Unrealistic environmentalism

Fuzzy environmental thinking
1. The environmental movement is grounded in a religion of nature characterized by hostility toward progress, science and the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition. It is suspicious of reason. It finds mysticism in nature, making a ritual bow to a mystical sense of connectedness and refuses to take seriously humankind's place in the ecology.

The environmental movement and an increasing number of the public revere natural. Mother's milk is natural, spring water is natural, organic tomatoes are natural. So is the poisonous radon gas that erupted from a lake bottom in Cameroon claiming 1500 lives, as are the earthquakes that shattered Mexico City, San Francisco and Armenia, and as is the volcanic mudslide that killed 21,000 Colombians. Basing their beliefs on the teachings of Rousseau and the romantic poets; responding to the man made disasters of our age: Hiroshima, Bhopal and Chernobyl; and being isolated from the reality of nature these fuzzy environmentalist create a vision of the future that is neither politically nor economically feasible nor morally defensible. They call for the deindustrialization of the west and the use of appropriate technology, appropriate to an age when there were a few hundred million people on the earth and the life expectancy was 35 years.

2. Conventional wisdom has it that the way to avert global ecological disaster is to persuade people to change their selfish habits for the common good. A more sensible approach would be to tap a boundless and renewable resource: the human propensity for thinking mainly of short term self-interest.

3. At the center of all environmentalism lies a problem: whether to appeal to the heart or to the head -- whether to urge people to make sacrifices in behalf of the planet or to accept that they will not, and instead rig the economic choices so that they find it rational to be environmentalist. It is a problem that most activists in the environmental movement barely pause to recognize. Good environmental practice is compatible with growth, they insist, so it is rational as well as moral. Yet if this were so, good environmental practice would pay for itself, and there would be no need to pass laws to deter polluters or regulate emissions. A country or a firm that cut corners on pollution control would have no cost advantage over its rivals. Those who do recognize this problem often conclude that their appeals should not be made to self-interest but rather should be couched in terms of sacrifice, selflessness, or, increasingly, moral shame.

(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems