Earth

Postenvironmentalism and Technological Abundance

A review of Love Your Monsters, a collection of essays on a new kind of environmentalism.

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Environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus famously proclaimed The Death of Environmentalism in 2004. Now they're back with an ambitious new collection of essays titled Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene. Their goal is to dismantle the neo-Malthusian environmentalism of sacrifice and collapse and replace it with a new environmentalism that celebrates human creativity and technological abundance. Hooray!

In their introductory essay, Shellenberger and Nordhaus make the case that technological progress and economic growth is the road to salvation, not the highway to ruin. They acknowledge that global warming may bring worsening disasters and disruptions in rainfall, snowmelts, and agriculture. However, they add, there is little evidence it will end civilization. "Even the most catastrophic United Nations scenarios predict rising economic growth. While wealthy environmentalists claim to be especially worried about the impact of global warming on the poor, it is rapid, not retarded, development that is most likely to protect the poor against natural disasters and agricultural losses." 

As welcome as their conclusion is, it's not a novel insight. As it happens, a new report by the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit that publishes this website), Misled on Climate Change, [PDF] points out that the United Nations scenario in which humanity burns the most fossil fuels over the next century is also the one in which global wealth is greatest. In that scenario "by 2100 GDP per capita in poor countries will be double the U.S.'s 2006 level, even taking into account any negative impact of climate change." For the record, current U.S. GDP per capita is $47,000. As the Reason report concludes, sustained economic growth over the next century "would not only address all of the current problems that might get worse in the future but would also enable humanity to address more effectively any other future problems it encounters, whether climate-related or otherwise."

The title of the collection comes from French anthropologist Bruno Latour's essay, "Love Your Monsters: Why We Must Care For Our Technologies As We Do Our Children." Latour argues the story of Frankenstein has been misinterpreted by modern environmentalists as a cautionary tale about the dangers of technological hubris. In fact, Latour correctly points out that Frankenstein's creature only became a "monster" as a result of being rejected and abandoned by his creator. In a similar manner to Frankenstein, environmentalists reject many new and old technologies out of fear of their unintended consequences. Most parents love their children despite the inconveniences posed by the noxious emissions they discharge from time to time. Latour argues that we should similarly embrace and care for our technologies despite side effects like pollution. Through love and care, both children and technologies can be civilized in ways that ameliorate and reduce noxious consequences associated with them.

The next essay, "Conservation in the Anthropocene: Beyond Solitude and Fragility" is by three practicing conservationists, Peter Kareiva and Robert Lalasz at The Nature Conservancy, and Santa Clara University environmental scientist Michelle Marvier. Anthropocene is a proposed term to describe the current geological age in which humans are having a significant impact on the ecosphere. The essay begins by pointing out that "the worldwide number of protected areas has risen dramatically from under 10,000 in 1950 to over 100,000 by 2009." This amounts to as much as 13 percent of the world's land area, an area larger than all of South America. And yet deforestation and species extinction continue unabated.

The three urge environmentalists to drop "their idealized notions of nature, parks, and wilderness—ideas that have never been supported by good conservation science—and forge a more optimistic, human-friendly vision." They cite evidence that local people are better at managing natural resources and landscapes than are the centralized government bureaucracies favored by most environmentalist organizations. They ask, "If there is no wilderness, if nature is resilient rather than fragile, and if people are actually part of nature and not the original sinners who caused our banishment from Eden, then what should be the new vision for conservation?" They answer that conservation must "embrace a priority that has been anathema to us for more than a hundred years: economic development for all [emphasis added]." Among other things, economic development means more people living in cities and fewer on the landscape; more productive crops grown on fewer acres; and cleaner technologies with fewer side effects. "Nature could be a garden—not a carefully manicured and rigid one, but a tangle of species and wildness amidst lands used for food production, mineral extraction, and urban life," they argue.

Geographer Erle Ellis asserts in "Planet of No Return: Human Resilience on an Artificial Earth" that Malthusian environmentalism has gotten it completely wrong when it claims that there are limits to growth. Human social and technological ingenuity creates more resources over time. Ellis suggests, "As populations, consumption, and technological power advance at an exponential pace, industrial systems appear to be evolving in new directions that tend to reverse many of the environmental impacts caused by agriculture and prior human systems." For example, more people are moving from the landscape into cities where they have better access to health care, education, incomes, housing, markets, transportation, and waste treatment. Agriculture productivity modernizes and intensifies potentially sparing more land for nature.

Next philosopher Mark Sagoff deconstructs ecological economics which asserted that the scope and scale of the human enterprise was overloading ecological systems and causing them to collapse. Ecological economists argued that there were such things as ecosystems in which organisms and physical resources were tightly bound and which evolved together as a community. Disturbing these tight linkages could result in a collapse of the whole system. Subsequent empirical research finds that plant and animal "communities" are a figment; plants and animals just show up and survive as best they can where they find themselves. There is no balance of nature to be upset. Of course, unintended consequences of technological and economic development must be dealt with, but there are no ultimate constraints on economic growth.

A devastating critique of Malthusian environmentalism is offered by Daniel Sarewitz in his essay "Liberalism's Modest Proposal, Or the Tyranny of Scientific Rationality." He begins by citing Jonathan Swift's famous satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which Swift suggested that the problem of Irish famine might simply be dealt with by eating Irish babies. Sarewitz argues that Swift's goal was to show that "pretty much any position, however repulsive, could be advanced on the back of rationality." Sarewitz argues with regard to the problem of climate change modern environmentalists have adopted a form of scientific rationality in which the fact that burning fossil fuels to produce cheap energy harms the climate suggests that solution is to "make energy more expensive." Sarewitz then points out that the access to cheap energy is, in fact, "a basic requirement for human development and dignity." He adds, "This fact is so blindingly obvious that nearly any large developing country has treated the idea of a global agreement to raise the price of energy as a joke of Swiftean character. The difference being, of course, that it was not a joke."

