Environment – The Libertarian Standard http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.3 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Environment – The Libertarian Standard clean Environment – The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (Environment – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Environment – The Libertarian Standard http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/environment/ TV-G Green Shoots Among the EcoReds http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/11/09/green-shoots-among-the-ecoreds/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/11/09/green-shoots-among-the-ecoreds/#comments Sun, 09 Nov 2014 16:24:16 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13575 A Brief Background


I recently began leasing a Nissan LEAF. The $7500 Nissan takes off the top of the price, along with the $5000 tax credit issued by the state of Georgia, which is available even to lessees, made the car economically attractive for my daily commute. For those who are unaware, the LEAF is a fully electric vehicle which, when fully charged can provide 60-80 miles of range in typical driving. With practice, and with the right mix of traffic flow (electric vehicles typically benefit from stop and go traffic due to the regenerative braking they employ to recover power back into the battery), it is possible to go over 100 miles on a charge. But, range anxiety is a factor, and few people are willing to push the battery so much as to go so far between charges.

The Charging Issue


The Time Factor

Charging electric vehicles is the blessing and the curse of employing one as your daily driver. On the positive side, you can fuel your vehicle more cheaply, and from the comfort of your own home. On the negative side, charging takes much more time than filling a car’s tank, and the charging rate is much more important than the flow rate on a gas pump, as a 20% increase in time matters little when the difference is 10 seconds on gas, but becomes a big deal when the difference is 10 minutes to half an hour. Still, with planning, that issue is not as huge a deal as it seems. I’m comfortable with 90+% of the driving I do being in the LEAF. As I’ve looked to avoid having car notes, I keep one more car than is absolutely needed, so that one can be undergoing maintenance while I drive another. This lifestyle choice works well when owning a LEAF.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Many businesses offer free EV charging. That was the norm, outside of the home, a few years ago. Free charging, of course, caused paid options to be adopted more slowly. As the vehicles have become more popular, however, the crowds at the free charging stations have become larger, and the waits to use them have become longer. Waiting for an hour so that you can charge for another hour and go home is not a terribly appealing scenario. This fact has not been lost on LEAF aficionados, and many are now praising the availability of pay-to-charge sites. Many are lamenting the overuse, with people using the free chargers for too long, simply because they are free. Additionally, while Nissan’s own navigation system, included in some LEAFs, will direct drivers to a nearby Nissan dealer when the battery level becomes dangerously low, there are some dealers who apparently restrict the use of the EVSEs to their own customers only. And this phenomenon has generated some interesting discussions on forums such as My Nissan LEAF Forum. While there is outrage, there is also the understanding that businesses have the right to dispose of their own property as they see fit.

Welcoming the Free Market

The immaturity of the EV market has led to something of a crash course in economics for many on the left. Rather than decrying “money grubbing corporations,” many are celebrating the end of the scourge of “free” charging. There is finally recognition that resources are finite, and must be allocated through some means, and that trade is a vastly superior method for that allocation than “first come, first served.” Around Atlanta, there are pay stations popping up in various places, including in places where they used to be offered for free, such as at businesses. When businesses offer free charging, we see the same kind of resource hogging and lines that we see under socialism. When there is a fee, even if that fee is very modest, we see much more efficient allocation of resources. The difference in attitude between free and $3.00/hr is much greater, effectively, than the difference between $3.00/hr and $10.00/hr would be. When I took my family out last weekend to Ikea, we used one of the pay stations in the parking lot. There were two. They were both unused and available. A short walk away, at a free group of chargers, there was a significant line which would have required a wait (I only found out about the free charging after the fact, but it does fit in with my wife noticing a bunch of LEAFs grouped at one location as we were driving to Ikea). Charging the LEAF is typically not pricey. It costs less than $3.00/hr for “level 2” charging, which will typically add 20+miles/hr to the range. This works well for charging while you shop. There is also an option for very high speed DC charging, which can accomplish that same level of charging as L2 in a quarter of the time. Most of these stations are pay stations. The ones which are not are typically at Nissan dealers. There is also a free one at Agnes Scott. The usage on these chargers is lower because the ability to utilize them requires a paid-for option on the LEAF, and many owners do not have this option. One thing which I have noticed about the free DC chargers is that they tend to be broken much more frequently than paid ones. The equipment itself may require more maintenance, and it is certainly the case that an owner who generates income from the equipment is much more likely to provide that maintenance than one who does not.

Economics in One Lesson


The development of electric vehicles has been good. While not superior to their petroleum-fueled brethren, there is a role for the EV in cities and for people with very regular, predictable, and short-range driving schedules. The experience of owning or leasing one is also something of a crash course in economics for many who do not normally ruminate on such matters. This awareness may well mitigate some of the most socialist impulses among the environmentally conscious moving forward. Certainly, learning the lesson through such an experience is better than never learning it at all. The actual experience with poor resource allocation does more to increase the understanding of the importance of market forces than any textbook.

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Sustainable Living, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Urban Farms http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/05/13/sustainable-living-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-urban-farms/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/05/13/sustainable-living-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-urban-farms/#comments Mon, 13 May 2013 22:31:03 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12525 In Oakland, California, not far from where I live, urban homesteading – growing food on private land for small-scale trade and consumption – has become so common the city government was forced to back off for once. In a rare triumph for sanity and freedom, anachronistic zoning ordinances from 1965 were liberalized to accommodate the city farmers. Molly Samuel explained at KQED:

“The city has already made some changes; it’s now legal to grow and sell vegetables on an empty lot with a conditional use permit. . . . Oakland North reports one of the hotly debated topics [at a city meeting] was animal husbandry: Should Oaklanders be permitted to raise, slaughter, and sell animals? Or not?”

Despite the remaining government bureaucracy, we have to cheer on the homesteaders. They are so impossible to ignore, hundreds of them flooding a city meeting, that the tyranny of zoning is being ratcheted back for once.

And although it has a leftish quality, libertarians ought to take notice of this counter-cultural movement, whose localizing agenda poses profound implications for the future of liberty. With the economic forecasts dire and the corporatist system of mega-farms firmly gripping the Obama administration and all federal politics for the foreseeable future, our rights and perhaps very lives may depend on the freedom to farm at home.

