March 4, 2009

warming? swarming? let's just say I like dirt.

It's sort of disheartening reading about these various environmental groups. A lot of them seem very into social programs, government incentives, and at times a distrust of free-markets/private property. As you may guess I'm very into the latter and not so much into the former. Now I actually think that a strong view of private property can help environmental causes and that free-markets can provide some effectual checks to corporate excesses. For instance, if I own a piece of land who's waterways running through it are negatively impacted by strip-mining (or manufacturing) upstream, a strong view of private property says "Your practices are impinging my property rights. Quit it." In the same manner I think that for changes to be durable they need to competitive in the marketplace. (Understandably, in today's markets government subsidies artificially skew prices. In the US, right now, we aren't dealing with free market conditions.) If electricity plants stop burning cheap, dirty coal and change to some more expensive way of producing electricity....well they won't unless you make them. BUT! If you can find a cheaper, more efficient way of producing electricity you won't have to make anyone switch over. They'll all be chomping at the bit, and the change will be long-lasting. Plus you won't have to deal with increased commodity prices due to increased production costs or the corresponding lessening of consumer buying power as a result of a. regulation, b. subsidization, or c. both. Of course at this point we could go into this whole thing about how government actions are effectively inhibiting companies and investors from having the incentives or opportunities to do this as rapidly as they could, but that's for another rant. Sufficing to say that it's a snarl.

To go back to what I said about government incentives, there's a sense in which I understand that this is the government with which we're dealing. Incentives are a fact of life. Use them. Haggle for them. Deal. Go ahead and point out that government subsidies go to bloated corporations, hurt farmers, contribute to national obesity, or whatever it is they do, but don't forget that subsidies are bad business no matter who gets them. It's not like Jones Valley Urban Farms getting subsidies = good and Conagra getting subsidies = bad. They still skew the marketplace and take money out of potential investor's (and consumer's) hands. So yes, we have to deal with government incentives and subsidies, but don't expect me to get all happy clappy when I hear that Congress has passed a bill to subsidize organic peanuts in Mississippi. As for my thoughts on social programs see the above. I love them when people come together and buy a plot of ground together to create a neighborhood garden. I don't love it when the government comes in and starts doing what people ought to be doing with their own two hands. The government is big enough thank you. It can darn well keep its mits off my locally grown arugula.

Having said all that, I'm generally in favor of smaller landfills, cleaner air and water, healthier soil, fewer endangered species, and fair trade coffee. I'm just think I'm in it for different reasons. As such, I don't feel comfortable calling myself an environmentalist. Allen has suggested "conservationist." I wonder if maybe I'm not something like an environmental humanist -by which I mean someone who's environmental concerns and goals are driven by human needs rather than any particular regard for the earth as a thing apart. To further illustrate, I like clean air because I breathe air. I'm in favor of fewer and smaller landfills because they are unsightly and smelly things to have in one's backyard. Healthy soil grows nutritious plants that keep me living longer and feeling better. Good environmental practices are often good for people, and I don't think that should be accidental. I think it's all part of dominion, stewardship, and making this earth into a beautiful garden to welcome Christ's return. To that end I hope to see urban gardens, backyard swings, vast sweeps of virgin timber, and steel high rises all intermingled to the glory of God and the service of His people.

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