Thursday, January 18, 2007

Note on Environmentalism

I think Environmental problems, as Barnett says, should be dealt with from easiest (least difficult) to most: in that regard, Global Warming comes in last. [Barnett calls it voting the problems off the island].

Environmental Issues to deal with first:

--Polluted Air (Hello China)--the most pain inducing in the world now and the easiest (roughly speaking) to fix.
--Clean Water for all Humans (and Fish!!!)
--Deforestation & Despeciation

Human poverty is what causes all of these problems--during the transition phase from agricultural to industrial is when everything gets really bad. Think Charles Dickens' London for Western example. Air pollution rises, bad working conditions, labor exploited--the transcending (negating) of the agrarian life both technologically and more importantly socially and culturally is the very painful. I'll talk about this more later, but it is also in this phase that those who have achieved a measure of affluence but do not want the society destabilized become the revolutionaries.

On the other side of that transverse though is INCREASED forest cover, natural habitat, clean air/water (1970s America), and better human conditions (labor, wealth, etc.). The job of the West is really to help the world (and not just Asia, most Latin America) move into this world. Hence these problems are going to increase. The more we put into better/cleaner technology so they can leapfrog to those the better. But still it will be a painful transition. But that is the grain of evolution--of course people can choose not to go that route but we can't stop people from their inherent/inherited evolutionary right so to do.

Global Warming or perhaps better Climate Change (Alteration?), to the degree that it happens, is one could argue due to affluence. I think it is happening. I'm not sure anyone knows how much of the warming is human caused and how much is nature caused--99% of the Carbon in the atmosphere is "natural." I also don't think we know for sure that human induced change is automatically going to bring on environmental apocalypse: "catastrophic" change in the parlance. I think for right now some carbon tax might be in order, Kyoto is bunk, and overall the best strategy is "fire--proofing" insurance-wise the planet. I think some bad things are inevitably going to happen and we should protect against those--remembering that the human poor are the most likely to be hurt. Some animal and planet species, I'm sad to say, will likely go extinct (are doing so already): but keep in mind 99% of all species in the history of earth have gone extinct.

Most importantly, working on those earlier problems would give us momentum and hope as a species. Global Warming plays to the politics of fear and de-stablizes/paralyzes humans to action.

Bjorn Lomborg has shown that $50 billion focused on AIDS, malnutrition, prevention of malaria, and trade liberalization (along the environmental issues raised above), a fraction, of one year's implementation of Kyoto, could do so much more overall good than narrow focus on capping carbon emissions. I say let's do that first and then worry about global warming.


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