Libertarians often straddle radically different, sometimes seemingly opposed, stereotypes. We are simultaneously atomist rugged individualists and slaves to the anonymous division of labor found in modern cosmopolitanism. This seeming paradox is reconciled in our simultaneous love of political localism and integrated economics, self-sufficiency and the contemporary blessings of a thriving voluntary community. And as admirers of both the frontier and the integrated city life, we can see much to relate to in the urban homesteaders and their hybrid lifestyle of city-slicking, strenuous agrarianism.

The urban farmers too suffer from being pigeonholed as the type you’d find in quasi-socialist hippie communes. Their community’s language and cultural habits can be jarring to a free market radical, but they need not be as dissonant as they first sound. When a libertarian hears the term “sustainable living” – another common theme in urban homesteading – he might first think of the central planning-nightmare called “sustainable development” or EPA-mandated encumbrances on his track housing. But we can as plausibly interpret the meaning to be: “freedom from the vagaries of the public utilities system and state-subsidized mass agriculture.”

Even in the larger sustainable living communities, we see a diversity of social organization. “Most cohousing communities with gardens use organic gardening practices, but just as the culture of cohousing groups varies widely, organizing and running a cohousing garden is a highly individualized project,” writes Jenise Aminoff in the Fall 2010 issue of Urban Farm magazine. Indeed, while voluntary communalism is totally compatible with libertarianism, even shameless capitalists can find much to love. Eno Commons, “a suburban cohousing community on the outskirts of Durham, N.C.,” initially ran its “garden on a standard allotment model, where each unit was assigned a garden plot,” but this led to problems: “there was a disconnect between a small handful of people doing work but the whole community picking,” explains garden manager Katherine Lee. And so what did they do? Aminoff explains:

“Last fall, Lee proposed a radical change: a market model. With Lee as the manager doing most of the gardening work, residents now pay for their garden produce. On the night of the community’s weekly common meal, Lee harvests the garden’s produce and brings it ‘to market’ in the common house.”

Surely, most other approaches to communal gardening involve a bit less commercial exchange, but from a quarter-acre urban homestead or an integrated sustainable living community to a produce co-op and the farmers’ markets that have gloriously emerged in every major city, we see there is no conflict between the market economy and sustainable farming in a municipal context. The way of life is no less libertarian than living in a condo or homeownership association.

Agricultural Independence and Urban Farms vs. the State

What are in conflict, however, are sustainable living and city pastures up against the agricultural bureaucracy, the USDA, FDA, and government at all levels. Certainly, those who offer major competition to Big Ag are targeted. There have been at least fifteen raids of raw milk farms during this administration alone. The federal government has cracked down on independent farmers in gruesome ways. Huge corn and soy subsidies have distorted our food supply, putting corn syrup in nearly every processed food, warped migration patterns and impoverished third-world economies. Even patents play a role in the farming hegemony: Monsanto, the corporate food giant with influence in the last three presidential administrations (including the current one), owns genes that can be found in 90% of America’s soy. Wind inevitably blows the seeds from Monsanto crops to those owned by smaller farmers, after which the company claims intellectual property rights over the land and forbids farmers to save seeds – a traditional agricultural practice – and even sues farmers for merely “encouraging” the violation of these patents.

But even for the small, non-commercial city farmer, the state has become a threat. Even the mildest displays of homegrown produce have run into legal trouble. In July 2011 news traveled fast of the plight of Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan, who was threatened with 93 days of jail time for the crime of planting vegetables in her front yard. A mere five raised beds featuring corn, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables constituted her great offense. Amid a massive public uproar, the city dropped the charges. In most areas of everyday life, the state has become ever more intrusive and invasive. On growing our own food, however, Americans appear sick of being on the defensive. The mainstream adoption of urban homesteading can lead to one of the great retrenchments of state power and influence in our times, echoing the homeschooling movement that has grown so impressively in recent years.

Much of the urban farm movement can be traced to the World War-era victory gardens – what we might call a market response to a statist emergency. The phenomenon of growing your own food (among other consumables) took off in the 1960s and 1970s and is now back in the cities, taking them by storm. Once again, they are coming in response to institutional crisis. In cities suffering in every other way, urban farms might save the day. The Detroit Agriculture Network’s Kristine Hahn points to the city’s “113 community gardens. . ., 18 school gardens, and 220 family gardens” as signs of hope for that suffering city’s future, writes Elizabeth Wahl.

It is a global phenomenon: The USDA estimates that urban areas grow about 15 percent of the food worldwide. In some countries, socialist regimentation has made private gardens absolutely necessary for survival. The Soviet government’s attempts to feed the masses were infamously disastrous, particularly in the calamitous era of Lyskensoism from the 1920s to early 1960s, when the Russian government imposed bizarre standards of agriculture along “proletarian” lines – the forced collectivization of farming and the rejection of genetics and mainstream botanical practices as being based in bourgeois pseudo-science. As the government began looking the other way, its citizens were finally able to feed themselves. By the late Soviet era, 90% of the nation’s fresh vegetables and a good deal of its animal products were from “unofficial sources” – meaning dacha gardens and the small private plots that collective farmers were permitted to work in their spare time,” according to the Christian Science Monitor. These private gardens became crucial in the post-Soviet upheaval as well. A 2008 survey conducted by the Public Opinion Fund found that 56% of urban Russians had a dacha or “kitchen garden.” The American government is still not as dysfunctional as Russia’s but the laws of economics apply universally. Should another financial collapse come, American dachas could be our lifeline.

At least implicitly distrustful of Washington, the urban homesteading movement gets bigger every day. With bigness, however, comes the threat of politicization, and in particular the threat of these farms being harvested by government, the co-ops being co-opted by the state. As with the bureaucratic nationalization of the word “organic” and the trouble we see with farmers running into Monsanto’s patent police, the voluntarism of sustainable living may one day be supplanted by regimented control and corporatism.

A Diversity of Meanings and Conflicts

A hint at one might come, and how urban homesteaders, without some guidance on the ethics of liberty, might make themselves vulnerable to a corporate-state takeover, arrives in the story of a trademark skirmish from this February. The Dervaeas Institute, an organizational arm of the Dervaeas family well known throughout the community for its pioneering work, its respected farm in Pasadena, and its website UrbanHomesteading.com, sent out cease and dissent letters to sixteen groups warning them about their appropriation of the term “Urban Homesteading.” According to Jess Watson, writing in the Summer 2011 edition of Edible East Bay, the letters immediately resulted in “the Facebook pages of IUH, the Denver Institute of Urban Homesteading (a farmers market), and several homesteading-related books [being] taken down.”

