“…when people are starving, lacking clean drinking water, getting poisoned from indoor air pollution, and dying from easily curable communicable diseases, they let the environment get ravaged, too. Your solution is to deal with the environment first. But shouldn’t we, morally and practically, help them gain wealth first, so they can take care of the environment too?” says Bjorn Lomborg author of The Skeptical Environmentalist to Carl Pope from the Sierra Club.
Read the complete text in the latest issue of Foreign Policy it begins
Is the world getting greener? Or are we selling it short for a fistful of greenbacks? Apparently, even committed environmentalists can disagree. When Carl Pope looks out his door, he sees the polar ice caps melting, ecosystems on life support, and clean water disappearing. But Bjorn Lomborg believes humanity’s backyard has never looked better. Who’s got it right?
Louis Hissink says
When people are living at the subsistence level with little to fill their bellys, ecological considerations are furthest from their minds.
Socialism, or collectivism, a sophisticated version of living at the subsistence level, (a social system in which capital is not accumulated by savings but redistributed via taxation, and thus consumed), also does little about the environment.
China, for example, or at least of those of us who are familiar with the un-reported news, has an extremely serious soil erosion problem that might well cripple her economically in the near future.
The imploded USSR has the distinction of being one of the worst environmental polluters extant.
So Lomborg, who initially though the economist Julian Simon had it all wrong, realised that sound science does have a role to play and quickly realised his “greeny” view was erroneous.
For this he has be roundly vilified in the media by the usual suspects.
Essentially Lomborg has it right and Pope tragically wrong.
The track record for environmentalists is one of acute failure – every prediction they have made has not come to pass, but like all religious zealots, learning from experience and failure seems not to deflect them from their goals, and those who seem unable to learn from experience, we have to describe as stupid.
Andrew Bartlett says
Thats a very narrow view of environmentalism Louis. Lomberg calls himself an environmnentalist (and may well call himself a greenie for all I know). Environmentalism is (and needs to be) a broad philpsophy, which is why it is unfortunate when it gets captured or seen to be conjoined with a particular political ideology or party.
Discussions such as those between Pope & Lomberg are needed more frequently, as there is too much of different sides shouting at each other rather than agreeing on common ground (which is almost always larger than is assumed) and sorting out ways forward.
I think both perspectives outlined in the article have some merit. I agree that priorities and choices need to be made, but Lomberg’s argument seems to be too strongly suggesting we can only do one thing at a time, when there is a wide range of things which can be done together.
Also, while it is true that some actions will have a cost, many of them actually don’t – especially in the longer term – and these can all be done now if the political and social will can be generated.
Jennifer has mentioned before somewhere that Lomberg is a passionate vegetarian (although he didn’t mention in this piece). Eating less or no meat is one thing that any environmentally concerned person can do without cost (indeed it will usually save them money) – sure if it was done en masse it would lead to lower profitability for cattle producers, but that would obviously be balanced by gains for other food producers, and the reduction in environmental damage would be significant.
Louis Hissink says
thanks for your comment.
Lomborg stated in his seminal text that he was a Greenie and felt challenged by Simon’s economic conclusions – this suggests that you might have forgotten some of Lomborg’s more prescient remarks in his book that, I assume you have read.
Louis Hissink says
All of us are environmentalists – none of us wish to live in our excrement though not denying that some humans do, without being aware of it.
Much of the shouting comes from your side of politics since there are to few of mine to do anything but whisper gasps of rejection during burial under mountains of government regulation.
Lomborg’s proposals were to solving the immediate practical problems, Pope’s tomorrows.
Now and then.
Andrew, as an Australian Democrat, isn’t time for your party to unshackle itself from tomorrow, and to concentrate on the now?