December 22nd, 2003


The problem with environmentalism...

Having a few thoughts recently on the abovementioned issues.

For the longest time, I have been interested in seeing the San Francisco Bay marshlands be restored -- a large amount of what once was the bay's marshlands are currently salt evaporation ponds, and although there is a push to restore them back into wetlands, part of me is naggingly concerned by all the repercussions of such a decision.

We need salt. Salt for chemicals and plastics and water treatment and road de-icing, and, of course, for food; the demand isn't going away anytime soon. So where is all our salt going to come from?

The answer, of course, is "somewhere else", but that means we are simply moving the problem elsewhere *AND* using more resources to have the salt delivered to us. In that sense, you have to be careful that well-meaning US environmentalism doesn't become an extension of the "not in our neighborhood" attitude that pervades so much of the United States, compounding one ecological disaster with another potentially greater one elsewhere.

Conservation is closely tied to efficiency -- using as few resources as possible in the most efficient manner possible.Free trade, however, creates economic efficiencies at the cost of environmental inefficiencies, for there is nothing more environmentally destructive in this world as the simple act of getting from here to there.

So, yes, save the wetlands and the forests by all means, but make sure you are saving them predicated upon greater efficiencies. Do more with less. Make goods closer to where they are consumed. Produce more with less impact, less waste, and less energy. Recycle. Deliver commodities in cleaner, more efficient ways. Only by addressing such issues can environmentalists truely achieve their higher goals.