Sarewitz then identifies the political incoherence that lies at the heart of environmentalism. On the one hand, environmentalists want to avoid the risks of new technologies and on the other Malthusian hand they worry about declining stocks of natural resources. Consequently, environmentalists "find themselves, for reasons of risk, opposing new technologies that could help resolve issues of scarcity." As an example of this political and scientific incoherence, Sarewitz cites the case of genetically enhanced crops which environmentalists oppose because of their alleged risks to human health although such crops would ameliorate environmentalist concerns about soil and water depletion, pesticide residues, and population growth. Sarewitz cuts through the current incoherence by rejecting the environmentalist scheme to raise energy prices by means of a global cap-and-trade regime on fossil fuels. Sarewitz instead argues for an intensive research effort aimed at developing cheap low-carbon energy sources.

The collection ends with an essay by engineer Siddhartha Shome, "The New India Versus the Global Greens Brahmins; The Surprising History of Tree Hugging." Shome details the history of the Chipko movement in the 1970s in which Himalayan village women literally hugged trees in forests near their homes in order to prevent outside loggers from cutting them down. This story was retold as an ecological tale in which the women were cast as protectors of nature. As Shome makes clear, the villagers intended to preserve their traditional forest rights from outsiders. The villagers wanted to maintain local control over resources, not create a nature preserve. Research shows that in fact local people tend to be better stewards of natural resources than centralized bureaucracies.

Malthusian environmentalists like to cite factoids like the average American child over the course of her lifetime will consume 35 times more resources than the average Indian child. Shome shows that villagers are now abandoning the countryside, flocking to India's economically dynamic cities seeking a better life for themselves and their families. They have every intention that their children will catch up to American kids when it comes to material welfare. Instead of reconciling themselves to ascetic poverty as Mahatma Gandhi urged, Shome shows that India's poor are following the lead of the father of India's constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar. Ambedkar argued, "Machinery and modern civilization are thus indispensable for emancipating man from leading the life of a brute … The slogan of a democratic society must be machinery, and more machinery, civilization and more civilization."

One big problem with the collection is that it fails to recognize the context that enabled the technological progress of the past two centuries to occur—the rise strong property rights and market economies. There simply has been no appreciable technological innovation in countries that do not have these institutions. In addition, Shellenberger and Nordhaus assert that many ecological problems—global warming, deforestation, and overfishing—are the unintended consequences of human technological success.

Obviously technology contributes to these predicaments, but the chief problem is that they (and nearly all other environmental problems) occur in open access commons. If there is no clear ownership of rights to a natural resource, the users of the resource will overexploit it. If they leave something behind, the next guy will simply take it. In general the best way to protect resources is to privatize them and put them into the market, but that's a subject for another time.

It turns out that the "monsters" feared by environmentalists are largely figments of their cramped Malthusian imaginations. Sure, there are unintended consequences to technologies, but the solution is not to abandon them, but to improve them. The way to protect and preserve nature is to make humanity more prosperous. In the end, given its failure to understand both ecology and economics, one is left wondering what the purpose of environmentalism was supposed to be anyway?

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

NEXT: "A serious constitutional challenge to rent-control and stabilization laws may finally be in the works."

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  1. One point that “environmentalists” always ignore is that poverty is vastly more destructive to the environment than wealth.

    One need look no further than the extinction of virtually every large mammal in Europe and the Chinese coastal plain prior to the industrial revolution to see how this is the case.

    1. Also see the extinction of virtually every large mammal in the Americas when Humans arrived. When you are poor/hungry you eat what is available.

      1. Yup. And you cut down whatever trees you need to grow food and burn to keep warm. There are vastly more trees today in a place like New York State than there was 200 years ago. Back then they couldn’t afford to leave trees alone.

        1. They also had to farm crappy land.

        2. Also: take a look at a satellite image of Hispanola in the Caribbean, the demarcation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is stark.

          1. The Hatians cut everything that grows and burn it to make charcoal, which they then sell for pennies….

  2. We know who the 1%ers are:

    – They are the oligarchs who control 42% of the wealth in this nation;
    – They collect 24% of the income;
    – They are wealthy enough to buy politicians on both sides of the aisle
    – They are wealthy enough to have bought a whole political party, which only represents their interests now;
    – They have paid for tax laws and public programs to be passed that only benefit them, even if it means the rest of the country suffers;
    – They own their own propaganda wing, composed of cable news, newspapers, magazines, and think tanks;
    – They benefit by making the 99% blame and fight each other, rather than fighting to spread the wealth they have sequestered from the rest of the nation;
    – They have written credit laws so that the bottom 99% has 73% of the debt, in spite of controlling so little of the assets;
    They are so powerful that they are cannot even be prosecuted or punished for their misdeeds.

    1. The solution, then, would be to defang government.

    2. go away astroturf

    3. They are wealthy enough to have bought a whole political party, which only represents their interests now;

      You’re telling us; we’ve been saying this about the Democrats for years.

    4. I hardly know where to start, but how about with the statement that the top 1% “have written credit laws so that the bottom 99% has 73% of the debt, in spite of controlling so little of the assets.”

      Is there something in the “credit laws” that requires the bottom 1% to borrow money?

    5. They are wealthy enough to have bought a whole political party, which only represents their interests now;

      Your perspective is limited. Both parties are parties of the bought.

      How does one explain a constitutional lawyer and community activist being worth millions of dollars?

  3. Monocles for everyone!

  4. The three urge environmentalists to drop “their idealized notions of nature, parks, and wilderness?

    You just lost the Walden crowd.

  5. Whatever the future holds it is unlikely to be worse than billions of people living in horrible subsistence poverty. It is easy for us in the richest country in the world to want the world to stay the same. Technology is our only hope. All we can do is develop it and hope for the best.

    1. Whatever the future holds it is unlikely to be worse than billions of people living in horrible subsistence poverty.

      I believe that one extreme environmentalist philosophy is that the world contains merely hundreds of thousands of people living in subsistence poverty.

      This way they:

      1. Don’t have numbers high enough to damage the environment.
      2. Their short, wretched lives consisting of hunting and gathering make the smallest footprint with no secondary man-made toxic externalities.

      1. I am looking for the gamoling man to pop up now.

      2. the world contains merely should only contain hundreds of thousands of people living in subsistence poverty.

