, polar bears did not go extinct and you can bet glaciers recede far more than at present!
*CO2 has been 100X higher in the past without the dire consequences predicted today.
*Environmentalists want us to commit economic suicide over so paltry a [CO2]change as a tenth of one percent! (Square brackets indicate 'concentration'.)
*But that said, [CO2] change is more of a response to temperature, not the other way around.
*[CO2] is so low that most species of plants are starved for it, such that a simple doubling of [CO2] would dramatically increase crop growth.

One more factual point: all the World's present population, if placed in Texas, would give Texas a human population density not much more that that of downtown Paris, France. Now consider how much land is actually available to feed that 6 billion! That number could be tripled with little problem, if they lived by the principles of the Founding Fathers of America. It is the capitalist countries that have the lower birth rates, that have people who think more about how they want to live in the world. Let those principles flourish.

In contrast Environmentalist, Chicken Littles seek to pass legislation that forcibly override the individuals right to liberty: limiting his peaceful business activities and use of natural resources, limiting a Man's choice of energy, his choice of materials for building his home, and so on. They also seek to limit his right to Property by taxing him to enforce such legislation or imposing penalties on such things as certain car models etc.. They seek to regulate his use of his land so that it is his only in name (Wetland Regulations do this) --which, politically, is fascism. Robert574 knows tyranny when he sees it.


As a Man, my moral code will not permit me to advocate the enslavement of one man to another by diminishing that man's right to life, liberty, and property. I wish to live where no man has a right to mine.

As a biologist I am proud, not only of my own "carbon footprint" but also admire the 'carbon footprint' of every honest capitalist, and capitalist business in the world.

Environmentalism is a religion not a science, and its followers are either dupes, while its proponents make fraudulent use of science to further their sense of power over other men. Such is the nature of all tyrannies.

Steve Loebs said...

Richard wrote:

"One more factual point: all the World's present population, if placed in Texas, would give Texas a human population density not much more that that of downtown Paris, France. Now consider how much land is actually available to feed that 6 billion! That number could be tripled with little problem, if they lived by the principles of the Founding Fathers of America."

Richard makes the usual argument refuting the enviro's assertion concerning carrying capacity of the Earth.

He also appeals to the wisdom of the Founders. What's more, I noticed on his profile that he, like me, is a fan of Thomas Jefferson. So, no doubt he is aware that TJ was fond of the yeoman farmer and that he advocated that all households aspire to live that lifestyle. For those unaware, that is a middle class family working a farm of 50 to 500 acres that provides subsistence and a cash crop.

I respectfully request that Richard expound a little more on the "fact" that he presented and enlighten us with the simple arithmetic.

How much arable land is available on the surface of the Earth?

How many families would be able to take TJ's advice and live the Founders' principles as yeoman farmers?
(Hint: there are 1-2 billion families and approx 7.7 billion arable acres.)

How would the arithmetic change if the population of the Earth tripled?

Happy Earth Day/Week, Richard!

PS Oh...and how many acres of arable land are lost each year? Do you think that might accelerate if water shortages become a growing problem?

Richard said...

You may say it is "the usual argument", but it is one that is very very poorly understood across Western society.

The yeoman farmer is now an anachronism, and is so because of Jefferson's more timeless ideals, as written into the Declaration and the Constitution.

The issue is not simply a matter of "how much arable land is available on the Earth". That perspective depends on the fallacy of the "fixed pie" with respect to resources. (That fallacy is also presumed when it comes to wealth in general, but that is a different topic.)

***The carrying capacity of the Earth is vastly greater than anything the Environmentalist neo-Luddites (ENLs) might suggest, because the "arithmetic" changes with human ingenuity.*** It always has, and will not stop expanding as long as men are free to improvise and invent. This has been more than adequately demonstrated by Julian Simon. The problem is political, not environmental. The ENLs are bringing about the very political environment that will make their negative predictions come true... reducing us to the political and economic circumstances of the Third World

Advances in agriculture have been incredibly dramatic. Before the Industrial Revolution 98% of humanity farmed. Now, in the Western World that figure has been reduced to 2%, thanks to capitalism, and in spite of anti-capitalist regulations and taxation. Paul Erlich's book "The Population Bomb, predicted that the carrying capacity of the world would be reached by 1985, and continued asserting that it would be reached at later dates. It has not been reached and likely will not to be.

You wonder about water. Of course that is a regional issue, but you may note that Israel has turned enormous desert areas into successful agricultural land. The Arabs can take a lesson from that, as can the ENLs. For example, nuclear fusion is one of the safest sources of power available (fusion would be even better, when and if it is developed). It can be used to obtain water, either from underground or by distillation. (Distillation can be done without nuclear power, but solar heat will likely not be sufficient for the quantities required.)

