Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Happy Earth Day

Okay folks, it’s Earth Day on Friday (also Lenin’s birthday, for those who delight in coincidences). And the 10th edition of my Index of Leading Environmental Indicators is now up on the web at Pacific Research Institute and at AEI.

Highlights: Air pollution in 2004 was the lowest ever recorded since monitoring began in the 1950s. Also, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in Ohio have fallen by more than 50 percent over the last decade.

We are now gaining wetlands in the U.S., something I predicted five years ago that we’d find out the next time the government did a wetlands survey. As recently as the 1970s we were still losing 100,000 acres a year.

The U.S. has gained nearly 10 million acres of forestland over the last decade--about five times the amount of forestland as in Europe.

The environmental movement is about to expire; in fact, they are discussing amongst themselves the best method of suicide.

Discussions - 11 Comments

Mr Hayward, I fear your bullet points miss the mark. Environmental movements may be on their way to the grave, but the need to continue support for the systems in place are certainly now more apparent.

It is important to know that on an environmental scale, things happen much slower than in the daily lives of we human beings. The fact that air pollution is at the lowest point since first recorded in the 1950s shows that the clean air standards put into action years ago are finally starting to kick in. If we continue on the path of conservation, the levels can get much lower and therefore remove America from the list of environmental offenders.

Wetland resoration is very important, as it is now recognized as a highly overlooked resource and habitat for waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians and other animals required to maintain the food web which hunters rely on year to year for a successful hunt. There is no reason to stop now with restoration projects and preservation efforts to keep this resource around. Wetlands are a necessary part of the water cycle--helping filter out the pavement runoff and other contaminants that would otherwise ruin our water supply if not kept in check.

The gain in forest land is certainly applaudable. We can certainly say that with conservation efforts, better logging processes, higher rates of replanting and other significant inputs that we are gaining the forest land we once ravaged in the name of social and economic progress. (in the 1800s continental migration, for instance) However, there is still a need to proceed carefully. Europe is roughly 87% of the total area of the United States, and much more densely populated. Therefore, there is less total forest land in that Continent. Also, the percentage of land above tree line is more expansive, reducing the amount of land habitable to trees. Europe has increased their forest lands in the last 20 years as well, and we should continue to be a leader in restorative practices.

The Environmental Movement as it was once known may be on the brink, but the need to continue stewardship still exists. There is no reason to look at the numbers we have now and think that we can start polluting, uproot trees, or not preserve wetlands. The statistics we now have should be used properly to show that environmentally sound practices should continue, and we can start to lead the world in Environmentally sound practices and conservative land use.

How could this be? Peter Jennings, Katie Couric, ABC, Jon Stewart, CNN, NPR, MSNBC, NBC or CBS haven’t given me these so-called "facts". I am so confused.

I assure you we aren’t going anywhere...

In fact we will be quite busy in the near future, we are just now realizing the effects of environmental damages from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Oh, and, Between 1986 and 1997, a net of 644,000 acres of wetlands was lost. Although this is a net reduction in loss, this means that in recent history we are still losing wetlands. Fish and Wildlife Service report. More later?

My how this subject always touches a nerve.

Two comments. First, Joel, the Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands report has been superseded by the most recent National Resources Inventory, which looks at trends after 1997, and finds wetlands increasing (on private land, I should add--IF we are still losing wetlands, it will be on government-own land, which rather screws up the favored narrative about evil developers, etc). The next F & W wetlands survey isn’t due for another two or three years.

And no, I didn’t miss the Millennium Ecosystem report, something I have been following closely for the last three years. In fact, I’ve actually read the whole thing (that is, what is available now--much more detailed work is on the way), not just the new stories about it, and note that it recommends a number of policies that I’ve long advocated, and also specifies that the worst environmental problems are in the developing world, not the U.S.

Most cross-national studies of environmental damage suggest what is called "the environmental Kuznets curve," after Simon Kuznets and his famous curvilinear relationship between development and income inequality. In a nutshell, early development is pretty hard on the environment, but as affluence grows things improve. Why? Well, people leave the countryside and that spares trees (my own research demonstrates this). Industrial production processes become more efficient, and the shift to services improves air pollution. And, of course, an affluent citizenry is much less likely to tolerate an unhealthy environment.

Of course, some people (Marxists) say that all we’ve done is to ship our enviornmental problems (along with much of our industrial production) to the Third World. There may be some truth in that, but my reading (and research) suggest that mostly what is going on is an economic maturation process. Improvements in technology (and improvements in public policy) can help us "grow out of" our current problems.

As for "human pressure" destroying the environment, possibly. But civilization and progress require people. My own research demonstrates that the more densely settled a country (and the longer it has been settled), the more rapid its economic growth and the better its health. After all, Sudan or Nepal aren’t exactly hotbeds of human endeavor, whereas the historical record has been quite clear -- it takes people to build wealth (e.g., Greece, Rome, China, Japan, Egypt, Western Europe, and of course the coasts of the United States). No people, no progress.

"the most recent National Resources Inventory" does, indeed show the increase in wetlands. However, it is impossible to restrict the scope of this to the most recent years. The net loss of wetlands since the 1986 Emergency Wetlands Resources Act has still been in the red. Restoration of hundreds of thousands of acres will need to proceed to complete the process and use this statistic as one to show "death by suicide" of an environmental movement.

I wuz awonderin’are we sposed to bow in supplication to some broad called "Gaia" taday?

And why is she/he/it more important than ............well you know who. Don’t ya?

Don’t forget that Friday is also Oklahoma Land Run Day.

Jesse Fan...huh?

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