        I don’t understand the moral argument for letting billions of people die just so that manmade changes to the world can be reversed. Why do enviros hate humans so much?

        1. Nobody has argued for “letting billions of people die”. The arguement is that the in the absence of fertilizer we can produce food for ~3 billion people so that as natural gas, which nitrogen fertilizer is made from, becomes more scarce, food prices will increase and the concern is people will not be able to buy or produce enough food to sustain their lives. As there is currently no substitute for nitrogen that can be mined or manufactured on the scale that is needed, this is a serious predicament.

          1. Say what? The world is awash in NG, and will be for as far as the prognosticators can see, at least. US prices are around $3, and more likely to fall than rise. That’s about 10% the cost of the equivalent energy in oil.

            So you’re approximately 100% wrong.

            1. Yes, I realize that. This is not projected to play out until 2030-2035. There is also mineral sources of nitrogen in Argentina and Peru that aren’t accounted for in these projection.

  6. Sarewitz then identifies the political incoherence that lies at the heart of environmentalism. On the one hand, environmentalists want to avoid the risks of new technologies

    Ok.

    and on the other Malthusian hand they worry about declining stocks of natural resources.

    Ok.

    Consequently, environmentalists “find themselves, for reasons of risk, opposing new technologies that could help resolve issues of scarcity.”

    No they don’t. They find themselves searching for ways to reduce risk from new technologies as they are used to resolve problems of scarcity.

    As an example of this political and scientific incoherence, Sarewitz cites the case of genetically enhanced crops which environmentalists oppose because of their alleged risks to human health

    Most opposition to GM crops from environmentalists is about the potential harm to the ecosphere, not to humans in particular. That fear is typically overblown, but it is not risks to human health that are at the heart of opposition to this particular technology (in my experience).

    although such crops would ameliorate environmentalist concerns about soil and water depletion, pesticide residues, and population growth.

    As with any decision making process, it is about balancing the cost/benefit profile of the technology. Many environmentalists get this one wrong, but it isn’t a conceptual problem as presented here…it is one of data. The “potential” harms were engrained in the public discourse when no good information was known. Now, there is data available to make more informed choices.

    Sarewitz cuts through the current incoherence by rejecting the environmentalist scheme to raise energy prices by means of a global cap-and-trade regime on fossil fuels. Sarewitz instead argues for an intensive research effort aimed at developing cheap low-carbon energy sources.

    Which is the primary goal/ policy position of most environmentalists…find better technology than the current.

    My 2 cents.

    1. “Which is the primary goal/ policy position of most environmentalists…find better technology than the current.”

      That is actually true. But it is literally true and that is not a good thing. If you are always demanding improvements, nothing ever meets your standards. And thus, you are never for any technology that actually exists only the “improved technology” you want to exist.

      The result of this attitude is to make environmentalist effectively Luddite.

      1. That is actually true. But it is literally true and that is not a good thing.

        Both actual and literal. Ok.

        If you are always demanding improvements, nothing ever meets your standards.

        And this is a problem because…?

        And thus, you are never for any technology that actually exists only the “improved technology” you want to exist.

        The result of this attitude is to make environmentalist effectively Luddite.

        That’s an interesting take on the term “Luddite.” I would say there is a stronger case for “Luddite” to be applied to those that oppose environmentalist demands to improve current technologies. If you think your old lightbulb, coal-fired power-plant, gasoline powered car, or whatever is superior to the proposed technologies that environmentalists a pushing for, you are closer to the Luddite position than the group that is seeking a technological solution.

        The Luddite howling gets downright thick ’round here whenever a developing technology is discussed. A different way to do things is more often than not met with a “reasoned” argument about how it doesn’t, can’t ever, work and how any attempt to develop it is misguided.

        1. I’m okay with environmentalist demands (basically, market forces) until central planners get involved.

        2. The Luddite howling gets downright thick ’round here whenever a developing technology is discussed.

          What a screaming pile of arrogant bullshit. Find me one example of someone around here arguing that any attempt to develop “a different way to do things”, i.e. a new technology, is fundamentally misguided.

          The error that halfwits like you make is imagining that arguments against government favoring developing technologies are arguments against any technological advancement at all, either de facto or de jure.

          1. What a screaming pile of arrogant bullshit. Find me one example of someone around here arguing that any attempt to develop “a different way to do things”, i.e. a new technology, is fundamentally misguided.

            Go to any thread on solar energy.

            The error that halfwits like you make is imagining that arguments against government favoring developing technologies are arguments against any technological advancement at all, either de facto or de jure.

            I have no problem recognizing the difference. And I have no problem with the basic shape of that argument. Not everyone here sticks to that line of reasoning.

            1. Go to any thread on solar energy.

              “Solar” technology is decades old and could hardly be classified as “new”. Your example completely misses the fact that solar is not “new technology”, it is decades old.

              If you evaluate solar on it’s merits it is clear, from an engineering point of view, that no amount of research is going to change the fact that the energy density of sun isn’t all that great. That the sun doesn’t shine at night. That there is no viable way to store the energy.

              If you think your old lightbulb, coal-fired power-plant, gasoline powered car, or whatever is superior to the proposed technologies that environmentalists a pushing for, you are closer to the Luddite position than the group that is seeking a technological solution.

              The “technologies that environmentalists a pushing for” are technologies that only a complete ignoramis of the basic physical sciences would argue for.

              1. The free market investment in solar and wind is based on speculation that oil and gas prices will continue to increase and that the prices of solar and wind will continue to decrease. Being the first to get a foothold in an emerging industry has advantages and private investors are willing to fund these projects on that basis.

                Onshore wind technology is already the same price as coal and there is less risk right now to build a new wind farm than coal powered electricity generators.

                It has cheaper for quite some time to power remote homes and businesses using solar rather than pay the cost of building private power lines. As the cost of solar decreases, the number of properties where solar is cheaper to install than hydro lines increases.

                Finally, as a libertarian I am willing to pay a premium for solar or wind power on my property because it means I don’t have to abide by various electrical code regulations, don’t have to deal with a highly politicized energy grid, or fund that portion of the power grid that was only built to power my neighbour’s innefficient light bulbs.

