Some snappy Earth Day comments from James Lileks, who scolds the eco-scolds for their static thinking after taking an online eco-impact quiz:
The quiz is so riddled with BS it’s hard to know where to start; like most of the doom & gloom models, it presumes static reactions to dynamic events: if everyone in the world lived like I did, we’d need more resources. Maybe yes, maybe not, but if everyone lived like I did they’d have fewer children, and this would affect not just what people need today but what they’d need tomorrow. It also presumes that greater demand for resources requires us to loot more planets, when it’s likely that the resources can be found right here under Gaia’s sofa cushions. That was the gist of the old Ehrlich vs. Simon debate – as the price of a resource goes up, people try to find more of it, which expands the supply and depresses the price. Repeat until matter-replicators are invented. …
This is why I get annoyed with the eco-scolds – they get that dial-tone expression when you suggest that “freedom” is as relevant to happiness and sustainability as the amount of time one spends riding oxen to the communal produce plot (fertilized with night soil and donkey glands). Perhaps even more so.
Amen. On a similar note, Virginia Postrel excerpts a New York magazine article on Fareed Zakaria. The comment that Virginia excerpts is in response to the reporter’s query as to why Zakaria is a “conservative” (see Virginia’s post for why I put quotation marks there). One reason he offers is living in India:
“… you are very quickly inured to the charms of pre-industrial village life. Whenever someone says the word community, I want to reach for an oxygen mask.”
My Reason colleague Michael DeAlessi also offers some Earth Day thoughts, geared toward encouraging meaningful market-based natural resource policies. Unlike Lileks’ eco-scolds, Michael takes a dynamic approach to a dynamic system, and offers some examples to illustrate his point:
One of the great demonstrations how human ingenuity affects conservation comes from an Alaskan fishery. Some years ago the state fishery managers decided that the catch of halibut was too large, so they made the season shorter. Before long, what had been an almost ten month season was down to 48 hours – with no real decline in catches. If human ingenuity is applied to getting around a restriction, it will probably succeed. Alaska solved the problem by making fishing rights stronger, so that there was no longer a race to fish. New Zealand has done the same thing, and now that fishers own the fishery, their incentives are completely different. They have lowered their catches on their own, and they pay for their own research and monitoring. The fishery is better managed, the environment is better monitored, and the state spends less on the fishery.
More property rights, less scolding. Hey, you musical types: how about a remix of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation” with “A little less eco-scolding, a little more owning” as the lyrics?