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Life after people: an environmentalist's dream


Life after people: an environmentalist's dream

Environmentalists are always pushing for preservation.  Their objective seems to be to ensure that human action does not alter fauna and flora.  Notwithstanding, the very survival of humans depends on their interaction with the environment, altering it in order to satisfy their needs and extracting from it what is necessary to survive (and live).  Seeing as if it is inevitable that a human being will alter his environment, environmentalists seem to want the current state of the environment to be preserved, and that no additional changes be made to the present quantity of plants and animals -- even if this implies a decrease in the standard of living of human beings, not mentioning the fact that this ideology clearly favors insects, frogs, monkeys and grass over humans.  One question that arises is why should the current state be preserved?  What is so good about it?  Why, for example, must the immense green Amazonian desert maintain its current colossal size?  Murray Rothbard, in analyzing the economic consequences of preservation laws poses the exact same questions:

How many writers have wept over capitalism's brutal ravaging of the American forests! Yet it is clear that American land has had more value-productive uses than timber production, and hence the land was diverted to those ends that better satisfied consumer wants.[1] What standards can the critics set up instead? If they think too much forest has been cut down, how can they arrive at a quantitative standard to determine how much is "too much"? In fact, it is impossible to arrive at any such standard, just as it is impossible to arrive at any quantitative standards for market action outside the market. Any attempt to do so must be arbitrary and unsupported by any rational principle.[2]

150 years after people: In Boston, the Prudential Centre collapses into the lush gardens that have overrun the city.

Therefore, if such criterion is nonexistent, we could take the assertions of environmentalists to their ultimate logical consequences.  The History Channel has a series of documentaries that shows what would happen to Earth if all people disappeared at once.  In the first six months, wild animals would already be living in cities.  Within a year, flora would already be taking over urban areas, and within five years streets and roads would have disappeared underneath this entire thicket. After 25 years without humans, the concrete and steel structures begin to fall into ruin without the conservation work of humans, and after 200 years only the most resistant structures made of reinforced concrete will remain standing.  Another 500 years, and even those will succumb, and after one thousand years almost all of our civilization's evidence will have disappeared and cities will have once again become large forests.  Is this the ideal world which environmentalists want to impose upon humanity?  If not, then why not?  At what point do they pretend to stop advocating aggression against other people's property in the name of preservation?

There are those who claim that preservation laws are essential in order to maintain human life; in case humans did not have their freedom of action curtailed by a superior and altruistic entity, they would consume all natural resources and leave the planet's environment hostile to life.  These environmentalists fail to recognize that a system of the inviolability of property rights, which is oriented by free market prices in order to allocate resources, is the best manner with which to guarantee a sustainable environment and the well being of the people (read more about it here and here).  And in regards to the claim of the necessity of preserving non-renewable resources, Rothbard makes the following analysis:

But, presumably, depleting resources must be used at some time, and some balance must always be struck between present and future production. Why does the claim of the present generation weigh so lightly in the scales? Why is the future generation so much more worthy that it can compel the present to carry a greater load? What did the future ever do to deserve privileged treatment? Indeed, since the future is likely to be wealthier than the present, the reverse might well apply! The same reasoning applies to all attempts to change the market's time-preference ratio. Why should the future be able to enforce greater sacrifices on the present than the present is willing to undergo? Furthermore, after a span of years, the future will become the present; must the future generations then also be restricted in their production and consumption because of another wraithlike "future"? It must not be forgotten that the aim of all productive activity is goods and services that will and can be consumed only in some present. There is no rational basis for penalizing consumption in one present and privileging one future present; and there is still less reason for restricting all presents in favor of some will-o'-the-wisp "future" that can never appear and lies always beyond the horizon. Yet this is the goal of conservation laws. Conservation laws are truly "pie-in-the-sky" legislation.[3] [4]

Coruscant -- a city occupying an entire planet

And the absence of the use or threats of physical violence in order to preserve the environment also does not mean that an inverse scenario would occur to life after people -- an overcrowded world and completely altered by human action, something like the planet Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy in the Star Wars saga, in which its entire surface is covered by a city.  In a free market, the simple satisfaction which people obtain in appreciating a natural landscape would be sufficient to maintain numerous areas intact by its proprietors.  However, if a world like Coruscant resulted in the absence of aggression, it would obviously be very welcome.

Even so, who stands to win with such conservation laws?  Beyond the bureaucratic parasites that have their jobs guaranteed by these politics and the enemies of capitalism who rejoice in seeing liberties be curtailed and the well being of others be diminished, there exists other beneficiaries, such as land proprietors.  I refer once more to Rothbard's explanation:

They [conservation laws] thereby impose an inefficient and distorted investment pattern on the economy.  Given the nature and consequences of conservation laws, why should anyone advocate this legislation? Conservation laws, we must note, have a very "practical" aspect. They restrict production, i.e., the use of a resource, by force and thereby create a monopolistic privilege, which leads to a restrictionist price to owners of this resource or of substitutes for it.. [they] serve to cartelize a land factor and absolutely restrict production, thereby helping to insure permanent (and continuing) monopoly gains for the owners.[5]

In this way, when, for example, the IBAMA (The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) restricts or completely prohibits the cutting of trees in the northern region of Brazil, it is guaranteeing as a consequence a monopolistic gain to the producers of wood in the southern region, artificially making their products even more scarce and, therefore, more expensive, diminishing its social utility.[6]  With all of this exposed, it rests on the environmentalist movement to work out a solution on the contradiction of its objectives with the ones of the global warming alarmists, which claim that CO2 emissions are responsible for the higher temperatures on the planet, whereas a world without any humans would inevitably have more animals -- and, as mentioned here, a small dog is responsible for a larger emission of CO2 than an automobile.  Which of the two objectives will they choose:  the earth with no humans or the earth with a "stable climate"?



[1] A typical conservationist complainer was J.D. Brown who, in 1832, worried over the consumption of timber: "Whence shall we procure supplies of timber fifty years hence for the continuance of our navy?" Quoted in Scott, National Resources, p. 37. Scott also notes that the critics never seemed to realize that a nation's timber can be purchased from abroad. Scott, "Conservation Policy."

[2] Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market. Ch.3 P. and M.

[3] As Scott aptly asks: Why agree "to preserve resources as they would be in the absence of their human users?" Scott, "Conservation Policy," p. 513. And further: "Most of [our] progress has taken the form of converting natural resources into more desirable forms of wealth. If man had prized natural resources above his own product, he would doubtless have remained savage, practicing 'conservatism.'" Scott, Natural Resources, p. 11. If the logic of tariffs is to destroy the market, then the logic of conservation laws is to destroy all human production and consumption.

[4] Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State with Power and Market. Ch.3 P. and M.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Another example taken from Rothbard: "The timber owners also understood the gains they would acquire from forest "conservation." President Theodore Roosevelt himself announced that "the great users of timber are themselves forwarding the movement for forest preservation." As one student of the problem declared, the

lumber manufacturers and timber owners . . . had arrived at a harmonious understanding with Gifford Pinchot [the leader in forest conservation] as early as 1903. . . . In other words, the government by withdrawing timber lands from entry and keeping them off the market would aid in appreciating the value of privately owned timber."

 Ibid. Notes in the original.

Translated by David Klein

Sobre o autor

Fernando Chiocca

É um intelectual anti-intelectual e praxeologista.

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