According to a Dervaeas press release, their cease and desist letters were only meant to inform the sixteen organizations of “the proper usage of the registered terms. No threat was made against anyone’s first amendment rights; yet, there has been a heated argument in the media against what should have been the Dervaeses’ normal rights to protect their trademarks.”

But perhaps “normal rights” must be rethought if they involve controlling how others use such a phrase as “urban homesteading.” Libertarians have unique insights on intellectual property’s incompatibility with traditional property rights, and maybe some radical free market thought is what this community needs. There is also the practical consideration: “Urban homesteading” yields 610,000 finds on Google. Some entries concern not just sustainable farming but actual homesteading – squatting on seemingly unclaimed property. This squatting can be both farm-related and libertarian: with the state neglecting huge swaths of so-called “public property,” community farming can be an act of revolutionary Lockeanism.

In 2006, the city government moved in to seize a plot of public land that had been effectively homesteaded by 350 farming families in central Los Angeles. The city had caved to public pressure not to place a garbage incinerator there in 1987. “The lot remained abandoned for seven more years, when [around 1994] working folks from the neighborhood set up on the unused land, established gardens and cultivated the land in the lot,” writes Charles Johnson. Ten years after they began homesteading the lot, the city sold it to a wealthy businessman who had owned a fraction of it before it was stolen by the government through eminent domain in the 1980s. Here again we see the state creating a mess of property rights and producing conflict where none need exist.

Thankfully, most urban homesteads simply involve city farming and sustainable living practices that rest comfortably on private land that isn’t disputed, putting aside the invasive limitations of zoning law. “Urban homesteading” can also refer to government programs of home ownership – this is of the least interest to the libertarian. Given all these various meanings of “urban homesteading,” perhaps we ought to reject the whole notion of controlling the term through intellectual property law.

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

The trademark heat did not deter Ruby Blume, a recipient of one of the letters, from moving ahead with the book she helped Rachel Kaplan write. Skyhorse publishing this year printed Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, a little manifesto that explores the principles of permaculture, gardening methods, the intimate bond between what we grow and what we eat, and how to build sustainable homes. The politics, economics, and environmental values that creep in the text might be a bit hard for a libertarian to take, but there are a few insights we can relate to:\

“If we wait for government action before jumping on board, it will be too late. Change like this has to begin. In Congress. In the boardroom. In your home. You only have control over one of those things. Exert it.” (p. 9)

Indeed, today’s urban homesteaders are acting directly, taking responsibility in their own sphere of influence, to improve their lives and escape the limitations of the state-infested world – and they do so without isolating themselves, but rather by expanding upon their ties to their community.

Kaplan and Blume give a sense of the individualism of this movement, one not necessarily loyal to enviro-leftist conformity. San Francisco permaculture teacher Kevin Bayuk is quoted with something mightily similar, in substance if not tone, to one of my favorite George Carlin routines on the futility of trying to “save the planet”:

“I’ve seen people approach this type of lifestyle or message as something they must do. Climate change, species extinction! Do something now! We must! I’ve had those feelings of urgency, but when people approach this kind of lifestyle with a sense of [urgency], it’s just a few years before burnout. That type of energy leads directly to failure; it doesn’t fit with the economy of a healthy system. I advocate for a different metaphor for why you’d live like this. I remember a story that comes from science that says the G-type star we’re flying around on is five or six billion years old, and it might live another twelve billion years. If humanity makes it, twelve billion years down the road all the hydrogen will have fused into helium in that star and it’s going to erupt and expand and envelop the Earth and all the life on it will be gone. In this story, you can’t save the Earth or humanity, so there’s no must about it. The story’s written; it’s just a matter of time. Is it twelve billion years from now, fifteen years from now, 100 years from now? It doesn’t matter to me; I just know the story of trying to ‘save’ the Earth is foolish.” (p. 20)

In the long run, we’re all dead, said Keynes. Nevertheless, the Austrian school of economics to which I subscribe suggests we should think about the future, at least as far as we can see ahead. With a financial system in tatters, utility systems poorly maintained and due for a major disaster, a government neither inclined nor able to handle emergencies natural or manmade, and a corporatist food system bringing us continually lower quality sustenance at ever higher prices, the state-approved way of life can sometimes appear to be a race to the bottom. For the sake of surviving, to say nothing of protecting our freedom from the state, those of us who have yet committed to a flight from the cities must begin taking urban homesteading seriously. Meanwhile, those already in that movement, disenfranchised from the nationalist system and thriving as a growing, localized economic force, need to hear about the intellectual revolution of peace, voluntary economics, and liberty known as libertarianism. It’s a match made in heaven. Let the courting process begin.

Thanks to Nicole Booz for her help and inspiration on this article. An earlier version of this ran at Freedom’s Phoenix

]]> http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/05/13/sustainable-living-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-urban-farms/feed/ 2 George Reisman on Environmentalism http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/06/18/george-reisman-on-environmentalism/ Mon, 18 Jun 2012 18:16:42 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11198 I recently published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics which was critical of the work of one George Reisman on the subject of resource economics. Professor Reisman has been kind enough to respond to my article, and although I thank him for taking the time to reply, I find his response rather unconvincing. This article is a rejoinder to his criticism, and will show that his response has both reinforced my original arguments and misunderstood certain claims I made.

I apologize in advance for the length of this response, which is greater than I first anticipated. I pondered whether I should take the time to write it, but given that Professor Reisman does not believe in opportunity costs, I could not justify a lack of reply on the grounds that I had more important matters to deal with. I encourage interested readers to read both my original paper and Reisman’s response, which will reveal that the tone of my article was fair and respectful. I leave it to the reader to determine if Reisman’s response was equally congenial.

Reisman’s response consists mostly of a series of quotations from his book Capitalism, which he claims undermine my criticism. I will show that they do anything but. I would also like to address some of the larger concerns Reisman raises in his introduction and conclusion, which will serve to highlight important confusions.

