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Saturday, September 21, 2002

Conservative Enviromentalism-Orrin Judd got a blog-sequence started yesterday with a good post on the subject. Kevin Holtsburry, Paul Cella , Josh Claybourn and Christopher Badeaux have all chimed in (thanks for the multiple heads ups, guys) . Part 1-The Judd Principles Let’s go over the five guidepost that he laid out.
1) Recognition that we are part of an eternal chain of being, that we owe a debt to those who handed our environment to us and an obligation to those we'll hand it on to, that how we discharge our duties to both ancestors and successors has moral implications.
God has given us this planet, but He hasn't given it to us to trash. OK, you get an evening Edifier du Jour: here's Genesis 1:26-30(NASB)
26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29 Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
Subdue doesn't mean kill or trash. On a macro scale, we need to take care of what God's given us.
(2) Maintenance of the variety of environments that Creation has to offer. This does not mean that every tree and blade of grass must be sacrosanct, but it does mean that every inch of space in America need not bear a strip mall.
Agreed. There are a number of places that need to be left untouched. These aren’t just the pretty or awe-inspiring parts; wetlands play a bigger part of the overall ecology than you’d think, so draining swamps isn’t as great an idea across the board.
(3) At all times, even as these goals are pursued, it must be recalled that Man has dominion over Nature and that every human life is more important than all non-human life. Only man is a moral creature and, therefore, only men have rights.
For instance, the aquifer that Austin uses for it’s water has a few endangered species dependant on a certain level of water being in the system. If I have to choose between saving the Barton Springs Salamander and evacuating half of Austin, we’d have one less critter in Texas. If I have to choose between the Spotted Al Owl and thousands of timber industry jobs, I will give more of a hoot about the jobs than a bird.
(4) Conservation must be compatible with private property rights and human freedoms. Where property is taken its owners must be fairly compensated. To the greatest extent possible, conservation should be private and allow for reasonable use. There's no inconsistency between saying that land has been preserved for the future and allowing folks to hunt, camp, fish, log, etc. on it. Nature is being saved so that it will be there for us to enjoy, not as some kind of totemic fetish.
There are a number of cases were big tracks of land may have to be set aside to save species, which is a government job. Also, there might be limits needed to be set on the use of land if mating or migration patters are harmed by too-active human use of an area. Such intrusions should be minimized, and need to be paid for, either by outright purchase of the property of by purchase of environmental easements.
(5) Distrust of large public works projects and commercial developments. Just as conservatives instinctively distrust those who would make sweeping changes to the culture, they should be skeptical of those who propose massive restructuring of the physical landscape.
The era of big dams is over. When we look at the cost/benefit analysis of those large government projects that were the cornerstone of so many third-world development projects, they not only did a number on their local environments but rarely brought the benefits they were supposed to. Part II-Macro, Meso and Microenviromentalism-There are three different classes of environmental issues that come to mind and only one type. The first type I will label Microenvironmentalism, which will often revolve around saving a small species or saving a small tract of land from development. This often involves local environmentalists joining up with NIMBYs and other parties to block development. Often, the environment is the last roadblock set up to stop a development. I remember the building of Midland Mall on the north side of town. Prior to the mall being built, there was little development north of US-10 in Midland, and the residents of Larkin Township north of town like their quiet exurban area. They fought annexation of the proposed mall property for years, fearing extra traffic and noise. Once the annexation fight was over, the environmental challenges kicked in. Microenvironmentalism will team up with ruralists (I don’t have a good name for people who like a rural lifestyle) and the mom-and-pop businesses that might be hurt by a new development to slow things down. Unless there is clear damage to the well-being of the overall regional ecology, I don’t think such lawsuits are proper. Minor wetland degradation shouldn’t get in the way of a new mall. As for the ruralists NIMBYs, they might have a minor case; if the development lowers their property values due to the noise and congestion, they should be compensated in a good application of Coasian rights exchanges. Macroenviromentalism is the global-warming, ozone-hole type stuff. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be enough sound evidence that our current lifestyle is making the world warmer and that the proposals to slow greenhouse gas emissions would make a significant-enough difference to warrant the cost. I think a combination of risk-adverse people and people who have seen too much of the wrong propaganda who are driving the debate to the left. There is a tendency to over-react to long-shot possibilities, and there is always the outside chance that New York will be under 50 feet of water. However, the possibility gives the environmentalist headline “We might see New York under 50 feet of water if we don’t start doing something about global warming now!” Yes, we might. However, it’s unlikely that that will happen. Second, the cost of what they are about to propose is not worth the limited benefits that are likely to stem from those proposals. Mesoenviromentalism (meso=mid-range) is where most of us can come to a certain amount of agreement. Pollution of rivers or of the air of a region effects everyone. As a Michigan native, the clean-up of the Great Lakes is one of the greater accomplishments of my lifetime. Cost-effective regulation of air and water pollution is important. There is a point where minute amounts of pollution is preferable to the expenditures needed to get rid of them, but smart regulation is still called for until we reach that point. There are smart ways to regulate pollution-trading pollution rights so that businesses that are efficient in reducing pollution can sell rights to ones that have a harder time cutting pollution is one starting point. This is an area that smart environmentalists and conservatives have been able to band together. My general thought is that we will be fighting the leftist environmentalist groups on the macro and micro scales while coming to some common ground on mesoenviromental issues.

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