The agricultural revolution is not over. Genetically modified foods promise improved agricultural production and food value. Large vertical buildings, constructed for the purpose of growing crops and livestock have enormous potential to compete with ordinary market garden farming. Their presence right in the cities they feed, will reduce transportation costs. Upper stories would be well above the usual level where pests and disease spread, reducing the need for chemicals to resist parasite and weed organisms.

Who knows what is around the corner IF human ingenuity is not stifled by ENLs' demands for restrictive legislation? Demands largely based on such nonsense as the "precautionary principle", which argues for restrictions with no basis for doing so, except fear.

Instead of concluding, "we are going to hit the wall, and are doomed to grief", consider what will advance humanity beyond that 'wall', because there is no wall.

Steve Loebs said...

"You may say it is 'the usual argument', but it is one that is very very poorly understood across Western society. The yeoman farmer is now an anachronism, and is so because of Jefferson's more timeless ideals, as written into the Declaration and the Constitution."

You ought to go back and re-read TJ. Your assertion could not be more divorced from the facts and spirit of his writing. Here in California, the yeoman farmer ideal is exploding and taking many new modern forms. Land is expensive in California due to bad tax policy and a rapid population growth, but folks are planting small farms and turning suburban backyards into large vegetable gardens. The organic farmers' markets are enjoying rapid growth and demand.

People hate the GE foods and imported foods not just because of a "fear" factor, but because it is low-quality industrial food. When a neighbor shares her perfectly-ripened Hillybilly or Brandywine homegrown organic tomatoes with me, the quality-of-life experience born of grower's pride, great flavor and the inability to find the same produce at any major retailer's market is a key component of what TJ was trying to communicate. When I grow it myself, the WEALTH experience of consuming said produce is even greater!! This is not Luddism, it is seeking eudaimonia -- the pursuit of HAPPINESS.

"The issue is not simply a matter of 'how much arable land is available on the Earth'. That perspective depends on the fallacy of the 'fixed pie' with respect to resources."

Other than the solar power income FLOWS, of course the Earth's STOCK of resources is fixed. The only issues are: (1) how efficiently the resources are extracted and utilized and (2) at what cost in terms of substitutability. However, you evaded my questions. If you wish to reframe them, fine.

So let's say that the population of the planet grows 1000 times its current amount. We would have almost 7 trillion persons inhabiting the planet. Do you believe that the planet has the resources (or living living space based on the math) to provide for a population of 7 trillion? Or use 7 quadrillion! My point should be obvious regarding carrying capacity.

"***The carrying capacity of the Earth is vastly greater than anything the Environmentalist neo-Luddites (ENLs) might suggest, because the "arithmetic" changes with human ingenuity.*** It always has, and will not stop expanding as long as men are free to improvise and invent. This has been more than adequately demonstrated by Julian Simon."

There is no doubt that a Wall Street commodities maven like Jim Rogers would not hesitate to take the opposing position to Julian Simon's wager today. It is just silly to think that the Earth could support 7 trillion or 7 quadrillion persons no matter what level of technological invention. There ARE limits no matter how perfect the technology. Even more, the idea of happiness includes having some space between people and some natural areas to visit no matter how industrial and urban your preferences.

In fact, a key concept of Green Economics (from my view) is the assumption that a PERFECT technology WILL eventually be invented. That perfect robotic/nanotech capital good would create the polar opposite of the Austrian Crusoe economy. It would be a capital technology that only awaits to have communicated to it the human will of its consuming owner. In that future world, labor as a factor of production is no longer economically valuable. Assuming anyone could replicate the same technology, capital as a production factor, too, will no longer have any economic value. ONLY the land factor will possess any value.

The classical economists' labor theory of value will be obsolete. The Austrian economists' subjective theory of value will be obsolete. ONLY the natural resources will have value as the input stock to the perfect producing technology. (Again, the exact opposite situation of the Austrian Crusoe analogy.) Obviously, in that future world where your beloved technology has solved the problem of production, you will have owners of the resources and nonowners. The nonowners will have nothing of economic value to trade. In fact, the "surplus" population will just be in the way. Without the collective legal structure to govern ownership of the resources, the prognosis of your alleged technological utopia is dystopian, indeed.

Even if one agrees with you that the carrying capacity is larger than what many enviro's claim, you have no argument against the assertion that at some point the limit is reached. And if technological solutions keep up and eventually create the perfect capital good before the limits are reached, you still can not avoid the need for collective political solutions as a check on the tyranny of minoritarian ownership of the natural resources.

We Greens know that it is unavoidable, so why not behave as grown-ups and address the issue now before the dystopia is upon us? Address the issue now while one can still enjoy a high level of indivdiualist private decisionmaking?

Lisa said...

Thank you, thank you Steve and Robert and others for the civilized, informed discussion here!

You all should be on Crossfire and Hardball and what passed for a debate the other night in Penn.