        3. Re: Neu Mejican,

          I would say there is a stronger case for “Luddite” to be applied to those that oppose environmentalist demands to improve current technologies.

          Just like calling those farmers who do not want to collectivize “kulaks,” so as to have no qualms about having them shot.

          Same shit, no? It’s easy to twist words when the ends justify the means, right Neu?

          1. Wow.
            Project much.

            1. Re: Neu Mejican,

              Project much.

              Obfuscate much, Neu?

              A Luddite is a person against any form of innovation that threatens his or her economic interest or culture. A person that does not want to spend time and money in a certain technology because it simply does not work is NOT a Luddite. You twist the meaning of a word just like your Marxoid brethren of old used to do in order to shoot people with no qualms.

        4. there is a stronger case for “Luddite” to be applied to those that oppose environmentalist demands to improve current technologies

          Name one person who doesn’t want to improve technology. Go ahead name just one.

          If you think your old lightbulb, coal-fired power-plant, gasoline powered car, or whatever is superior

          The market says that, currently, they are superior.

          to the proposed technologies that environmentalists a pushing for

          That’s the problem. Environmentalists are pushing for ‘proposed’ technologies. Which is to say, they are demanding the phasing out of current technologies before superior technologies are proven to be viable. They want to replace existing useful and economically feasible technologies with unicorn farts. In effect, they want to lower everyone’s standard of living for no discernible gain.

          Because there are enormous economic incentives to develop more efficient technology, there is a tremendous amount of R&D effort directed toward that cause, but no matter how many resources are devoted to the effort, it is never enough to satisfy environmentalists.

          1. harper mountain EVA|1.4.12 @ 7:11PM|#

            The market says that, currently, they are superior.

            See the last light bulb thread. Wasn’t about the market. It was a discussion full of fact-free rantings about the short comings of a new technology…government regulations were not the primary complaint.

            That’s the problem. Environmentalists are pushing for ‘proposed’ technologies. Which is to say, they are demanding the phasing out of current technologies before superior technologies are proven to be viable.

            Nope. The push, the demand is to work to make them viable and to phase them out (i.e., replace them as the new improved technology comes on-line).

            They want to replace existing useful and economically feasible technologies with unicorn farts.

            Nope. With better, improved technologies, once they are viable.

            In effect, they want to lower everyone’s standard of living for no discernible gain.

            Nope. They want to raise everyone standard of living. The primary difference in perspective that I see is one of cost shifting. Do we take the cost out of the environment or pay for it up front?

            Because there are enormous economic incentives to develop more efficient technology, there is a tremendous amount of R&D effort directed toward that cause, but no matter how many resources are devoted to the effort, it is never enough to satisfy environmentalists.

            And somehow this push for ever improving technology is given as evidence that they are Luddites?

    2. There’s your reasonable-sounding enviros, and then there’s your “precautionary principle” nutters, who seem to rise to positions of power and influence in the movement. Sarewitz seems to be talking about the latter.

      1. Yes. It’s not like most of us aren’t environmentalists to some degree or another. It’s just that our goals and means differ radically from those who wear the label like a halo.

        1. differ radically from those who wear the label like a halo.

          Or a Subaru Commercial.

          1. those who wear the label like a halo

            I smell smug.

            1. It’s spelled Smaug. And I smelled you first, puny human.

        2. I mentioned Lomborg in an earlier post. There’s someone whose proposals take scarcity and other real world factor into account. And b/c of it, the wackos vilify him.

    3. No they don’t. They find themselves searching for ways to reduce risk from new technologies as they are used to resolve problems of scarcity.

      Except when their method of reducing that risk veers head on into precautionary principle– demanding that the makers or purveyors of new technology prove that there aren’t any risks before allowing said technology to propogate.

      It gets very tiring trying to prove negatives.

      Most opposition to GM crops from environmentalists is about the potential harm to the ecosphere

      See: precautionary principle.

      That fear is typically overblown, but it is not risks to human health that are at the heart of opposition to this particular technology (in my experience).

      Thank you for that. They abandoned their initial fears of damage to human health because they were so utterly unfounded, they had no choice. So they moved to more nebulous ground: potential damage to the ecosphere.

      1. Except when their method of reducing that risk veers head on into precautionary principle– demanding that the makers or purveyors of new technology prove that there aren’t any risks before allowing said technology to propogate.

        The demand is typically that purveyors of new technology quantify the risk, not show that it doesn’t exist. The precautionary principle is STRONGLY in play in most libertarian thinking on the economy, btw. See the discussions about the stimulus on h&r PRIOR to the stimulus being implemented…there is nothing special about environmentalists in this sense compared to those with other issue oriented political axes to grind.

        They abandoned their initial fears of damage to human health because they were so utterly unfounded, they had no choice. So they moved to more nebulous ground: potential damage to the ecosphere.

        Nah. The first concern was for the ecosphere. Human harm was more like a wedge issue to advance the larger concern (since humans are part of the ecosystem).

        1. Not really. If they were concerned about the echoshpere they would support rational fire suppression on national forest. They wouldn’t mindlessly sue every time someone tired to manage a habitat.

          Environmentalists have a large number of sins to answer for. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect the environment. We should. But the environmentalist movement needs to take a look in the mirror and clean itself up.

          1. Conservative oil whores first.

          2. Not really. If they were concerned about the echoshpere they would support rational fire suppression on national forest.

            Environmentalists do support rational fire suppression, which includes letting fires burn.

            They wouldn’t mindlessly sue every time someone tired to manage a habitat.

            Who is this “they”? And why do you assume the suing is mindless?

            Environmentalists have a large number of sins to answer for. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect the environment. We should. But the environmentalist movement needs to take a look in the mirror and clean itself up.

            Just as there are Libertarians and libertarians, so is the Environmentalist Movement” made up of a diverse set of individuals with a variety of opinions. Many sub-groups do things that might be called “sins.” Because environmentalism is primarily an ends-based movement, it does a better job than most at that self-reflection. IMHO.

        2. The precautionary principle is STRONGLY in play in most libertarian thinking on the economy, btw. See the discussions about the stimulus on h&r PRIOR to the stimulus being implemented…there is nothing special about environmentalists in this sense compared to those with other issue oriented political axes to grind.

