May 18, 2011
Environmentalist SchizophreniaBy Gary Jason
Several recent noteworthy articles sharply illuminate the increasingly schizophrenic environmentalist worldview.
The first is an amazing cri de coeur from one of Britain's most famous environmentalists, George Monbiot. In it he frankly admits that the environmentalist movement is in a quandary. Take the issue of nuclear power. Enviros typically hate it, but they refuse to deal with the fact that the only alternative is -- fossil fuels! (Yes, wind and solar power help a tiny bit, but neither can be scaled up to supply the requisite energy in the foreseeable future, and they need to be subsidized at an enormous level.)
Monbiot rightly notes that the enviros have an inconsistent worldview. On the one hand, they want a decarbonized economy to reduce pollution and save the landscape, but this can be done only by business and government building projects, and the enviros resist both government and business development.
To those enviros who dream of dramatic reductions in what we gluttonous materialists produce and consume, Monbiot notes that the enviros don't really tell us what is essential to living reasonably and what is not. He says, "An honest environmentalism needs to explain needs to explain which products should continue to be manufactured and which should not be, and what the energy sources for these manufactures should be." Curiously, it doesn't occur to Monbiot that the phrase "an honest environmentalism" is an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Then there are enviros who predict (nay, yearn for!) an imminent economic collapse because we are running out of fossil fuels. They feel that such a collapse will both punish wicked humanity and cut the number of homo sapiens down to size. (Some enviros have put their dream number of people on the planet at 400,000 -- meaning that their dream is the nightmare scenario in which 99.99% of all humans just die.)
But here Monbiot replies that the predicted peak in oil production has come and gone -- the International Energy Agency just recently estimated that world production of petroleum actually peaked in 2006. Have we had an economic collapse, or even shortages of oil? No -- in fact, the world economy grew 4.6% last year. The reason, Monbiot notes, is that there are substitutes for petroleum, such as shale gas and oil. I couldn't agree more, and I have remarked before on the proliferation of new discoveries of shale oil and gas.
This robust economic growth even as conventional oil production declines is no surprise from the point of view of economists, especially those like the late Julian Simon, however shocking it may be from the enviro perspective. As I have argued elsewhere, there are two competing narratives here: the apocalyptic one of the environmentalist religion, which holds (and hopes) that the human race will run out of resources and wind up in a Malthusian hell, and the narrative of economists, who see that as the price of a resource rises, consumers will use less or look for substitutes, and producers will be incentivized to come up with new sources of supply as well as new substitutes.
Monbiot views the rise of substitutes for conventional fossil fuels with dismay. As he so lachrymosely laments, "[t]he problem we face is not that we have too little fossil fuels, but too much." As we run low on conventional supplies of oil (or any other resource), we will switch to alternatives. But he believes that these alternatives will destroy the ecosystem. He says, "Collapse will come some day, but not before we have pulled everything down with us."
In other words, that devil Julian Simon was right! Oh, Mother Gaia, please forgive us! We will despoil you before the Malthusian hell you plan for us kicks in!
He concludes with a wail, "All of us in the environmentalist movement, in other words -- whether we propose accommodation, radical downsizing or collapse -- are lost. None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess."
How it makes your heart break! That is, until you remember that this hypocritically spoiled, morally supercilious, and economically ignorant loon wants the economies of the Earth not to adjust to declining oil reserves, but instead to just accept said reserves and dwindle away in deepening recession -- in other words, to just drop dead.
Apparently the leftist-dominated EPA has the same mindset, because as a recent report indicates, the agency intends to take aim at shale oil and gas under an expansion of the Clean Water Act. It is worried that the use of "fracking" -- the technology that frees oil and gas from shale formations by injecting water, sand, and a small amount of chemicals under high pressure into the rock -- will contaminate water supplies. But fracking hasn't contaminated any water yet, and it probably won't, since the chemicals are injected far underneath water tables.
These stories illustrate a well-proven sociological phenomenon, which I humbly call Jason's First Law of Environmentalism: When any new productive energy technology is developed, the environmentalist community will immediately attempt to stop its use. Enviros favor only completely uneconomical energy sources (such as wind, solar, biomass, and ethanol) that can work only with massive subsidies -- subsidies that are typically a hundred times any subsidies given to the proven technologies (nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas).
What causes this strange behavior in this admittedly deviant community? Well, what is the environmental community? It is the first well-organized and funded group of self-loathing hominids -- that is, humans who detest humanity -- in history. That explains why they prefer the uneconomical forms of power: they know that any society that replaced economically feasible forms of power with uneconomical ones would soon economically collapse, and, being self-loathing hominids, they seek precisely that.
But ordinary, self-respecting hominids seem to be catching on -- and they are fighting back, as illustrated by the nice report that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is going to buck orders by the U.N. by starting to produce the insecticide DDT again.
Malaria is an ancient disease, one that is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of children (mainly African) and rendering tens of millions of others impaired. The U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) has long opposed DDT, viewing it as a horrible pollutant that destroys the ecosystem. The UNEP (with pressure from various environmentalist groups, which are mainly composed of relatively wealthy people in developed countries where malaria doesn't exist) is pushing to completely eliminate DDT within a decade. Not regulate it, mind you -- say, by confining its use to malaria vector control, as opposed to widespread routine use in agriculture -- but to ban it completely. However, DDT has proven uniquely valuable in fighting malaria by acting as a powerful repellent to mosquitoes, even those that have developed immunity to it.
The SADC has made it clear that it rejects the heartless agenda of the UNEP and the wealthy self-loathing hominids pushing it -- whose own children, again, don't suffer from malaria -- of banning DDT. Instead, the SADC prefers actually protecting real children to possibly protecting unidentified wildlife that hasn't been shown to be harmed by DDT. And the SADC will manufacture the stuff itself if it has to.
Good for the SADC. It has struck a blow against moral idiocy. For that it should be praised.
Gary Jason is a contributing editor of LibertyUnbound.