Monday, June 20, 2011

Environmental awareness has reaped some benefits, but functioned as class warfare overall

Wes Riddle’s Horse Sense #010/507


A founder of Greenpeace International, Patrick Moore, said in an interview in the New Scientist (December 1999), “The environmental movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the mid-1980s . . . [P]olitical activists were using environmental rhetoric to cover up agendas that had more to do with class warfare and anti-corporatism than with the actual science. . . .” Obviously, the comment is a generalization. There are many good groups, which care about the environment and don’t fall into the unfortunate excesses of the modern environmental movement. But exaggeration and untruths are still employed, often to gain political support for government plans or treaties or assistance to stop so-called looming catastrophes. Never mind public policies combating exaggerated claims dangerously delay the economic and technological developments needed to improve both the lot of human life and human stewardship of the environment. In fact, economic development resulting in increased wealth has caused emissions to fall, because development enables citizens to invest more resources into environmental protection. When people take care of basic needs, they naturally move to improving the quality of their environment. Moreover, free economies do a better job than less free economies. The worst polluters in the world were communist controlled, centrally planned states.

The American people do clearly support a clean and safe environment. Yet most do not endorse proposals by many environmental organizations. The reason is that environmental decisions demand choices between oft-competing values; they demand reason and compromise and deliberative democracy at its best. Caution and prudence are in order, not Chicken Little tactics. For most of human history, mankind eked out his life against strongly indifferent and hostile forces of nature. Man’s effect on creation was localized, short-lived. The science of ecology dates from the middle of the nineteenth century, when human power began to pose potential threat to the integrity of creation. Early industrialization did pollute cities, air and water. After a difficult transition period, however, industrialization and modern agriculture have enabled worldwide average life expectancy to increase from less than 30 to almost 80 in just 250 years. New technologies have made famine a thing of the past, except where political tyranny or turmoil is the cause. Manual laborers in developed economies have achieved a level of security and sense of dignity unknown before.

An “environmental transition” has enabled nature to begin a comeback too, such that America’s forests have recovered now for 50 years and are larger today than 100 years ago. Air and water quality has steadily improved for 25 years. Trade will ensure that developing countries benefit from cleaner technologies and lessons learned quicker than we did, if well-intentioned environmentalists don’t reverse the process. Problems remain and challenges are sure to follow, but honest scientific inquiry, rigorous economic thinking, and sound theological reflection—these will lead us to optimal solutions.


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC). This article is from his forthcoming book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium scheduled for release in September (iUniverse, Inc., 2011). Email:

Mr. Riddle is an announced candidate for U.S. Congress in the newly proposed District 25. - The Legendary

1 comment:

  1. Environmental solutions formed from past experience and technological advancement would really improve overall welfare no matter if you are from developed or developing countries, unless it haven’t put into action. We just hope that the benefits from the environmental transition won’t stop until we all reach its ultimate goal.