Skip to comments.Rich people make the best tree-huggers
Posted on 08/28/2002 3:45:39 PM PDT by knighthawk
If the leaders gathered at this week's World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg really want to save the environment, they should concentrate less on eco-rhetoric, and more on promoting the free-market conditions that permit poor nations to become rich: The simple truth is that countries grow cleaner as they grow wealthier -- no matter whether they've self-consciously dedicated themselves to "sustainable" policies (whatever those are) or not. Singapore, the wealthiest state in Asia, is also its cleanest, despite being one of the continent's largest per capita manufacturers. Canada and the United States -- which Friends of the Earth International says are part of an "axis of environmental evil" -- generate only one-tenth as much pollution per GDP dollar as such developing nations as China and India. WSSD delegates should be discussing how best to tear down wealth-killing trade barriers, rather than wasting time devising regulations on SUV emissions and North-South income-redistribution schemes.
Unfortunately, the majority of the 40,000 delegates and observers appear to believe the globe is on the verge of environmental collapse; that the main threat is from rich nations and their dirty, capitalist economies; and that the biggest impediment to Third World development is a lack of aid. At the summit's opening session, and in the days leading up to it, stale ideas dominated. Fernando Cardoso, President of Brazil, issued demands for legal mechanisms to force rich nations to meet UN-set redistribution goals. Rigoberta Menchu, the 1992 Nobel peace prize winner -- who remains a fixture at UN conferences despite the fact the autobiography that brought her fame has been shown to be a pack of melodramatic lies -- blamed the Third World's "continued decline" and accelerated "degradation of the environment" on "the North's refusal to redistribute power, resources and opportunity."
But the state of the environment and the developing world are not nearly as dire as Ms. Menchu et al would have us believe. Air quality in North America, for example, has improved 27% during the past two decades. Water quality is improving every year, while, according to figures provided by the OECD, the severity of ecological problems in all developing nations has moderated by nearly one-quarter since the 1970s. And North American forests are nearly a third larger today than they were in the 18th century, thanks to better land management, selective logging and reseeding clear-cuts.
All of these gains are possible because we are rich. Princeton University economists Alan Krueger and Gene Grossman have shown that environmental improvement follows a U-shaped pattern. As development begins and incomes start to edge up, environmental damage increases as a result of crude industrialization. Yet by the time per capita income reaches US$5,000, the nadir has been reached; and as income passes US$8,000, most indicators return to pre-development level. From there, conditions improve dramatically. Profs. Krueger and Grossman found "no evidence that environmental quality deteriorates steadily with economic growth," as anti-globalists often charge.
Nor is life in the developing world as hellish as activists insist. Life expectancy there has nearly doubled in the past 60 years and infant morality has fallen to a fraction of its former level. The percentage who are at risk of starvation has declined by two-thirds in the past six decades, and should be down around 10% by 2010. Illiteracy has fallen 75% to less than one in five. The UN's Human Development Index shows that between 1975 and today the lot of all of the world's nations, every single one of them, has improved.
So why won't delegates at the summit admit the good news and focus on accelerating economic growth in poor nations? Because the sociology of showy international conferences dictates otherwise. Inevitably at such gatherings, the priority is to state the problem in the most alarmist terms possible and then, on that basis, call for massive, international intervention. The self-guided atomism implied by capitalism does not fit into this model and, thus, has little place in the press releases issued by the hordes in Johannesburg. That's a pity, for therein lies the surest path to the sustainable development that is the purported subject of the whole jamboree.
There you have it!!! That says it all and pulls the covers on all the EnvironMental Bull Stuff!!!
Anybody as sweet and soft as my AuntB can bump me ANYTIME!!!
You just turn my stinger... wait, I can't think how to finish that statement!!!(blush)
I know, I'm headin to my room to go stand in the corner.(sheepishly)
Excuse me while I inject a little more color into your glowing and perfect description of the bizarre shituation!!!