          The libertarian opposition to interference (stimulus) into the economy is largely a moral one- subtle difference between that and precautionary principle. As a committed libertarian, I admit to having a knee-jerk negative reaction to any political mucking in issues economic. However, I do concede that it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) that politicians could do something to the economy to make it better, but I’m still morally opposed to it because it invites wider nefarious meddling that is almost always a net negative.

          Yes, one might say it’s a distinction without a difference.

          However, it was pretty clear that the precautionary principle was STRONGLY in play by pro-stimulus forces… “If we don’t interfere, it’s doom DOOM DOOM“.

          1. “If we don’t interfere, it’s doom DOOM DOOM”.

            As I said…nothing special about environmentalists and this type of argument.

            As for “the libertarian opposition” I would say there were those that were very consequentialist in their opposition to the stimulus, ethical arguments aside.

        3. Re: Neu Mejican,

          The precautionary principle is STRONGLY in play in most libertarian thinking on the economy, btw.

          This is not true. It is bullshit logic, akin to proving a negative. Under the Precautionary Principle, people would not use fire – ever.

          1. This is not true. It is bullshit logic, akin to proving a negative. Under the Precautionary Principle, people would not use fire – ever.

            You clearly don’t have a clue, as per usual, about what you are discussing.

            1. Re: Neu Mejican,

              You clearly don’t have a clue, as per usual, about what you are discussing.

              Nice comeback, Neu. That’s the way to answer: Say that I am wrong because I have to be wrong.

              You’re being a big jerk like always, Neu. The very concept of the Precautionary Principle IS a requirement to prove a negative. Do the logic.

              1. You’re being a big jerk like always, Neu.

                That’s rich. Look at your posts and tell me again that I am the one being a jerk. You want to have a discussion, try having a discussion. You want me to dismiss your bullshit, keep slinging it. Hyperbole can be a useful rhetorical device…but as it seems to be the only one you ever employ on any topic, I will continue to dismiss you as an un-serious twit.

                1. Re: Neu Mejican,

                  Yes, and yet you continue to obfuscate. Instead of simply replying to my argument that the PP is a requirement to prove a negative, you simply call me an ignoramus. And I cannot call you a jerk? Fuck you, Neu.

          2. The precautionary principle says that in the absence of scientific consensus about an action’s harm, the burden of proof that it is not harmful applies.

            Nobody disputes fire’s utility, but you may apply the precautionary principle when utilizing it for something new.

            1. Re: Tony,

              The precautionary principle says that in the absence of scientific consensus about an action’s harm, the burden of proof that it is not harmful applies.

              You just contradicted Neu Mejican. He insulted me because I pointed out that the Precautionary Principle is a requirement to prove a negative, just like you described.

              Neu, are you going to tell Tony that he does not know what he talks about either, or are you going to be a hypocrite?

              1. Neu, are you going to tell Tony that he does not know what he talks about either, or are you going to be a hypocrite?

                He seems to, at least, know the basic shape of the precautionary principle and to recognize that it would not, in fact, prevent people from using fire.

                And, really, the “prove a negative thing” again? That you still hold on to that one as if it meant something is just more evidence that you are out of your depth. You might try taking some more advanced epistomolgy courses (or do more reading), cuz as an “old” Mexican it is embarrassing when you act like a sophomore.

                1. Re: Neu Mejican,

                  He seems to, at least, know the basic shape of the precautionary principle and to recognize that it would not, in fact, prevent people from using fire.

                  Oh, people use fire because they do NOT apply the PP, Neu. NOBODY does, it’s a stupid rule. You’re simply being dishonest about the logical implications of the PP by being selective about its application.

                  1. Why would a principle with such absurd implications even exist?

            2. The precautionary principle is only needed in societies where companies are protected against liability suits by government.

              In the society proposed by libertarians, developers of new technologies would be liable for harm their products caused to life or property and would take steps to reduce these risks voluntarily to reduce their liability costs. They may also obtain insurance and any potential insurer would evaluate the risks of the products being sold and price this into the policy.

              It seems to me that the free market would place the onus of proving a new technology was safe entirely on the producer of that technology and that, although not perfect, the precautionary principle mimics this successfully in the current system.

          3. And you’re all over the precautionary principle with respect to implementing alternative energy technology. It’s a mystery why you don’t apply it to continuing to burn fossil fuels.

            1. Re: Tony,

              And you’re all over the precautionary principle with respect to implementing alternative energy technology.

              You’re a goddamned liar. I DARE you to find a single comment of mine where I ask for the PP to rule over alternative energy. GO ahead, the day is still young.

        4. there is nothing special about environmentalists in this sense compared to those with other issue oriented political axes to grind.

          Tu quoque is a fallacy, you know.

          1. Tu quoque is a fallacy, you know.

            Of course.

            And you realize, of course, that discussions are not always about putting together logical proofs, but can, in fact, be about describing the world.

    4. Re: Neu Mejican,

      No they don’t. They find themselves searching for ways to reduce risk from new technologies as they are used to resolve problems of scarcity.

      Your statement would lead me to conclude that as long as new technologies are NOT used to solve scarcity problems, then environmentalists would be fine with them. For instance, if windmills are used exclusively to kill birds, then all would be fine.

      Would you care to rephrase it?

      Most opposition to GM crops from environmentalists is about the potential harm to the ecosphere, not to humans in particular.

      I can vouch for this. Environmentalists couldn’t care more than one flea shit about humans.

      1. Re: Neu Mejican,

        No they don’t. They find themselves searching for ways to reduce risk from new technologies as they are used to resolve problems of scarcity.

        Your statement would lead me to conclude that as long as new technologies are NOT used to solve scarcity problems, then environmentalists would be fine with them. For instance, if windmills are used exclusively to kill birds, then all would be fine.

        YOUR STATEMENT LEADS ME TO BELIEVE YOU ARE AN INSINCERE IDIOT.

        Would you care to rephrase it?

        NOPE

        Most opposition to GM crops from environmentalists is about the potential harm to the ecosphere, not to humans in particular.

