Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Environmentalists Doing More Harm Than Good?

How Environmentalism Misses the Forest for the Trees
By Edward L. Glaeser
Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard.

Can environmentalism be bad for the environment?

In Massachusetts, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has led the fight against providing alternative energy with a wind farm off of Cape Cod. Greenpeace declares that “nuclear power is unsafe, uneconomical and unnecessary.” In Canada, the Sierra Club fights against the development of hydroelectric power, fearing “toxic mercury increases in fish.”

In these cases, groups are putting local environmental concerns first and the planet second. Wind farms, nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams are ways of providing clean energy, which would reduce carbon emissions and the threat of global warming.

The old mantra “think globally, act locally,” is pretty silly. Local environmentalism is often bad environmentalism, because keeping one’s backyard pristine can make the planet worse off.

Preventing wind farms leaves Cape Cod’s views untouched, but increases carbon emissions.

In my own field of housing, a similar phenomenon occurs when some environmental groups put their own local interests ahead of global warming. Read More

When do environmentalists hurt the environment? When the issue is in their backyard. They seem to be all for a project or regulation when it affects someone else, but when they are forced to make the sacrifice, they seem to change their tune. The thing this author doesn’t take into account is agriculture. He claims that California farmers should pay the “true social cost” of the water they are irrigating with. The author should weigh the true social cost of importing food.

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