To begin, Reisman has been quite selective in his summary of my paper. The original article contains a series of arguments regarding Reisman’s theory of resource economics (or lack thereof). Reisman’s response addresses only the last and least important of these criticisms. Interestingly, nowhere in his response does he quote the title, “Five Erroneous Ways to Argue About Resource Economics,” which by itself would show the reader that there is much more to my argument than Reisman admits.

Furthermore, in an attempt to defend himself, Reisman does not shy away from drawing extraordinary inferences from my argument:

Mr. McCaffrey simply ignores these passages [from Capitalism], the statements they quote, the proof of the existence of the statements, and the logical argument demonstrating the applicability of the statements quoted to the whole of the environmental movement insofar as it proceeds on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value. Instead, he arbitrarily decides that statements that demonstrate the actual nature of environmentalism are simply to be disregarded, allegedly representing mere “exaggeration for literary and pedagogical effect” (p. 139). In effect, he argues, they’re only a kind of joke, not meant to be taken seriously. In this way, he gives environmentalism a free pass, as it were, on its expressions of a desire for mass human death and of enjoyment at the prospect of human terror. He then claims that he’s left looking for a “footprint” of something that in his mind does not exist for no other reason than that he’s decided to ignore its existence.

Even in these lines, there is a complete misinterpretation of my clear meaning. Reisman says that “to exaggerate for literary and pedagogical effect” implies: (a) that this exaggeration is “some sort of joke,” and (b) that it implies that I give environmentalism a “free pass.” Neither of these follows at all from my statement: the inferences have been invented out of thin air. And as an example of my “arbitrary” decision to dismiss some environmentalist claims, Reisman quotes Muir’s benediction to alligators as proof of environmentalism’s desire to destroy humanity: ‘Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty!’ Has Reisman not considered that this might be an attempt at verse by Muir, and an example of exaggeration (as I originally pointed out in my paper)? It is quite clear that it is Reisman who is choosing not to see the hyperbole here.

And I do not give environmentalism any sort of free pass, even pointing out that Reisman’s conclusions might often be true (2012, p. 139). While there indeed is a strong case to be made against environmentalism, the point is that Reisman has not made it. He does not seem to understand that a case against environmentalism that is not also of his own design is even possible, and assumes that anyone who disagrees with him must perforce be an environmentalist reprobate.

I should also note that I cite with much approval Robert Nelson’s 2010 book The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion Versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America, which carefully and consistently unpacks the beliefs of the environmental movement and exposes many problems in its reasoning (I also quote several other sources critical of the broad tenets of environmental economics). The conclusion of this book, with which I am in agreement, is that environmentalism is a confused and often contradictory secular religion. Nelson actually makes a case for his claims; Reisman pronounces them ex cathedra. Reisman would like to believe that I refuse to see problems with environmentalism, when in fact, what I see are problems with his presentation of it. Attempts to derail my argument through guilt by association are doomed to failure.

Let me now set up Reisman’s specific criticism of my paper. Throughout his response, Reisman quotes the following passage from my article:

[W]hen discussing all the hatred and vitriol which supposedly flows from the environ­mental movement, Reisman’s claims are rarely substantiated with textual evidence. We must simply take Reisman at his word when he states that the environmental movement believes this or that. Even worse, we are not even given criteria to judge the relative weight of any reference Reisman makes to the environmental literature. But surely a movement that is responsible for ‘the creation of a horde of hysterical bumpkins in the midst of modern civilization’ (1996, p. 79) should have left behind some records which would (even implicitly) indicate their designs. Environmentalism must have left some sort of, if I may be allowed a happy word, ‘footprint’ (pp. 137-38).” [Internal quotation is from Reisman (1996)]

This problem is about rhetorical devices and setting high standards for academic argument, both topics which, while important, are far less so than the problems of economic theory which form the body of my paper. However, even when attempting to pick the low-hanging fruit, so to speak, Reisman stumbles and his response is quite off the mark. My point in the above is twofold: first, to point out that any claims about the beliefs of opponents must be substantiated by references to their own writing (also important is charitable interpretation). Second, we must have some sort of criteria for establishing which individuals or statements may be taken as representative or relatively more important; this is especially true when we deal with a large and heterogeneous group like “environmentalists.” Otherwise we risk constructing straw men. These points should be obvious, and they appear plainly in the above quotation. Reisman, however, does not seem to have grasped them.

Throughout the quotations in his response, he continuously falls into one problem or the other. I begin with the problem of the lack of citations. Even though Reisman’s generous self-citations are mostly unrelated to my original argument, I have no problem extending the argument to the other passages as well. Consider some of his examples which supposedly show the weakness of my criticism (and the moral poverty of environmentalism). These passages, Reisman argues, “are replete with verified references to statements by prominent environmentalists. They also contain a fundamental logical argument demonstrating implicit endorsement of those statements by everyone who accepts the basic environmentalist premise of an intrinsic value of nature.”

However, the first three paragraphs Reisman cites (from 1996, p. 81) are presented without citation, which was the thrust of my initial criticism. Reisman thinks I dismiss “these passages, the statements they quote, the proof of the existence of the statements, and the logical argument demonstrating the applicability of the statements quoted to the whole of the environmental movement insofar as it proceeds on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value.” But none of these things are present in the quotations, as any reader of Reisman’s book can easily see. There are no citations, no substantiation of the claims. Reisman responds by doing exactly what I claimed he was doing in the first place.

The same problems appear in the last group (the last seven) of Reisman’s quotations, which I will not quote, but are easily available for inspection. These passages contain many vague claims about spotted owls, wolves, rattlesnakes, and so on, but no discussion of any of these specific conflicts, no word from environmentalists about when they might value particular things one way or another. They are presented as examples of the idiocy of environmentalism (and counterexamples to my original paper), but as usual we have nothing to go on except Reisman’s word that these events happened, and that they happened as he said, and that the environmentalists believe this or that. In all this, one New York Times article is seriously inadequate as source material. Throughout, the refrain is the same: Reisman says environmentalists believe in the intrinsic value of nature, therefore all environmentalists believe in it, therefore all environmentalists hate life, despise man, and wish for humanity’s extinction. It is astounding that one could believe that any of these propositions follows from the others.