        I can vouch for this. Environmentalists couldn’t care more than one flea shit about humans.

        Humans are part of the ecosystem, so they are included in any concern for the ecosystem. Disingenuous much…oh yeah, all the time.

        1. Re: Neu Mejican,

          Humans are part of the ecosystem, so they are included in any concern for the ecosystem.

          Why are you telling me this? Do you really think I don’t know that? You should remind the enviros who couldn’t care less about humans being part of the ecosystem.

        2. Re: Neu Mejican,

          YOUR STATEMENT LEADS ME TO BELIEVE YOU ARE AN INSINCERE IDIOT.

          That is what I like about you, Neu. I find the flaw in your argument and you lash out like a rabid Rabbid.

          Exactly what is insincere (for starters) about my commentary on YOUR statement is something that I cannot decipher – I am being 100% sincere. You must be having an LSD trip.

          1. That is what I like about you, Neu. I find the flaw in your argument and you lash out like a rabid Rabbid.

            But you didn’t find a flaw. You showed that you didn’t even understand the basic meaning of the sentence or the context in which it was written.

            Exactly what is insincere (for starters) about my commentary on YOUR statement is something that I cannot decipher – I am being 100% sincere. You must be having an LSD trip.

            Doubling down on the insincerity doesn’t cut it. You made a sarcastic statement to rib me. Own up to your own bullshit.

    5. Most opposition to GM crops from environmentalists is about the potential harm to the ecosphere, not to humans in particular. That fear is typically overblown, but it is not risks to human health that are at the heart of opposition to this particular technology (in my experience).

      Meh. As someone who spent 10yrs reading and writing about food-industry issues, frequently hearing from anti-gmo activists, food scientists, organic trade associations, nutritional supplement shills – you name it – I think the “potential human health Impact” of GMO is almost *always* part of the series of rationales presented against it.

      One reason I think this is necessarily the case is that since no single one of their arguments is ever by itself sufficient to actually demonstrate REAL, significant threats presented by GMOs, they tend to latch onto a more smorgasbord approach, throwing out a dozen or so half-assed claims about how horrible GMOs *could* be, and how evil the industry is… taking a ‘shotgun’ approach as it were, which often fortunately helps prevent being nailed down on any one of them if anybody really challenges them for better evidence.

      Whether or not the ‘prime’ opposition to GMOs is ‘ecosphere’ related, the opposition tends to highlight ‘potential’ or half-proven health risks to humans, mainly because this sort of thing tends to widen the umbrella to include constituencies that may not be tree-hugging enviro-purists, but possibly just credulous soccer moms who worry that their kids’ cereal is laced with pesticides, milk is full of hormones, and whose vaccines will make them autistic.

      This stuff is legion =
      http://www.ghorganics.com/GM food can cause cancer.htm

      regardless of the motivation behind the GMO opposition, one thing they never do is any cost-benefit review of what GOOD qualities they have; every critique must be based entirely on the reductio-ad-ignorantum of what danger they *could* present. As one former expert on the topic has noted (R.Parlberg – paraphrasing),

      “All of the benefits of GMO are significant, demonstrable, tangible, cost effective, and have delivered incredible benefits for the poorest and most at risk of famine all across the planet; all of their risks and liabilities are theoretical, speculative, conjectural, wildly exaggerated, or unable to be clearly proven by repeatable, credible, peer-reviewed scientific research.

      The irony is that the vast majority consider the debate regarding GMOs to be ‘highly controversial’, despite this”

      My own personal pet peeve regarding people who circulate flimsy scare-stories about GMOs is that they refuse to ever even *acknowledge* actual facts about them that may make their own critiques appear obviously foolish in context.

      It basically adds up to = “I don’t care if GMOs save the lives of a hundred million people! Read this story about it might give 1000 of them cancer!!”

      1. p.s.

        True story = I was once outside a bar having a smoke, and this other guy was talking to someone about how he provides consulting services to help people go vegan/organic, and about how there are all these special health benefits…. I asked him to name one. He goes, “number one, it reduces cancer!”.

        I point at his cigarette, and raise my eyebrows.

        For a split second he’s frozen in sudden awareness of his own hypocrisy, struggles briefly with the idea of providing a valid rationale…. and then he shrugs, and goes, “Ok, you got me. Fuck it: its a living. Everybody’s got to make a buck”.

        I had to at least give him credit for being honest with himself.

        1. Would it be hypocritical if he ate processed food (not caring about the health risk) but didn’t smoke (due to the health risk)?

          No? So why is the other way around hypocritical?

      2. Gilmore,

        I agree with a lot of this. My take on the “human harm” angle with GMO was that it was a PR move rather than a prime motivator for most. Thing is that most people don’t have well articulated positions about things they believe (life is too busy), so the smorgasbord approach you point out dominates most political discussions of any complexity.

        1. My take on the “human harm” angle with GMO was that it was a PR move rather than a prime motivator for most.
          ….
          the smorgasbord approach you point out dominates most political discussions of any complexity.

          About the first point – sure. I guess. But its a distinction without a difference in the end. And also one – if you’re right – makes anti-GMO activism all the more anti-human, in that they care far less about making people’s lives better than they do about their mythical idea of The Purity of Nature.

          re: the commonplace nature of Smorgasbord arguments = Not so sure about that. Or about how complex many issues really are.

          I find it is a tactic employed most often by people with “a little information”… a la Alexander Pope ( “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”) – people who endorse a particular idea primarily because of an ideological/political or emotional appeal… then cherry pick whatever minor factual details they might need for rhetorical purposes. In the end they don’t really care about the details, or actual facts – they care about their ideology, all the while pretending to some kind of ‘critical thinking’-pose.

          see: “9/11 Truthers”, who insist that those unconvinced of the obvious conspiracy simply lack ‘critical thinking’.

          Yeah, they’re big smorgasbord fans as well. That does not defacto mean that the issue is “complex”. They make it complex in order to sustain their own credulousness.

