This Earth Day, stop thinking as an environmentalist and start thinking as an economist.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.” ~ Douglas Adams

April 22 is Earth Day, and you know what that means. That’s right, the 43rd running of the Eco-catastrophists and Neo-Malthusians! Why, according to the Earth Day Network, “[M]ore than one billion people around the globe will take part in Earth Day 2012 and help Mobilize the Earth™. People of all nationalities and backgrounds will voice their appreciation for the planet and demand its protection.” It gives me chills just thinking about it.

This coming Earth Day, many will be confessing the environmental sins of the green and ungreen alike, sitting in ashes and wearing hair shirts (manufactured from coconut fibers). They will say something such as what was read responsively in churches and synagogues in 1994: “We use more than our share of the Earth’s resources. We are responsible for massive pollution of earth, water and sky…Nobody loves us. Everybody hates us. Guess we’ll go die and feed the worms.” Okay, I made up the last bit about nobody loving us, etc.

It is the Environmentalist’s Creed for The Church of the Fragile Planet: “The water is polluted and the air is worse. We’re washing away topsoil from our farmland; and what we aren’t washing away, we’re paving over. The more industrial products and babies we produce, the less hospitable to Nature our world becomes. Our exploding population and our greedy plundering of resources decreases habitat for every other living thing that we share this tiny and fragile world with. Nature can endure no longer. We have reached the tipping point.”

That’s The Litany: Too many people producing too many babies while chasing too few resources on a fragile planet. It is the truth. . . right?

“It’s manifestly untrue.” says Peter Kareiva, chief scientist of the world’s largest environmental organization, The Nature Conservancy. “In Green rhetoric, everything in nature is described as fragile—rivers, forests, the whole planet.” Yet, most places, and he has data to back his claims, are quite resilient. One example: “Books have been written about the collapse of cod in the Georges Bank, yet recent trawl data show the biomass of cod has recovered to precollapse levels. It’s doubtful that books will be written about this cod recovery since it does not play well to an audience somehow addicted to stories of collapse and environmental apocalypse.”

“…Nature, as opposed to the physical and chemical workings of natural systems, has always been a human construction, shaped and designed for human ends. The notion that nature without people is more valuable than nature with people and the portrayal of nature as fragile or feminine reflect not timeless truths, but mental schema that change to fit the time.”

That schema, or model. that Nature is ‘fragile’ leads to “fortress conservation.” All the ‘sacred places’ need fences and taboos to keep the masses from defiling them. This leads to non-negotiable demands. Says Kareiva, “When things are fragile…it puts you in a position where you do not negotiate. Because, if you just give a little–because it’s fragile–it’ll be broken.”

What is to be the way forward, the vision for the future?

It is not as humorist P. J. O’Rourke indelicately states it, “Going around the poor parts of the world shoving birth-control pills down people’s throats, hustling them into abortion clinics, and giving them cheap prizes for getting sterilized.”

No, the way forward is going to be something that will be tough for many of us to swallow: First, recognize that most places are resilient and can repair themselves. Second, “economic development for all.” With the possibility of work in urban areas, subsistence farmers will abandon their hardscrabble life and allow forests to reclaim the land. A 2010 report concluded that “40 to 70 percent of the species of the original forests” returned when this happened.

I plan to Celebrate Earth Day by reviewing the Copenhagen Consensus list (copenhagenconsensus.com) developed by some of the world’s smartest economists. The sooner the rest of the world catches up to the rich nations, the better for the earth.

Sources:
“Earth Day 2012 – Mobilize the Earth” http://www.earthday.org/2012 (accessed April 10, 2012)
“Green Hearts Project” http://www.earthday.org/green-hearts-project (accessed April 11, 2012)
CONSERVATION IN THE ANTHROPOCENE,” PETER KAREIVA, ROBERT LALASZ, AND MICHELLE MARVIER (http://breakthroughjournal.org/content/authors/peter-kareiva-robert-lalasz-an-1/conservation-in-the-anthropoce.shtml)
All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty” by P. J. O’Rourke, 1994
“Conservation on a ‘Spoiled’ Earth” http://breakthroughjournal.org/content/blog/conservation-on-a-spoiled-eart.shtml (accessed April 12, 2012)
“Conservation: Myth-busting scientist pushes greens past reliance on ‘horror stories’ — 04/03/2012) http://www.eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2012/04/03/1?page_type=print (accessed April 10, 2012)
“The Breakthrough Institute: So, You Want To Be a Conservationist?” http://thebreakthrough.org/blog/2012/04/peter_kareivas_breakthrough.shtml (accessed April 10, 2012)

Not one of these “Related Articles” relates to this post.

Things to do for an Earth Day Celebration (goneastrea.wordpress.com)
10 Fab Eco-Friendly Earth Day Finds (fabsugar.com)
Earth Day (socialactions.net)
Earth Day!!! (yourlifeoutdoors.wordpress.com)
Bella Bargain: Wash Your Hands With “Grease” on Earth Day (bellasugar.com)
Corner Brook Earth Day Celebrations (wecnl.wordpress.com)
Earth Day Celebrations (nrhatch.wordpress.com)

Post to Twitter

TNC’s Chief Scientist Considers Conservation in the Real World

 

English: Stewart Brand in Sausalito, Californi...

Stewart Brand of the Long Now Foundation. Image via Wikipedia

Stewart Brand provided a synopsis of Peter Kareiva’s talk given at the Long Now Foundation.

In general, environmentalist have earned the reputation of being “misanthropic, anti-technology, anti-growth, dogmatic, purist, zealous, exclusive pastoralists.”

Kareiva gave several examples of how that reputation was earned. In Green rhetoric, everything in nature is described as “fragile!”—rivers, forests, the whole planet. It’s manifestly untrue. America’s eastern forest lost two of its most dominant species—the american chestnut and the passenger pigeon—and never faltered. Bikini Atoll was vaporized in an H-bomb test that boiled the ocean. When National Geographic sent a research team there recently, they found 25% more coral than was ever there before. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster last year caused dramatically less harm to salt marshes and fisheries than expected, apparently because ocean bacteria ate most of the 5 million barrels of oil.

The problem with the fragility illusion is that it encourages a misplaced purism, leaving no room for compromise or negotiation, and it leads to “fortress conservation”—the idea that the only way to protect “fragile” ecosystems is to exclude all people.

“When things are fragile, and you’re convinced that they’re fragile, it puts you in a position where you do not negotiate. Because, if you just give a little–because it’s fragile–it’ll be broken, like that.” – Peter Kareiva, Chief Scientist & Director of Science at The Nature Conservancy.

Post to Twitter

Peter Kareiva “Conservation in the Real World”

Peter Kareiva, the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy is well worth listening to. He recently gave a seminar at the Long Now Foundation. Stewart Brand, who hosts the Seminars About Long-term Thinking, noted this from Kareiva’s talk:

In Green rhetoric, everything in nature is described as “fragile!”—rivers, forests, the whole planet. It’s manifestly untrue. America’s eastern forest lost two of its most dominant species—the american chestnut and the passenger pigeon—and never faltered. Bikini Atoll was vaporized in an H-bomb test that boiled the ocean. When National Geographic sent a research team there recently, they found 25% more coral than was ever there before. The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster last year caused dramatically less harm to salt marshes and fisheries than expected, apparently because ocean bacteria ate most of the 5 million barrels of oil.

Post to Twitter