The second problem I pointed out was the problem of representation. Reisman quotes, but largely ignores, my point that, “we are not even given criteria to judge the relative weight of any reference Reisman makes to the environmental literature.” How do we know from Reisman which are the “serious” sources on environmentalism and which are simply the remarks of irrelevant or misguided individuals who are not representative of the group as a whole (which, as I pointed out, is not homogeneous)? This point goes unmentioned, even in one partly successful counterexample. But to acknowledge it would undermine Reisman’s response, by showing that I criticized not just the absence of citations, but the quality and representativeness of the citations that are used.

Rather than consider this objection, Reisman instead seems to take my paper to mean that there are no citations or evidence whatsoever in his book, which is not what it says. Furthermore, Reisman treats my argument as applying to every passage in his book. He thus carefully avoids answering any of my objections: he uses general arguments in response to unrelated specific points, and uses specific examples to respond to general summaries. In fact, he only quotes the summary claims I make, as if they were the entire substance of my argument, avoiding my narrower claims about the lack of references in his work, such as the following:

Reisman believes himself to be paraphrasing the tenets of environmentalism, but extraordinary claims, large paragraphs, even entire sections appear without any citation to the environ­mental literature. For instance, a section titled “The Alleged Pollution of Water and Air and Destruction of Species” contains no citations to any environmental writings. Another, “The Envi­ronmental Movement’s Dread of Industrial Civilization,” contains only one citation to an opposing author (Carl Sagan). The citation in question merely lists some of the more dangerous environmental effects of the industrial revolution, and their possible long-term costs in terms of human health, a citation which does not actually support the ambitious section title by stating the position of Reisman’s opponents. These sorts of references do nothing to expose us to the “Pathology of Fear and Hatred” which allegedly characterizes the environmental movement. When citations do appear, they are often taken from the popular press, precluding the possibility that they might represent a sustained, systematic presentation of the environmental movement’s principles. (McCaffrey, 2012, p. 139)

This is the actual claim I made, and the one which goes unanswered by Reisman. It is a significant portion of this section of the paper, and cannot be divorced from the part Reisman cites. But Reisman does not respond to it, choosing instead to look elsewhere for counterexamples, in a section I did not accuse of falling into the insufficient evidence trap (although it does, as I point out).

The passage Reisman cites is a summary of these individual points (and others made in the same section of my article). But Reisman responds as if I claimed he never cited a source, as if to destroy my argument it is sufficient simply to show that he uses some references on environmentalism. Nothing could be further from the truth. This type of response does not begin to touch on the specifics of my argument. It merely attacks a straw man.

The next sample he provides, including a footnote, is the closest Reisman comes to actually addressing my argument:

While it is not necessary to question the good inten­tions and sincerity of the overwhelming majority of the rank-and-file members of the environmental or ecology movement, it is vital that the public realize that in this movement itself, which is so widely regarded as noble and lofty, can be found more than a little evidence of the most profound toxicity—evidence provided by leaders of the movement themselves, and in the clearest possible terms. Consider, for example, the following quotation from David M. Graber, a research biologist with the National Park Service, in his prominently featured Los Angeles Times book review of Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature:

“…We are not interested in the utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line—at about a billion years ago, maybe half that—we quit the contract and be­came a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth.

It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

Here Reisman does his best job of providing examples of source material, particularly in the footnote, which lists two books, a book review, and a magazine article. This is the largest group of citations anywhere in the chapter on resource economics; most of the other sources are newspaper articles. Of course, I did not make my specific claims about this passage, so Reisman misses the mark in any case. Even though this is hardly a comprehensive literature review, however, at least it is something. And to be charitable (although as a follower of Rand, Reisman presumably abhors this act), I will consider it further.

In this quote, in order to show that environmentalists truly desire the destruction of the whole human race, Reisman quotes, not from a scholarly article or book on environmentalism, but from one book review in a newspaper. This is an underwhelming piece of evidence. In my original argument, I made it very clear that there was a problem with many of the citations Reisman does actually provide, and this section provides an example. The difficulty is that the citations are usually from the popular press or non-academic works, which are of their nature too brief and general to contain sustained arguments, and possibly to be available as a canonical source or even a common reference. In addition, there is the problem of representation, because it is not at all clear why one book review (and/or the book under review) necessarily sums up the whole environmental movement. Even Reisman’s best efforts then are not up to the task of satisfactorily representing environmentalist beliefs.

Reisman suggests a possible way out however:

The significance of such statements cannot be dimin­ished by ascribing them only to a small fringe of the environmental movement. Indeed, even if such views were indicative of the thinking only of 5 or 10 percent of the members of the environmental movement—the “deep ecology,” Earth First! wing—they would represent tox­icity in the environmental movement as a whole not at the level of parts per billion or even parts per million, but at the level of parts per hundred, which, of course, is an enormously higher level of toxicity than what is deemed to constitute a danger to human life in virtually every other case in which deadly poison is present.

Starting from this passage, none of the remaining quotes Reisman includes have any citations at all (except for one newspaper article). Given that this was my initial objection, it is obvious that Reisman has done nothing to assail my argument. I ask for citations and evidence of the beliefs of the group in its own words, which is a standard and necessary tool in writing arguments: none of these last quotations provides these things. Note that this is an entirely separate point from the claim that any particular assertion in these passages is false: the question was about source material, which is simply absent from the last quotes (pages 81-82 of Capitalism). As all readers (except Reisman, apparently) will easily see, my original argument is supported by this lack of outside and/or representative sources.

And yet, Reisman continually asserts that he has found a logical strain in this type of thinking which serves as a substitute for representative textual evidence:

But the toxicity level of the environmental movement as a whole is much greater even than parts per hundred. It is certainly at least at the level of several parts per ten. This is obvious from the fact that the mainstream of the environmental movement makes no fundamental or sig­nificant criticisms of the likes of Messrs. Graber and McKibben. Indeed, John Muir, whose wish for alligators to ‘be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty’ McKibben approvingly quotes, was the founder of the Sierra Club, which is proud to acknowledge that fact. The Sierra Club, of course, is the leading environmental organization and is supposedly the most respectable of them.