          1. Fair enough.

          2. The primary objection to GMO is the way in which patents have been issued and enforced on seeds and the behaviour of Monsanto…the use of private investigators by Monsanto to harass farmers who choose not to use their seeds, lawsuits by Monsanto against seed cleaning/processing companies because those businesses could potentially be used to clean/process monsanto’s patented seeds, etc. That non-GMO farmers can be sued for patent infringement if GMO seed falling off a grain truck blows onto their field and starts to grow.

            The anti-GMO people predominantly believe that a farmer should be able to choose what he grows in his fields and that he should have his property rights protected by infringement by his neighbours.

            1. Bond|1.5.12 @ 10:33PM|#
              The primary objection to GMO is the way in which patents have been issued…

              Strange that the vast majority of anti-GMO literature lists this as just one of a dozen talking points… rather than their raison d’?tre.

              I am aware of the cases you mention.. but again – while clearly negative – what does that have to do with the “Monsanto-evilness-neutral” benefits of GMO in general? So they have some icky business practices in recent memory. What does that do to say the product is itself a bad thing? Why not argue that Monsanto is a shitty company…but admit their product is a valuable thing? … If… as you claim.. it’s their “primary” objective?

              Bullshit – they hate the stuff, AND the companies that make them. The hyper infatuation with Monsanto as evil-doer par excellance is just a byproduct.

              I find it funny that arguments about the “primary” reasons behind why anti GMO activists exist have been advanced twice in this thread so far… both claiming entirely different “primary” reasons. As though for each its clearly obvious.

              1. I think GMO could be a wonderful technology for the environment because it could eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides. But it requires a libertarian government before it can proceed. Our present societies property rights are way to weak and twisted to allow GMO to proceed outside of controlled environments. Any technology that requires government coercion to be successful, as GMO clearly does, should be opposed by libertarians.

    6. “Which is the primary goal/ policy position of most environmentalists…find better technology than the current.”

      Those technology trees are hard to find…and the fruit is not easy to pick.

  7. In addition, Shellenberger and Nordhaus assert that many ecological problems?

    global warming,

    Sigh.

    deforestation,

    We have more forest lands now (I’m pretty sure) than we did 100 years ago. What deforestation is he talking about? What’s the actual data on acres under forest now v. 50 years ago v. 100 years ago?

    and overfishing

    I’ll give him this one.

    1. overfishing

      Now there is an argument for central control and common ownership. Not.

    2. Anecdotal story:

      I was in a bookstore, looking at a book titled (as I recall): Seattle, Now and Then.

      It had a bunch of old photos of Seattle in the early pioneer days, with the same street corner or building taken in the modern time. What I was struck by? Old Seattle didn’t have any trees. New Seattle was utterly covered in growth. Some of the architectural elements couldn’t even be seen though the greenery.

    3. We have more forest lands now (I’m pretty sure) than we did 100 years ago. What deforestation is he talking about? What’s the actual data on acres under forest now v. 50 years ago v. 100 years ago?

      Deforestation is not about global totals. Deforestation is a local problem that destroys local ecosystems.

      1. Sure. And the biggest cause of that is subsistence farming. Yet, environmentalists fight the introduction of modern pesticides, gm crops and modern equipment that could end such farming.

        1. Sure. And the biggest cause of that is subsistence farming. Yet, environmentalists fight the introduction of modern pesticides, gm crops and modern equipment that could end such farming.

          Funny. I just saw a great news story a few weeks ago (newshour, methinks) about environmentalist going to subsistence farmers and teaching them more sustainable, more productive methods of farming that allowed them to not only feed themselves, but sell their surplus at market. It recognized that they would not have the capital for modern equipment or GM seeds (which require you to purchase each season), and instead focused an implementable technologies that were inexpensive and scalable.

          Teach a man to fish, etc…very much what environmentalist do.

          1. How noble of them to deign to help people survive – not of course for that purpose at all – but rather because they’re more worried about the ecosystem

            Im sure they have no interest in “helping” people so much they might increase their wealth to the point that their society no longer *requires* people to be subsistence farming. No no – keep them in their huts! Its so much more *pure*. Just do it so it fits in with our personal, bourgeois ideal of “Environmental ethics”.

            1. Gilmore,

              You seemed to have failed to notice that the point of the program was to get these folks away from subsistence farming…a win for them and the environment. The myth that environmentalists (with the exception of fringe idiots) want people to live like cavemen seems rampant among similarly fringe idiots. Let the ALF/ELF folks and the anarcho-capitalists yell at each other all they want. It really doesn’t have much to do with environmentalism nor economics.

              1. The myth that environmentalists (with the exception of fringe idiots) want people to live like cavemen seems rampant among similarly fringe idiots

                er…

                you haven’t met White Indian yet, have you.

                That particular idiot aside, I have heard the ‘Anarcho-Primitivist’ argument, or watered-down versions of it, increasingly made in surprisingly staid, yuppie-environmentalist environs. Also, widespread among the OWS-partygoers.

                I agree the hardcore ‘caveman’-chic remains a minority – but there’s certainly a wide plurality that are fellow-travelers, and the environmental movement is certainly rife with those who wouldn’t mind a collapse of capitalism if they thought it would result in more ‘green’ living (i.e. “burning animal dung for heat!~ it’s sustainable as fuck!”)

                My point was the fact that the Help The Poor motivation was primarily “environmentalist” – not Help the Fucking Poor-ist. In the presumption that people are merely a means to an end of achieving a more ‘natural’-nature – not an end in themselves to be primarily concerned with.

                You really don’t need the ‘environmentalist’ part at all, frankly – because an improving environment, as shown, is a byproduct of more-developed economies. Micro-finance is probably ultimately the more pragmatic and effective method of achieving a better result. But whatever. In the end it may just be semantics. You seem to have a notion of the human-benign, economically-astute ‘Environmentalist’ as being the norm. i’m not sure this is a fair characterization. I’ve heard a dozen people espouse “environmentalist” ideas that essentially hope and prey for a mass-die-off of the human species so the earth can return to its proper ‘carrying capacity’.

                1. You seem to have a notion of the human-benign, economically-astute ‘Environmentalist’ as being the norm.

                  My observation as one who attends meetings of these sorts of groups is that over the past 4-5 years a new environmental movement has been emerging that is quite a bit more moderate and economically astute than it used to be. Is it the norm? not yet.

