Richard North, 03/05/2005  

It is not precisely a secret that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the supposed discreditation of all Communist and Socialist ideas (I say supposed because they are, as it happens, alive and well in most of the western academia) drove many of the erstwhile supporters into the green environmentalist movement.

When you think about it, many of the political arguments and the methodology are quite similar. The two groups seem different because the true environmentalist is against industrialization and any kind of progress, the twin dogmas of the Marxist religion.

This is not a particularly important distinction. For one thing, the industrialization they are arguing about is completely out of date, both Marxists and green environmentalists still seeing smoking chimney stacks everywhere and being unable to understand that it is industrial progress that can actually clean up the environment.

The most important common factor, however, is the political thinking. For one reason or another both groups remain convinced that the only way to achieve whatever aim they have in mind is through state control, either actual ownership or regulation. And both are completely wrong.

Not only they are wrong, they harm their own aims. Socialists have promised greater welfare for all and faster economic development. They failed miserably.

Green environmentalists have promised a better, cleaner environment and they are failing. Most of the regulations brought in under the influence of green environmentalist thinking actually make things worse.

There is no getting away from the fact that the environment is cleaned up more efficiently in richer societies. But the green environmentalists want to keep the poor societies in poverty and make the rich ones poorer.

European regulations, whether they are to do with the Common Fisheries Policy or hazardous waste inevitably result in greater environmental problems, sometimes a catastrophe.

It is also reasonably clear to all that people look after what is their own and ignore or destroy what does not belong to anybody. Therefore, a true environmentalist ought to advocate private property and light regulation just as a true lover of peace is always against unilateral disarmament.

I was interested to read a column by one of America’s best journalists, Jonah Goldberg. In it he explains that conservatives and free-marketeers have finally started saying that they, too, are environmentalists. They have always been that, but the so-called moral high ground had been hijacked by the regulatory freaks, who had managed to convince everyone that they alone were in favour of the environment.

(I plead guilty to snarling at a particularly irritating Swedish environmentalist eurosceptic, when he stated smugly that nobody could be against the environment and, therefore, they could not be against his proposals of making sustainability and green regulations part of the European eurosceptic platform.)

Of course, these people are irritating but just as we had to argue it through with the self-righteous unilateralists, many of whom were Marxists and communist sympathizers, but many simply misguided, so we have to argue our case over the environment.

Luckily for us, as Mr Goldberg points out, some of the more serious environmentalists are beginning to see that their movement has reached a dead end.

“In other words, all of the serious arguments are about means, not ends. For decades, greens have insisted their means — heavy-handed government command and control — were the only way to those ends. Obviously, there are some exceptions:Some organizations have raised money to buy land and then manage it themselves.But at the national level, where impressions are formed, the enviros have become indistinguishable from any other special interest group that wants the government to do their bidding.

Don’t take my word for it — google “The Death of Environmentalism” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. “We believe,” write these two respected veteran liberal greens, “that the environmental movement’s foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest. Evidence for this can be found in its concepts, its proposals, and its reasoning.””

Well, there may be a slow movement away from the disastrous, regulatory environmentalism in America, but in the EU it is flourishing and is in power.

The Common Fisheries Policy remains a key part of the EU system with every disastrous regulation producing a new one. It takes sheer genius to reduce cod stocks to the point when the fish becomes an endangered specie (though that is based on faulty and inadequate research). Of course, the CFP is, in the first place a political decision imposed on the fishermen and fishing communities but many of the attempts to improve it are imbued with green regulatory environmentalism.

The combination of the Hazardous Waste Directive, the Landfill Directive and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive has created enormous environmental problems through dumping, it being no longer possible to dispose of waste legally.

Small food businesses find that every year brings more “environmentally friendly” regulations about their own waste disposal, which either makes it too expensive for them to carry on, their closure contributing to the environmentally unsightly boarded up shops in various high streets or forces them into illegal dumping.

One can carry on indefinitely. Naturally, nothing much will change while environment remains an EU competence, in the hands of environmentalists, regulators and people, who know like to have their snouts in the environmentally friendly trough.

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