The inference does not follow at all. A lack of criticism does not imply that any individuals actually agree with these writers. Compare this argument with an analogous one: Reisman did not respond to the substance of my paper: therefore, he agrees with it. But surely this is not the case. And even if absence of criticism was somehow equivalent to approval, this would say nothing about the quantitative composition of the environmental movement. Here, Reisman has merely asserted an unsubstantiated claim about what environmentalists believe. Many people who espouse environmentalist beliefs might never have heard of these individuals, much less actually read their writings, much less have grown to hate humanity and desire its extinction.

Reisman insists that there can be no question of the moral bankruptcy of environmentalism, and no possibility of error or exaggeration in his own argument:

The premise of nature’s intrinsic value constitutes the intellectual equivalent of a steel cable, as it were, which ties virtually the whole of the environmental movement to the collection of concrete blocks constituted by its effusions of hatred for the human race. The connection is such that it makes my references “to the environmental literature” carry a weight sufficient to sink the whole movement…

Mr. McCaffrey’s claims here are simply untrue. They are so profoundly in contradiction of the facts, that they make it difficult to believe that he ever even bothered to read the passages I have quoted from my book…

The suspicion that McCaffrey did not read those passages is reinforced by a comment of his in a footnote: “Reisman does occasionally temper his criticisms of environmentalism with qualifying statements to the effect that not all environmentalists are ‘poison’ (1996, p. 81, 82–83), proposing instead the odd claim that only ‘several parts per ten’ are poisonous (p. 138, n. 20).’” If it came out the blue, so to speak, a reference to “several parts per ten” would, indeed, seem odd. But it clearly did not come out of the blue. It was made in the context of a discussion that here and there referred to toxicity levels of varying degrees of concentration. Describing matters in such terms would have seemed odd only to someone who was not aware of the context established by that discussion, which Mr. McCaffrey apparently was not.

Why does Reisman assume that believing in the intrinsic value of nature is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for being an environmentalist? An individual might favor the preservation of the environment for any number of reasons, and might completely disregard the intrinsic value approach. These reasons might be flawed, to be sure, but at best Reisman is attacking only one type of environmentalism. He cannot therefore, use this specific criticism to support his attack on environmentalism in general. I had pointed out some similar problems with faulty generalizations in my original article, and once again Reisman dodges the real question. None of the necessary connections about environmentalism have been made. The “reasoning” here simply runs something like this: Reisman wants to damn all environmentalists, and therefore, the cable analogy is appropriate. (Reisman also suggests that I did not read the passages of his book which he presents. But as I mention above and below, the “odd claim” about the composition of the environmental movement is odd precisely because there is no logic in it, not because the claim had not been introduced up to that point in the text).

Another general point relates to a criticism regarding Reisman’s notion that ultimately, environmentalism is always “poison.” He argues that no matters its composition, to swallow environmentalism is to swallow poison. This conclusion is carefully constructed: yes, one inescapably swallows poison. But the question is not whether one swallows it, but rather what effect it has, and especially its relative weight compared to other things consumed. I breathe ammonia every moment (it exists in tiny amounts in the atmosphere), and I am not inescapably poisoned because I am not breathing only ammonia. Its negative effects disappear because they are overwhelmed by healthier substances. Bad ideas can be overcome with good ones.

But assuming all the characterizations of the environmentalists are correct, this only means that the environmentalists Reisman really attempts to study are the extremists. Does Reisman really believe that any movement which openly calls for the suicide of the human race has or ever will be taken seriously in any important discussion of economic policy, or in any other forum, for that matter? This was my initial problem with his exposition. What serious policymakers or philosophers is Reisman responding to? What mass movement understands and seriously advances the notion that nature is valuable for its own sake, no matter the costs? Perhaps some such group does exist: but we could never know from reading Reisman’s book. Many people do seem to believe some weak form of the idea that nature has intrinsic value, but that does not at all imply that anyone believes in it in the way Reisman claims: i.e., to the extent that they become “depraved individuals who would rather kill than live, who would rather inflict pain and death than experience pleasure, whose pleasure comes from the infliction of pain and death” (1996, p. 102). The “logic” Reisman presents to link all environmentalists together with this “steel cable” is simply unsupported assertion.

Reisman finishes with the most mind-boggling of his claims, that actually, those who believe in the intrinsic value of nature do not believe it at all, but merely use the idea as a smokescreen and a “rationalization for a preexisting hatred of man. It is invoked not because one attaches any actual value to what is alleged to have intrinsic value, but simply to serve as a pretext for denying values to man.” Reisman apparently does not balk at the extraordinary irony of accusing others of developing a “rationalization for a preexisting hatred.”

This concludes Reisman’s orgy of self-citation. As I pointed out earlier, even if his counterexamples were all perfectly valid, he would not have disproved my argument, which was directed elsewhere. But when I extend my argument to the passages Reisman cites, one can still see that the same problems appear there as well.

It is unfortunate the Reisman takes the tone he does. The reader of Capitalism finds himself confronted in the early chapters with the writings on resource economics. These pages are such a barrier to entry that I fear they are responsible for the fact that readers never finish the work, and thus neglect its core chapters and discussion of fundamental issues such as the theories of profit and interest, which are surely the most important to Reisman.

Are All TV Commercials Aimed at Ignorance? http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/08/are-all-tv-commercials-aimed-at-ignorance/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/01/08/are-all-tv-commercials-aimed-at-ignorance/#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2012 01:49:06 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=10299 Pretty much everyone knows–or should know–that many, and maybe most, of the points made by most politicians are of little value, amounting to little more than equine feces at best. A commercial I saw the other day illustrated that the same is true of TV commercials. (Yes, I realize that’s no discovery. But still…) The advertisement I saw featured a clean-cut young man making a pitch to “buy American-made gasoline at Kwik Fill” because doing so “strengthens our economy.” Do people believe that type of thing? The short answer is:  Yes. How do I know? Because presidents–and presidential candidates–have been saying pretty much the same thing for close to 4 decades, beginning with Nixon and continuing right up through Obama.

Rachel Maddow–not exactly a standard-bearer for libertarian ideals and the power of the free market–demolished this lunacy on her show, and the episode is immortalized on YouTube, under the appropriate title, “Oil Is Oil Is Oil.” There is no such thing as “foreign” oil and there is no such thing as “domestic” oil. There is no way to purchase oil from domestic sources or that “benefits Americans only.” Maddow covers many valid points in the video–which is recommended viewing–but in economics-speak, oil is fungible. As such, the concept of energy independence by lessening the U.S. dependence on foreign oil is just the same old jingoistic bird cage liner scrapings. All oil is sold on an international market and all oil is purchased from that same place. Which service station you use is largely irrelevant.