                  I have also found them very receptive to libertarian ideas…they secretly know their means won’t achieve the ends they want and are looking for different means.

      2. Talk about moving the goalposts: “Well, sure we’re not actually deforesting the world as a whole, we’re in fact reforesting the world as a whole, but there are scattered patches where people have decided it is in their best interest to cut down some trees, so … deforestation is Teh Real!”

        1. protofeet,

          Huh?

    4. Re Deforestation: Maybe North America has more forest now than 100 years ago, but deforestation is a huge problem in South America and in parts of Africa and Asia. You know poor people cutting into the forest to grow stuff.

  8. In that scenario “by 2100…

    How does one get into the guessing-about-shit-88-years-from-now racket?

    1. Requires a college degree.

      1. How does one get into the guessing-about-shit-88-years-from-now racket?

        Use lots of charts, and never provide any self-critique of your assumptions.

        I was a research analyst (aka ‘bullshit prediction business’) for a while. Fortunately we never did forecasts more than 5-10yrs ahead. We were more focused on practical, business-y things. Although that sometimes didn’t stop people from letting the cup runneth over a bit at times.

        If you recall, in the mid 90s, there was a popular idea going around called, “The Coming Paperless Office” (forget that one, even! How about “The Future Telecommuting World!”?)… speculating that in the Networked World, business would cut paper consumption by 50-80%! in the next 20 years!

        They were a little off.

        http://www.larry-phelps.com/Laserfiche/Going Green/PAPER RELATED STATISTICS.pdf

        It doubled in the last 20 years, accelerating rates of growth in the last decade. It is expected to grow another 50% in the next 10years.

  9. I have never read anything hear that calls any aspect of libertarian dogma into question.

    1. Have you not read any of Neu Mejican’s post in this actual thread?

      Do you just post random shit?

  10. Malthusian environmentalists like to cite factoids like the average American child over the course of her lifetime will consume 35 times more resources than the average Indian child.

    This is an obviously bullshit statistic meant to fool the naive and the ignorant. What’s important is not how much a person consumes but how much it produces. An American child may require 35 times more “resources” (however that statistic quantifies the resources) but that tells nothing about the productive output of that child by the time he or she is of working age. The other issue is that the notion of what a resource is will always be in the eye of the beholder – meaning, only the Market will tell what is a resource and what is not. A chunk of wood is a different resource for an American child than for an Indian child, something that the market price for the chunk of wood in their particular turfs will show. This tells me that whoever came with that statistic is very likely not a good economist (if at all) and is comparing oranges with meteorites.

    1. I agree with your economic statement. However, you adopt an Utilitarian stance when you say “What’s important is not how much a person consumes but how much it produces. ”

      The next step is to go on and deem who should live and who should die. Are you useful to those seeking power? Congratulations: You can live another day. But don’t step out of line. Got it?

  11. There is something other-worldly about Ryonen. It’s got a lot to do with her flawless milk-white complexion.

    Mostly it is her eyes that captivate us. They are like pools hinting at mysterious depths. Let’s not forget the rest of her though. This petite 21 year old girl is rich in sensuous curves and perfectly formed in every way. Swimming and yoga keep her gorgeous body in peak condition.

    Ryonen’s talents have many facets. She is a student at university in her home town of Portland, Oregon. She is devoted to fashion and all aspects of art nouveau, as well as off-beat photography. Her interest art is wide ranging and original. “I love strange and interesting poses” she tells us “and I love to create images of beauty and terror, joy and sadness.” Studies of the nude form have always fascinated her.

    Now it’s time for the practical.

    http://www.hegre-art.com/models#action=show&id=222

    1. Hegre’s early stuff was better. Cute model though……

  12. He begins by citing Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which Swift suggested that the problem of Irish famine might simply be dealt with by eating Irish babies. Sarewitz argues that Swift’s goal was to show that “pretty much any position, however repulsive, could be advanced on the back of rationality.”

    He wouldn’t have to go as far as quoting Jonathan Swift. Just showing how the Hoover and the Roosevelt administration tried to stem the decrease of farm goods prices by slaughtering thousands of pigs and burning crops during a time when people were hungry. Scientific rationality is always behind some of the stupidest (and criminal) solutions a bureaucrat could devise.

  13. “One big problem with the collection is that it fails to recognize the context that enabled the technological progress of the past two centuries to occur?the rise strong property rights and market economies. There simply has been no appreciable technological innovation in countries that do not have these institutions.”

    The Soviet Union had neither but their space and particle physics programs were certainly innovative. Cherenkov? Nuclear power? Human space flight?

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  15. Not. ONE. God. Damned. Post.

    White Indian finally gets a thread he could be on topic in and he doesn’t even show up.

    Amazing.

  16. Coal and Oil Saved the Whales and Forests. Thank you technology. Finally, a few enviro-socialists are coming around. Global Warming is dead.

  17. Coal and Oil Saved the Whales and Forests. Thank you technology. Finally, a few enviro-socialists are coming around. Global Warming is dead.

  18. As for the question of the purpose of environmentalism, the modern purpose is pagan. It is to remove humanity from the earth so as to perfect it for Mother Nature. (Query, what is “perfect” in the absence of a human to judge it so?)

    1. Nah. The purpose of environmentalism is to recognize clean air and clean water are essential to human life, an integral part of what it means to be free, and to put an end to the theft of private property rights by governments so they can enable polluters. The environment is fundamental to human liberty and those who argue against my right to breathe and drink and live unmolested by my neighbours foul odors are not libertarians at all. At the heart of these anti-environment arguments is the age-old desire to preserve the status-quo and resist change at all costs, even if it means sacrificing liberty to do so.

  19. With his vintage sideburns and old-school rock hair falling in his face, Jimmy is an irrelevant curio with no place in the modern world. Cut loose from the only life he knows, he returns to his childhood home in Forest Hills, Queens, where he tells his ancient mother (Lois Smith) that he’s actually the Cult’s manager and sometime songwriter, and that he has only dropped by for the day before shoving off on another international tour. After rather too much interaction with mom

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