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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Environment

I've always held that there is no rational reason to believe that global warming is a hoax, or that concerns about protecting the environment are unwarranted.

Here's a simple test.  If you were taking a nature walk through your local preserve, and you decided to have a little mid-hike repast, let's say a candy bar, would you dump the wrapper on the ground?  Or would you put it away in your bag to dispose of later.

I'd like to think that even the staunchest global warming denier would choose to save the wrapper for the next garbage can he sees.  I could be wrong about that.  I'd like to think that anyone who is hiking in the forest would be offended by seeing someone else's wrapper on the trail ahead of him.  Hiking in nature is all about breathing fresh air, seeing, remembering that primal forces exist outside of the realm of man, looking for wildlife, enjoying the cheap showiness of nature, what better way to be dragged forcibly back to earth than a filthy three musketeers wrapper on the ground.

Whether or not you believe in the established science of global warming, whether or not you think the whole thing is a hoax or a giant conspiracy, if you pass that test, you should be all about passing environmental protection laws.  Let's put the wrappers in the garbage can please.  It's not just a courtesy, it's an homage, an ode, a benediction to the forces that keep us living on this planet.

The only rational argument to environmental protection has been that there is a tremendous expense to it.  An expense that would cause irreparable harm to the economy.

Where is the harm in factories not dumping waste chemicals into the sky, the sea, rivers and lakes?  It's an added expense to the bottom line, but environmental costs have economic repercussions.  Let alone the healthcare costs of widescale poisoning.  Our oceans are undergoing massive irreversible extinctions--that's a much larger cost to jobs, food prices, local economies than an added surcharge on the price of goods.  Moreover, these costs are largely projected.  The Clean Air Act of 1963, passed by the Kennedy White House, under the guidance of Sen. Ed Muskie (D) didn't uproot the financial underpinnings of the country.  The sixties were largely a period of economic prosperity, despite the turmoil of anti-war fervor.  GDP more than doubled in the next decade.  So why is there an assumption that these costs would cripple production?  Also, there is a very real possibility that these expenses would get recirculated as consumer spending in the new economy, increasing jobs, and overall GDP growth.

I know I know, what about jobs.  If Massey Energy decides to buy a mine in India and leave the USA, where will the jobs go?  I suggest we worry about that when it happens.  Increased regulation doesn't cause capital flight, it inhibits it.  Think about the economic crisis.  Did companies move their assets out of the U.S.?  Absolutely not, they moved their money into it, because our regulatory environment makes certain guarantees to corporations.

Lower costs encourage capital flight, but overall lower production costs have already caused some companies to move their operations.  Moreover, the U.S. economy is shifting away from these types of exports, and should shift away from them.  An educated populace is in demand over the world, and that should be our most valuable export.  Anyway, I'm going far afield from the topic du jour.

I keep coming back to it: Here is the reason for protecting the environment. Who is the only group to gain by deregulating, anti-regulation environmental protection laws? Mass industrialists. Everyone else stands to gain except for management. And mass industrialists do not want what we need. They have the money and the power to live the way they choose, wherever they choose to live it.  But clean air, clean water, clean food, and the continued survival of the all the genetic diversity our planet can muster, that's what we need. And that's in jeopordy because of the short term needs of less than one percent of the population.

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