Radical Environmentalism: Some Green Prescriptions Without State Authoritarianism (Part 2)

Jan 1, 2024 | Blog

As seen in The Epoch Times

“The greater the number of owners, the less respect for common property. People are much more careful of their personal possessions than of those owned communally; they exercise care over common property only in so far as they are personally affected.” — Aristotle

In Part 1 of this article, I described how authoritarian ideologues (watermelons) have captured human environmental concern. It turns out that such concerns do not respect a traditional left-right political axis, but can lead to tyranny just the same. Here, citizens are influenced mostly by the ecological axis (see figure). This runs up and down instead of left and right. Those with small ecological footprints are near the top of the page versus those with large ecological footprints are near the bottom. Any citizen can be found somewhere in this secular field as a whole.

Why Greens Do Not Fit Left-Right Politics

However, what happens if authoritarians force such a small ecological footprint that humans can’t exist? This becomes anti-human instead of simply pro-Earth.

I would submit that many extreme environmentalists are forgetting that the human species is also a part of the natural world—not a blight upon it. Of course, if too many have too large an ecological footprint, this destroys the Earth such that humans may not live. However, if people are viewed as targets for elimination and are not allowed to procreate or survive with a functional ecological footprint, then human civilization will perish as well. It is a form of ideological capture for green radicals—which one may call “watermelons”—to sacrifice human existence for the sake of the rest of the Earth’s biosphere.

This certainly has an apocalyptic quality reminiscent of a new theology. Watermelons may be green on the outside, but Marxist red on the inside. Instead, some moderation—true virtue—is called for in order for humans to interact with each other and the rest of the ecosphere successfully.

Let me describe five free-market green prescriptions that could constitute true environmental conservation. For simplicity, I will classify these as GREEN solutions: global warming, right to property, ending wasteful consumption, ending government subsidies, and new technology.

1. Global Warming

Prescription: Discontinue the national carbon tax.

Let us consider the air around us as it pertains to global warming. There must be some common sense to have a realistic approach to global warming; the alarmist Paris Accord targets are not justified by cost-benefit analysis. What the repeated global climate meeting junkets fail to acknowledge is the awkward reality that while global warming has real costs, global warming policy does as well.

The best reference for such data turns out to be the Nobel Prize-winning DICE model (Dynamic Integrated Model of Climate and the Economy) by William Nordhaus. The Paris Accord strives to limit global warming by 2100 to at least 2°C. But the DICE model has recommended a global temperature increase to 3.5°C instead. In fact, this is only a modest deviation from unabated global warming estimated to be a little above 4°C.

Why is this? It turns out that this gives the best trade-off between the costs of the environment versus the costs of the economy. For example, even if the goal were to have a global temperature increase of even only 2.5°C, then there would be a reduction in global warming damage of $91 trillion. But at what cost? The harm to the economy—jobs, earning a living, feeding families—would amount to a whopping $134 trillion. Climate catastrophism is not about empirical data. More aggressive global temperature reductions are not worth the cost, nor do they make sense.

Thus, the first prescription is for Canada to discontinue its national carbon tax. Canada already has a national consumption tax which applies to fossil fuels regardless. Let us retain our national sovereignty and accountability to citizens. Let us not virtue signal about ineffectual international accords. Central government command and control never really works, and to have more moderate goals for global warming cannot be accomplished without resort to free markets anyway.

2. Right to Property

Prescription: Encourage and respect property rights. To the extent that government gets involved in conservation, it should be done as locally as possible.

Let us consider the citizen’s right to property. As Aristotle noted, if you don’t own something, you are much less likely to look after it. In other words, if no one owns a resource, no one takes responsibility for it. This is often called the tragedy of the commons. Property ownership encourages responsible and ethical behaviour, as well as stewardship of nature, and so the next prescription here is to encourage and respect property rights.

In terms of land title, several examples come to mind in this respect. Ducks Unlimited is a privately funded non-profit group founded in 1938 whose mission has been to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. It does not constantly look to government to expropriate land. Similarly, Princess Louisa Inlet on the B.C. Sunshine Coast, where I come from, showed that crowdfunding could be used to raise $3 million to purchase private property and convert it into old-growth coastal forest parkland. These are cases of no federal government intervention.

In terms of ownership of ocean resources, a similar respect for property can be found with fisheries. In New Zealand, individual transferable quotas (ITQs) have given fishermen ownership of a portion of the annual catch and prevented over-exploitation and depletion of the fishery. No one would otherwise have a proprietary interest in protecting it. I would reason that decentralizing Canadian fisheries from Ottawa to the provinces as well would encourage local accountability (but this requires constitutional amendment).

In any case, this leads to a corollary: To the extent that government gets involved in conservation, it should be as local as possible. This is called the principle of subsidiarity. The farmer, fisherman, or forester in a small town, such as in B.C., knows a lot more about his or her environment than some bureaucrat in Ottawa—let alone in New York, Brussels, or at the World Economic Forum.

3. End Wasteful Consumption

Prescription: Citizen responsibility means not engaging in wasteful consumption.

With citizen freedom comes responsibility, and the ethic not to desecrate the environment. Citizens know not to engage in wasteful consumption, but the related point here is for knowledgeable consumers to have viable options for local and wise purchase. Free markets are the best way to create such alternatives. In fact, Canada could reward productivity and the work ethic by shifting away from income tax towards a national consumption tax (GST). This is levied against fossil fuels anyway, and would improve Canada’s competitiveness and efficiency. This, in turn, would lead to less pollution and degradation.

4. End Government Subsidies

Prescription: Stop government subsidy of not only fossil fuels but also other green schemes.

Let us end government subsidies. Big government is not the solution, it is the problem. In fact, this is a good way to end crony capitalism and corruption and achieve true free-market environmentalism. Greener solutions are becoming more economical and competitive all the time. For example, electric vehicles are starting to out-compete internal combustion engine vehicles for customers—even without government subsidy. Knowledgeable consumers are choosing electric vehicles in terms of quality relative to cost, let alone any green benefit. Unlike the eco-leftist watermelon, free marketeers do not believe that more government is good.

5. New Technology

Prescription: Free up citizens to advance green innovations for efficiency, mitigation, and adaptation.

Lastly, let us develop new technologies for the environment. Innovation is essential to having a healthy civilization for the environmental conservative. Let us free up the creativity of citizens to advance green innovations in efficiency, mitigation, and adaptation. Efficient use of energy can range from as simple as switching to LED light bulbs to switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG) from coal. Carbon dioxide (and air pollution) emissions from LNG are much less per unit of energy than coal. Mitigating environmental harms range from recycling to use of alternate energies besides fossil fuels. Adaptation may, for example, include crops that benefit from warmer temperatures and more carbon dioxide in a more northern Canada.

To conclude, however, it is wise to realize that such prescriptions offer no ultimate solutions, only trade-offs. Batteries may be able to store energy from wind turbines or solar panels for when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. Countries might return to nuclear energy, trading less carbon dioxide emissions for more nuclear risk. But there will always be trade-offs between environmental and economic risks, costs, and benefits for both humanity and the biosphere. But that is the only way to attain civilization. That does not justify the eco-leftist watermelon to simply invoke “crisis” to make a totalitarian world.

What do you call a fanatical watermelon? One that’s lost their rind.