July 15, 2007

Why I am not Green

I and have been for a while am worried about the environment, the climate is constantly changing and has been since the planet was formed 4.6 billion years ago. I am also fairly convinced that the current changes are more than usual and could be detrimental to human life, I bloody well hope that this is because of human actions (because then human actions can change it back). But this post by Neil Harding is why I am not and never will be a Green.

we have to reverse population growth (especially in the developed world where per capita emissions are so much higher) if we are to seriously tackle our environmental problems

OK stop right there. Why should we be worried about environmental problems? Because they affect the quality human life. It is human life that is of prime importance with the environment being important because it affects human life. Any scheme to protect a secondary importance at the expense of the primary one is therefore getting everything ass backward.

And that means more than just climate change. We need to improve the environment for its own sake - to improve our quality of life.

OK which one? For its own sake, or to improve the quality of human life? If for its own sake then why exactly, and if to improve human life then how can you square that with wanting less human life.

And inequality is also a factor, I don't think the present levels of inequality can be sustained if we are serious about reducing emissions

No it isn't. If everybody on the planet enjoyed the same life style as the average Saudi Prince then there would be no inequality, but the planet would be in serious problems. To be charitable I guess the idea of leveling up never entered Mr Harding's world view this is something the state can never achieve not being able to create wealth, merely move it around or destroy it.

the richer you are the more environmentally damaging you are.

Not necessarily, go to any developing nation and you will find them conducting some highly environmentally unfriendly practices such as slash and burn felling of rain-forests for arable land, or in the even poorer countries deforestation for fire wood. China emits more C02 than america. The richer you are the more that you can care about the environment because, unlike in these poorer places, you do not have to make a choice between the very abstract notion of 'saving the planet' and the very real one of not having enough to eat. Environmentalism is a luxury good, we are only going to be able to get lots of people to really look at it when they are in the position to be able to afford this luxury.

All this middle class ownership of hybrid cars, recycling and careful shopping is all very good

Actually the first two aren't, hybrids take more resources over the full life cycle than a normal car. The same with much recycling, it takes more resources than making new and so is worse for the environment than making new. However so called environmentalists decided that these activities where virtuous and so lobbied governments to give them special treatment. If they had not then hybrids and recycling would be used where they truly are the best option for using the resources they take because of the wonderful system that we have for aggregating the total resources taken up in something and informing customers about it, the price.

The last of Neil's three points 'careful shopping' does have a good effect, and is something that I am personally careful to do. It is best done using that wonderful aggregate of total resources called the price, go for the cheapest option and you will generally find the one that took the least resources to create (despite the EU's stupid Corn Laws).

but their higher consumption overall has to be tackled if it is not just to be window dressing

but their higher consumption overall has to be tackled if it is not just to be window dressing

Maybe, maybe not. If the consumption was for a sudden craze for growing trees or shifting to using bicycles as the primary means of transport than that could well be good for the environment.

like Cameron - good PR but no substance.

Cameron has rather more substance (and substances) than many give him credit for, but because they are not about intervention by the state they therefore fall outside the cognitive horizon of statists like Mr Harding.

So far people have not got serious about climate change,

Because climate change is luxury good and people are not rich and most people enough to be able to afford this luxury, especially as it is a good that they themselves will never see any benefit from.

some people of course just deny it exists at all. Even if they were right (and they are not right) we should still reduce consumption and lessen inequality as the best way to improve quality of life.

I'll let the Devil defend himself, but there is no reason to believe that universally forcing people into a reduced lifestyle will improve quality of life. For some people all they will want for a good life is to live in a barrel and not have any warlords getting in the way of their getting a tan, for others more will be needed for them to be for-filled. The government can never decide who will want what, it cannot look into peoples heads (even if it thinks it can) so by arbitrarily declaring that some level of consumption beyond which people cannot go then obviously there will be people that want to go further. Probably lots of people. The state simply does not have the information as to what would make any individual happy, only the individuals themselves have that. Therefore it must be the individuals themselves that choose their own level of consumption if they are to be able to seek the one that makes them as happy as possible.

In the war years we had rationing and people had less possessions. Yet more equality had a strange effect - it improved everyone's happiness. People said they were much happier then

There was a war on, people where happy to simply be alive. Loosing your life is a lot worse than loosing your possessions. They also had a sense of purpose and national solidarity the hardship was for a very real and tangible goal (beating the Germans). This was achieved, a great achievement, and the people reporting that they where happier then are looking back at it comparing it to 50 years of socialist inspired decline. If anybody thinks that people would not resent that kind of hardship without the very real and immediate threat to life and limb they have clearly been sneaking some of Mr Cameron's stash.

There where other things that happened during that time as well. Every citizen had to carry identification papers. All the newspapers were censored, as were all letters abroad; general elections had been abolished, people were imprisoned without trial, and the government could tell you what job to do and jail you if you didn't do it. Some were forced to work in the mines. Should we reintroduce all of that as well?

their health improved dramatically (admittedly from a very low base)

Life expectancy has been steadily improving thanks to the modern medicines created by industrial society, it has higher in the middle of last century than at the start, and is much higher again now. It will improve even more in the future, so long as the government does not decide that we should actually all be living in mud huts and inbreeding in the name of being Green.

but isn't this more important than just chasing more and more products that we are persuaded we need when we don't.

