Environmentalists impoverish Americans

In: Uncategorized

19 Mar 2009

An excellent article in Forbes by Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow and director of the urban futures program at Chapman University, on how environmentalism creates shortages:

“the new scarcity does not simply advocate humane ways to deal with shortages, but seeks to exacerbate them intentionally. This reflects a doomsday streak in the contemporary environmental ethos – greatly enhanced by the concern over climate change – that believes greater scarcity of all basic commodities, from land and water to energy, might help reduce the much detested “footprint” of our species.

“One key element of this agenda has to do with reducing access to critical resources like water beyond those required to support existing uses. To be sure, two years of below-average precipitation helped create central California’s current water shortage. Planting crops such as cotton, which needs lots of water, may also have contributed to the problem.

“However, this only explains part of the problem, which increasingly has to do not with vicissitudes of nature but conscious political action. In prior dry periods, the state has managed its water resources to supply farmers and other users as effectively as possible. Today, in response to seemingly endless litigation to protect certain fish in the Delta region west of Sacramento or to “revitalize” valley streams, enormous amounts of water have been allowed to flow untapped into San Francisco Bay.”

Kotkin is also interesting on the distinctive policies of “de-development of the Obama administration:

“It is critical to understand that anti-growth politics diverges from the old conservationist ethos in radical ways. No longer is it enough to talk about growing intelligently or using technology to meet long-term problems. Instead, scarcity politics seeks to slow and even reverse material progress through what President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, calls “de-development.”

“”De-development” – that is, the retreat from economic growth – includes some sensible notions about conservation but takes them to unreasonable, socially devastating and politically unpalatable extremes. The agenda, for example, includes an opposition to population growth, limits on material consumption and a radical redistribution of wealth both nationally and to the developing world.

“In much the same way as seen in California’s water crisis, many of the administration’s “green” energy policies pose a direct threat to blue-collar workers employed in extracting and processing fossil fuels. The resultant high energy prices caused by the proposed “cap and trade” system – essentially a system for creating scarcity – also will cost middle-class consumers, blue-collar workers, truckers and manufacturers. These constituencies could well face the kind of water policy-related decline that is destroying farming communities throughout central California.

“Yet at the same time, such policies make the well-to-do and trustafarians in San Francisco and Malibu – for whom higher energy prices are barely a concern – feel better about themselves. In what passes for progressive politics today, narcissism usually takes priority over reality.”

Thanks to Sean Collins for the tip.

For more on John Holdren’s rampant Malthusianism see the briefing from the Competitive Enterprise Institute here (PDF).