Admittedly, Maddow makes a couple points with which I disagree, most notably in her suggestion that we can affect positive change by lessening our overall dependence on oil. To that suggestion, my response would be “Why?” To what purpose should we–users of energy–attempt to cut back on our usage of energy? To what purpose should we–people who benefit from all manner of conveniences due directly to the technology of fossil fuels–attempt to change our ways? I can only assume that Maddow believes, like many liberals, and many conservatives, that the consumer should react to policy concerns versus market signals. If oil is the cheapest alternative, then the consumer should continue to buy it, period. If, and when, oil becomes so rare as to not be the cheapest alternative (and/or the best technological alternative) the costs should reflect it, and we consumers will move on to something else. (The costs will reflect it, unless the government gets in the way.) The problem is not over-dependence on oil. The problem is lack of understanding of basic economics, the market, and the ramifications of supply and demand.

Of more concern to me, and maybe more importance, is this:  If this type of obviously-flawed economics thinking, as evidenced by that commercial, has pervaded presidential talking points for forty years and continues to pervade TV advertising even now, how much more horribly flawed information flows unabated?

Bottom Line:  I guess they don’t call it the idiot box for nothing.

Cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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Hayden Responds to “Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence” http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/14/hayden-responds-to-climate-contrarians-ignore-overwhelming-evidence/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/12/14/hayden-responds-to-climate-contrarians-ignore-overwhelming-evidence/#comments Thu, 15 Dec 2011 02:20:43 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9990 Physicist Howard Hayden, a staunch advocate of sound energy policy, sent me a copy of his scathing letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence, a global warming screed by Prof. Michael E. Mann. It was not published, but the text of the email is appended below, with permission. Hayden is also author of the books A Primer on CO2 and Climate and the recent Bass Ackwards: How Climate Alarmists Confuse Cause with Effect, among others. See also my previous post, Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims.

As noted in my post Access to Energy, Hayden helped the late, great Petr Beckmann found the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics (brochures and further Beckmann info here; further dissident physics links). Hayden later began to publish his own pro-energy newsletter, The Energy Advocate, following in the footsteps of Beckmann’s own journal Access to EnergyI love Hayden’s email sign-off, “People will do anything to save the world … except take a course in science.”

Here’s the letter:


December 5, 2011

Wall Street Journal

Re:  Michael Mann:  Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence

Dear Editor:

One of the problems with being brilliant far beyond the rest of humanity is that you go through school so fast that you manage to skip a few things along the way.  The Geniuses of Deep Science (GODS), such as Michael Mann and the railway engineer who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are in that category.

While we peons were in grade school learning about the Vikings settling Greenland in the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), the GODS were studying advanced electrodynamics and quantum mechanics. In our art courses we studied paintings from the Little Ice Age (LIA), but the GODS skipped that to concentrate on the Standard Model and string theory.

Not only did the GODS skip over basic science classes, they mastered the art of focusing people’s minds.  They were so good at the craft that they convinced their lesser colleagues and the Nobel Committee that one study of tree rings could supplant thousands of papers in geology journals, paintings in art galleries, and records of crop production from around the world.  Gone was the MWP.  Gone was the LIA.  Who needs that stuff, anyway?

The GODS even invented a new kind of hockey-stick statistics that is so brilliant that a committee of ordinary professors of statistics couldn’t even understand it, so they called it faulty.

You and I might try to draw a connection between CO2 concentration and temperature by making a kind of freshman-algebra graph with a measure of CO2 on one axis and temperature rise on the other.  But the GODS are so superior that they’ve never had to stoop to such childish maneuvers.

With the release of two sets of Climategate emails, the GODS have lost a little luster, but they should be able to hide the decline.

Best Regards,

Howard C. Hayden

Prof. Emeritus of Physics, UConn

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Oh The Things (And People) I Own! http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/16/oh-the-things-and-people-i-own/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/11/16/oh-the-things-and-people-i-own/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2011 19:32:50 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9507 In one of my first posts on this blog I mentioned the usage of “the” as a catch-all term to include a variety of government-“offered” “goods” and “services” that people in general refer to offhandedly (“the” schools, “the” roads, etc.).

The Florida Department of Health has launched a campaign to eliminate second hand smoke from bars, parks and other public (or should that be “public”?) spaces. And what better way than to get folks behind this campaign that to be as inclusive as possible. Thus, the marketing/propaganda material uses “our” as much as possible. “Make our bars smoke-free” says one. Another one: “Make our public spaces smoke-free.” And — because we care about “the” children — “Make our parks smoke-free.”

Democracy, the devil that triumphed.

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Crying Over Spilled Trash http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/09/12/crying-over-spilled-trash/ Mon, 12 Sep 2011 15:34:18 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=9084 I came home yesterday to find that someone emptied our outdoor waste receptacles (read: garbage cans) onto the sidewalk, most likely to root through them for valuables, you know the sort that the state extorts a $0.05-$0.15 bounty in advance for their rendition to the local bailiff for redemption.

This isn’t the first time that profit-seeking scavengers have combed through our trash for illegally-discarded recyclables, but most of the time they are kind enough to retie the bags and place them back where I left them. I suppose this may be a new low in the professional salvage business.


