In observance of the ‘green holy day’ Earth Day: The science of economics versus the religion of environmentalism

Posted on April 28, 2013 by

I only have one small nit to pick with Landsburg and it deals with his loose terminology. We are all “environmentalists” to the extent that nobody wants to live in a dirty environment. Also, “ecology” is a valid and legitimate branch of the science of biology and, as such, not a dirty word.

Both economics and ecology serve the same purpose–to allocate scarce resources amongst insatiable desires. Economics is man’s ecology. Ecology is nature’s economics.

So, lest we intend to pin the crime on the innocent, the despicable character he describes would best be called a “radical environmentalist” and indeed they are as passionate about their mythology as any evangelical preacher you ever ran into. — jtl, 419

via The American Enterprise Institute

Some required reading in observance of the “green holy day,” aka Earth Day (April 22), from Steven Landsburg’s book “Armchair Economist,” in the chapter titled “Why I Am Not an Environmentalist: The Science of Economics versus the Religion of Ecology“:

The hallmark of science is a commitment to follow arguments to their logical conclusions; the hallmark of certain kinds of religion is a slick appeal to logic followed by a hasty retreat if it points in an unexpected direction. Environmentalists can quote reams of statistics on the importance of trees and then jump to the conclusion that recycling paper is a good idea. But the opposite conclusion makes equal sense. 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 [MP: e.g. print as many emails as possible]— or lobby for subsidies to the logging industry. Mention this to an environmentalist. My own experience is that you will be met with some equivalent of the beatific smile of a door-to-door evangelist stumped by an unexpected challenge, but secure in his grasp of Divine Revelation.

This suggests that environmentalists — at least the ones I have met — have no real interest in maintaining the tree population. If they did, they would seriously inquire into the long-term effects of recycling. 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.

Suggesting an actual solution to an environmental problem is a poor way to impress an environmentalist, unless your solution happens to feed his sense of moral superiority. Subsidies to logging, the use of pesticides, planned extinctions, and exporting pollution to Mexico are outside the catechism; subsidies to mass transportation, the use of catalytic converters, planned fuel economy standards, and exporting industry from the Pacific Northwest are part of the infallible doctrine. Solutions seem to fall into one category or the other not according to their actual utility but according to their consistency with environmentalist dogma.

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About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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One Response to In observance of the ‘green holy day’ Earth Day: The science of economics versus the religion of environmentalism

  1. Pingback: christianity’s role in environmental concern not simple | Eating the Elephant with a Spoon

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