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and other Eco-Myths
Battling environmentalist myths
By Steven Martinovich
Environmentalism, writes editor Ronald Bailey in his introduction to Global Warming and other Eco-Myths, is a political ideology without a future. Though it remains politically popular, environmentalism has one giant Achilles Heel which will eventually doom it. Because it is a political ideology with a scientific basis, logically all one must do is disprove the science behind it to discredit the movement.
"[E]nvironmentalism now stands as the only global ideological competitor to liberal democratic capitalism. Environmentalism is the latest totalizing ideology that has arisen in the West during the past two centuries. Like communism before it, ideological environmentalism wants to claim the mantle of science," he writes, "to justify its political programs because in the post-Enlightenment world, science is the final arbiter of what is objectively true or not. However, as the communists discovered, the failure of one's ideology to correspond to reality is ultimately fatal."
With that thought in mind Bailey has assembled a collection of essays from the likes of 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug, Stephen Moore and Jonathan H. Adler, among others, covering hot topic issues like biotechnology, food production, efforts to ban man-made chemicals, pollution and as the book's title proclaims, global warming. As they repeatedly prove, not one major prediction by ideological environmentalism has come to pass because they have confused economic processes with ecological processes.
The two stars of Global Warming and other Eco-Myths may be the two final essays by Adler, dealing with the so-called precautionary principle, and Fred Smith's look at the failed idea of the environmental commons. They form much of the intellectual arguments of ideological environmentalists and as such special attention should be paid to them.
The precautionary principle is simple yet devastating in its effects. Adopted in several international treaties, the principle states that a chemical substance that might be causing harm should be controlled or eliminated and any new technologies that have unknown environmental effects should not be permitted to be developed. As Adler easily proves, although it sounds like the "better safe than sorry" principle put into play, it actually makes our world less safe. The environmentalists' jihad against bioengineered food is a perfect example of the consequences: many third world nations are being prevented from enjoying the benefits of this new technology despite the fact that no harmful effects to the environment or humans has ever been proved.
In his essay on the notion of the environmental commons, Smith explores the concept of privatizing the environment and how effective that would be protecting it. He correctly points out that government stewardship and the lack of an owner has doomed some land and resources to be exploited by people who have no stake in their futures. Exploring the history of the United States, Smith states that before the laws protecting private property rights were weakened by courts and the government, business was often taken to court in civil proceedings to recover damages from environmental damage, promoting increased responsibility by the corporate sector.
Global Warming and other Eco-Myths will doubtlessly be compared to Bjorn Lomborg's masterpiece The Skeptical Environmentalist given that the two books essentially cover some of the same ground. While comparisons are fair Bailey's effort would perhaps be better considered a companion piece to Lomborg's given the Danish professor investigated the statistical basis for environmentalist claims while Bailey's collection of authors tend to concentrate on the science. That said, whether used in conjunction with other sources or not, Global Warming and other Eco-Myths is an impressive piece of work. Along with spotlighting the science that dismisses the anti-technology and ultimately anti-human environmentalist movement, it is also a welcome celebration of the bright future we're all going to be a part of.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario.
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