The State’s Corruption of Nuclear Power http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/01/the-states-corruption-of-nuclear-power/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/01/the-states-corruption-of-nuclear-power/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2011 04:34:29 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=8290 There’s a lot of misinformation and confusion out there about nuclear power. Environmentalist wackos are against nuclear because they are against energy; as environut Paul Ehrlich infamously said, “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.1 Others think nuclear power plants can explode like nuclear bombs (they can’t). Still others fret about where the waste would be stored, the same types who wonder about landfills. They don’t realize the waste problem is far worse with other types of energy, or that nuclear is safer and cleaner too.2

The current nuclear technology is superior in many ways to fossil fuel energy production, but thorium-based nuclear energy has many advantages over the current uranium-based systems. As noted here, in a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor, “1) it cannot be used for producing the raw material for atomic bombs, 2) it cannot meltdown under any circumstances, and 3) after 500 years its waste will be no more dangerous than the ashes from a conventional coal burning power plant.” Point 1 should give you a clue as to why this did not become the dominant technology. Thorium does not provide material for nuclear bombs, while uranium reactors do. (See Safe nuclear does exist, and China is leading the way with thorium (“US physicists in the late 1940s explored thorium fuel for power. It has a higher neutron yield than uranium, a better fission rating, longer fuel cycles, and does not require the extra cost of isotope separation. The plans were shelved because thorium does not produce plutonium for bombs. As a happy bonus, it can burn up plutonium and toxic waste from old reactors, reducing radio-toxicity and acting as an eco-cleaner.”); Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium (“After the Manhattan Project, US physicists in the late 1940s were tempted by thorium for use in civil reactors. It has a higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. It does not require isotope separation, a big cost saving. But by then America needed the plutonium residue from uranium to build bombs.”); see also the video below around 7:10.)

  1. See also Lew Rockwell’s great Anti-Environmentalist Manifesto, and his The Enviro-Skeptic’s Manifesto

  2. See Petr Beckmann’s The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear (Amazon; PDF) and his pamphlets The Non-Problem of Nuclear Waste and Why “Soft” Technology Will Not Be America’s Energy Salvation, mentioned in my post Access to Energy

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10:10’s Decimate the Global Population Campaign http://libertarianstandard.com/2010/10/01/1010s-decimate-the-global-population-campaign/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2010/10/01/1010s-decimate-the-global-population-campaign/#comments Sat, 02 Oct 2010 00:21:20 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=6336 An organization called 10:10, whose mission is to promote a global campaign to get everyone to (voluntarily) reduce their carbon emissions by 10% starting in the year 2010, has produced what is perhaps the most ill-advised publicity campaign ever.

Apparently they thought it would be funny to highlight the allegedly voluntary nature of this campaign by, um, alluding to the very justifiable fears that many environmentalists are willing to impose their values on others by (deadly) force. It would be wonderful if everyone would make some small sacrifice to reduce their carbon emissions by 10%, so the campaign goes, but if you don’t want to, that’s cool. It’s your choice. No pressure. Red button pressed. BOOM!!! SPLATTER!!! Such a pity you made the wrong choice. Tee hee!

I’m not kidding. Watch the video below. But be forewarned: it is graphic.

The video, in light of the organization’s 10% campaign, ironically brings to my mind the Roman disciplinary practice of decimation. Decimation was a punishment imposed on Roman military units for failure, cowardice, or mutiny in which one in ten (10% of) soldiers were selected by lot to be slaughtered by their comrades. Only the decimated victims in 10:10’s video are chosen for this ultimate punishment by their failure to make the “right” choice. No pressure.

Decimating the global population sure is one way to reduce carbon emissions by 10%…but it is not very humane. The video is strategically clueless and in poor taste at best.

I really don’t understand what 10:10 was thinking in making this video. They have since pulled it from their own website, stating that apparently not everyone found it to be funny and hinting that some were even offended. Gee, I wonder why. Likely, the video will prove to be great fodder for skeptics of global warming alarmism and statist environmental policies for years to come.

Here is 10:10’s explanation. See if you can make any more sense of this fiasco.


Today we put up a mini-movie about 10:10 and climate change called ‘No Pressure’.

With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. We were therefore delighted when Britain’s leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis – writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others – agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

As a result of these concerns we’ve taken it off our website. We won’t be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.

We’d like to thank the 50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras and who gave their time and equipment to the film for free. We greatly value your contributions and the tremendous enthusiasm and professionalism you brought to the project.

At 10:10 we’re all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn.

Onwards and upwards,

Franny, Lizzie, Eugenie and the whole 10:10 team


Cross-posted at Is-Ought GAP.

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Ecofascism in the Name of Fending Off Ecofascism http://libertarianstandard.com/2010/09/16/ecofascism-in-the-name-of-fending-off-ecofascism/ Thu, 16 Sep 2010 14:04:05 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=5892 Micah White at The Guardian writes of the growing danger of ecofascism or environmental authoritarianism. Some environmentalists, like James Lovelock and Pentti Linkola, want to put democracy on hold and/or return humanity world-wide to a primitive state of existence in order to combat global warming. Ironically, his proposal to fend off this growing danger is itself an example of the very thing he fears, though perhaps his proposal is motivated not entirely by environmental concerns but also by an independent dislike of consumerism.

White’s solution is to end the culture of rampant consumerism in the West. How does he propose to do this? Ah, now there’s the rub.

White’s own ecofascist solution is three-fold: the criminalisation of advertising, the revocation of corporate power, and the “downshifting” of the global economy.

The nature of criminalizing advertising is clear. But he no doubt has equally authoritarian means in mind for implementing his two other proposals.

How does he plan to revoke corporate power? By eliminating limited liability. By “reviving the possibilty of death penalties for [‘misbehaving’] corporations.” And presumably by other government means.

How does he plan to “downshift” the global economy? He offers some apparently voluntary examples here, at least, but I doubt he’d be satisfied with purely voluntary means.

It’s an awfully convenient rhetorical strategy to juxtapose authoritarian environmental and anti-market proposals with the most extreme examples of ecofascism. It makes his own proposals seem downright reasonable in comparison.

The extreme ecofascists are perhaps making a strategic blunder too in attacking the sacred cow of democracy. White is more clever. He is catering to the widespread religious devotion to democracy and demonization of market activity, crying: No need to put democracy on hold! We’ll just put the economy on hold instead!

Does White call for an end to, or even mention, government policies and rhetoric that encourage rampant consumerism? such as artificially low interest rates, inflation, stimulus checks and other forms of subsidies, taxes on savings and investment, targeted tax credits for various forms of spending, various social-welfare programs, indoctrination in public schools to be good consumerist citizens, calls from political leaders to spend spend spend, and so on.

No, he does not.

Instead, he calls for a softer ecofascism in the name of fending off ecofascism. Consumption is a compulsion and is harming the environment; only corporations are to blame and government is the solution. Where have I heard that before?


Cross-posted at the Mises Econ blog and Is-Ought GAP.