Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Earth is our home, we are its stewards

I am an environmentalist because the Earth is our home. I take care of my home, because a well cared for home contributes to my well being. I am a conservationist. I believe that protecting soil and protecting water contributes to human well being, and effects our ability to earn a living and to take care of ourselves. I also believe that wisely using global resources will insure that human beings can live in comfort and prosperity on this planet for a long time to come. Not just a few, but everyone. I believe hat the free market contributes to the creation of wealth, but it is not the only or always the best tool for its distribution, and some times market activities should be regulated to protect human well being. Regulations that protect the earth and the physical resources that we need for our well being, to produce our wealth, and to enjoy our home need to be protected from mistakes caused by the market. Such mistakes include over fishing of the seas, failure to protect the soil from erosion and fertility loss, failure to protect waters and the atmosphere from pollutants.

The care of the earth is our responsibility. First because it is our home, and care for our home is a part of our well being. We are stewards of the earth as well as its owners. The property rights of individuals do not extend to uses of propert that will Injure and kill other people. The creation of pollution on our property that will adversely effect the wellbeing of other people, and earth resources, is morally wrong and may rise to the level of civil and even criminal offenses.


Lftrsuk said...

Young fathers, sat in their parked SUVs, with the baby in the back and waiting for Mum to finish shopping in the supermarket, keep the engine running to power the air conditioning for the baby's comfort. I've stuck my old wizened neck out a couple of times to point out the error of their ways but you might as well talk to a brick wall - individual freedom to perpetuate the tragedy of the commons is ingrained. Only the impact of a standard of living downgrade will shock voters, closely followed by politicians, into 'bullying' the science and technology communities into following the route physics lays out for us - widespread deployment of nuclear power, and let's hope for all our sakes, it's LFTR based.

I think we'll get some tremors, on the standard of living front, within the next decade and something significant within 2 decades. Such a pity the writing on the wall is not big enough or loud enough.

Anon said...

If a baby is in a still car (or truck which can be driven on a car licence) on a hot day then the air conditioner had better damn well be running or that baby is going to die of heatstroke.

As for what a standard of living downgrade would do, it's far more likely to just cause people to stop caring about the environment and only care about what they have to do to maintain their standard of living (and if there is still a hundred years of coal left than that coal is going to get burned).

gallopingcamel said...

Having lived in London during the 1950s I have a clear recollection of pollution of the atmosphere and pollution of the rivers.

In 1954 there were no vertebrate life forms in the Thames from Battersea power station to Greenwich. Our lawmakers outlawed soft coal and regulated the discharge of materials into the rivers, leading to a steady reduction of pollution.

Visit London today and you will find 115 species of fish in the Thames including salmon. It should be noted that the Thames was a commercial salmon river until 1815.

My point is that even dreadful pollution can be reversed given sensible legislation that is supported by the general public.

On the other hand, those that would legislate to treat CO2 as a pollutant will not have science or the general public on their side.

Charles Barton said...

gallopingcamel, Who has science on their side is of course a matter of debate, however, the scientists are not on the side of climate skepticism, and gave not been for a long time. National governments can tax what ever they wish too, including CO2 emissions, and given what the scientists tell us, Taxing CO2 emissions might be wise,

Anon said...

Personally I'd rather we just ban the construction of new CO₂ emitting power plants (and not give exemptions if they back up renewables).

Under such a scheme nuclear would win by default (since it's the only technology we've got which can do the job) unless it were banned from competing in which case whichever country enacts such a law will end up with severe energy shortages (which may cause the anti-nuclear legislation to be lifted but would probably be more likely to just cause the ban on CO₂ emitting power plants to be lifted). I suspect we'll need to suffer serious consequences from global warming before we actually do anything more than useless feel-good tokenism (that seems to be how things went with other environmental problems, as much as we'd prefer them dealt with before they get bad).

As for what is a pollutant, CO₂ in the right concentration is necessary to provide a greenhouse effect and keep our planet from freezing and plants need a certain amount of CO₂ to live but too much CO₂ will increase the greenhouse effect thereby increasing the temperature of the planet and given that the change is undesirable* whatever causes it is a pollutant.

* It's possible that a warmer planet would be better for us (and quite likely given that warmer periods tended to have higher biomass) but the change to get to that warmer state could be very nasty (need to move agriculture, cities suddenly end up with a different climate, etc).

gallopingcamel said...

Charles, it cannot have escaped your attention that governments around the world are taxing fossil fuels and especially gasoline.

In Europe the average gas price is $8.65/gallon and 61% of that is taxes. Here in the USA, gas taxes average at around 12%.

How high will taxes have to go to achieve your goals?

gallopingcamel said...

It can't have escaped your notice that fossil fuels are already taxed.

For example the price of petrol in Europe averages $8.65/gallon and 61% of that is tax. In the USA the corresponding figures are $3.80 and 12%.

Just how high will taxes have to go to satisfy you?

Charles Barton said...

gallopingcamel I am not sure what your point is. The point of a fossil Fuel tax would be to include the social costs of fossil fuel use in its market costs. We need to have some idea about what the social cost is before we use taxes as a means of recovering the socil costs of fossil fuel use. It would appear that the European estimate of social costs is higher than the American estimate, but this is unlikely.

Anon said...

You'll find that taxes on petrol aren't for environmental reasons but to pay for road maintenance (and also provide a stabilising influence on fuel prices).

Some people in the US (and not necessarily those you would expect) have actually called for the tax on petrol in the US to be increased.

BTW: What gallon are those prices in?


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