NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Recapturing The Environmental Issue

January 26, 2000

Peter Huber, author of Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (Basic Books, 2000), is advising political conservatives to take environmental issues back from the clutches of leftist activists -- whom he calls "soft greens." He says the original environmentalism of Theodore Roosevelt and the conservation movement, and scientific advances coupled with free-market solutions, offer an array of means to protect the environment.

Here are some of his observations:

  • The use of pesticides, fertilizers and bioengineered seeds allows more food to be produced on less land, while organic farming requires more land to be cultivated -- alternatives which have substantially diverse impacts on preserving wilderness areas.
  • Similarly, generating energy from fossil and nuclear fuels requires far less land than alternative energy sources such as biomass, solar and wind power.
  • Privatizing pollution through the use of pollution abatement permits which can be freely bought, sold and traded can reduce overall levels of pollution faster and more efficiently.
  • Wealth -- not poverty -- is the secret to preserving wildlife, forests, seashores and oceans, since poor countries simply don't have the means to solve their environmental problems and, indeed, have the worst records in this area.
  • Free markets can be used to acquire and preserve wilderness areas -- rather than resorting to regulations that effectively force private owners to abandon their property without just compensation.

Indeed, says Huber, soft green policies actually hasten the destruction of forests, oceans, lakes and streams by reducing income and wealth, and imposing rigid "command and control" regulations.

Source: Peter Huber (Manhattan Institute), "A Green Manifesto," Forbes, January 24, 2000.


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