Who is to decide what people need and what people don't? The government? It can't. The government cannot know what goes on in peoples heads, so it cannot know what people want. Therefore it has to be the people themselves. If you want something buy it. If it doesn't make you happy flog it on eBay, easy. The market distributes stuff to where it will make people happiest.

We cannot afford to ignore the environmental costs of things anymore

No problem with that. If there is an externality then it should be internalised in order for the market to weave its magic. Make the calculation, add on the correct Pigouvian taxation (the taxes on air travel it is about correct as they stand, with fuel duty too high), and job done.

I do think we can get round this

Yep, with Pigouvian taxation to internalise any environmental costs not already included in the price.

but it will need carbon rationing not just 'green taxes'.

No, we don't. Green taxes *are* carbon rationing, it is just that they do it in a far more nuanced and efficient way than by some bureaucratic fiat.

The easiest way to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the population.

Genocide and socialism, like an ugly iron fist in a spiked steel glove.

It does make me laugh when the same people on the 'right' who voice their concerns about overcrowding and immigration are usually the same ones who oppose abortion and call for 'English' people to have more children. They quite obviously are just closet (or not so closet) racists.

Hello Mr Straw man, I wondered when you where going to turn up.

Their policies would mean more overcrowding and lower quality of life as inequality widens (they even oppose house building despite growing demand that will leave many homeless or in squalid conditions. Where is their laissez faire capitalist ideas when they drag their feet over planning applications or call for tighter immigration or for that matter where are their morals when they stop people having a home?)

Us laissez faire capitalist are against the need for planning applications, for a laissez faire capitalist it is the market that should decide on housing not some bureaucrat in the planning department. It is the central government diktats and bureaucratic red tape that stop sufficient houses being built to meet demand. It is the socialists so in love with central planning that force people from their homes which are then their homes destroyed in order to create scarcity when it is much much cheaper (and less resource intensive) simply to modernise the existing properties.

What we really need is abortion on demand. Making women jump through bureaucratic hoops to get an abortion is currently helping no-one. It just mean more late abortions, more unwanted children with poor quality of life, more crime and more distress and unnecessary guilt placed on women by religion and vindictive moralising right wingers.

Fine, it is the woman's body it must be the woman's choice. If they choose to have an abortion then they should be able to have it as early as possible to reduce the dangers and the trauma associated with it which increase the later it is left. This is just a matter of the freedom to choose what happens to your body, there is no need to try and conjure up a Malthusian nightmare as an excuse, no excuses are needed for a woman's freedom over her own body.

Then there is immigration. Firstly yes an admittance that immigrants in this country will consume more and emit more carbon than if they stop home - but they will also send home remittances that reduce poverty, inequality and ultimately slow population growth which have a much bigger impact in the opposite direction.

Well that is a bit of a bazar argument, and rather counter to everything else so far. People becoming richer is good for the environment, except in this country. No, people becoming richer is better for the environment *everywhere*, because it means that people can afford the luxuries of life. Such as environmentalism.

Basically, education of women is the key and this is something the developed world needs to grasp.

So that they can get involved with the economy, making everybody richer and therefore able to better afford luxuries like environmentalism.

At the moment the market (through films and some other media (usually the same media that bemoans a drop in morality) promotes sex rather than contraception.

Yes, because everybody always does every they see in the movies. Though personally I am still having trouble getting the transgenic spiders to work so that I can gain my superpowers.

There needs to be direct graphic examples of people with sexual diseases - people should be shown horrific images of people suffering such diseases, be given the probabilities of catching them and the problems they cause.

That would be diseases that are treatable in the developed world, and need no demonstration for people in the developing world.

They also need to be shown directly the responsibilities and difficulties of having children - financial, social etc.

You mean teaching people that because of the welfare state becoming a parent will give you a shed load of money off of the government for not doing anything. The Welfare system is so generous that it will actually hand over equal to the national median wage simply for popping sprogs, much more than the unskilled low income people that have the large families that Mr Harding is complaining about could get any other way. I don't think that they really need to be told any of this they already know, which is why benefits is seen as such a good career option.

Sex education can put people off sex and especially unsafe sex. We need a campaign as high profile as drink driving (if not higher profile). The sooner we get away from stigmatizing and moralising people the better

The high profile drink driving campaigns worked because they created a stigma about drink driving. Either you need a high profile campaign against irresponsible breeding, or you want to decrease the stigma. You cannot have both.

the right-wing media and parties and religions have a lot to answer for. As well as destroying people's lives they could also be destroying future human chances of remaining on this planet.

By trying to reduce the amount of irresponsible breeding by stigmatizing it? Wether of not the stigma is a good thing that flies in the face of the earlier argument of the need to campaign against irresponsible breeding.

I suppose given the religious prophecies, some of them are quite looking forward to the end of the world, nutters the lot of them!

rather like the Gaia worshiping Green religion.


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