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Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Environment

The largest, by far, of the myriad problems with the modern environmental movement is that their leaders have displayed virtually no strategic ability, and those few that do are the ones way out on the fringe. To quote from Yeats' poem "The Second Coming," "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." The natural allies of the environmentalist movement are the hunters and fishers, those who directly benefit from nature and actually go there for something more than just a photo op. You'll find among them the most avid, most sensible conservationists around; yet the two groups are too often separate, and that's largely the fault of environmentalist groups who turn their noses up at the people doing the real work. Combine that with the alarmist tendencies of even the more moderate of the groups, and it's easy to see why they've made so little headway over the years. So how do we solve this problem? First, get the intellectuals and the hunters/fishers/growers together to determine what the problems are and how best to solve them. Second, use language those in power understand. For example, in the case of oil, I feel the best way to increase investment in alternative fuels is to mention the fact that this resource is controlled, for the most part, by nations that have a very shoddy record on human rights and whose people and/or leaders have shown less than a lot of love for us. And finally, SOUND REASONABLE AND PROPOSE REASONABLE SOLUTIONS!!!

I love the environment, and any useful, feasible, legal, and honorable means to preserve the environment are pretty okay in my book. However, whenever the steps used to "correct" problems end up causing more harm than good, I won't pretend that it's good or makes sense. A prime example of this is paper recycling. It requires far more chemicals and energy to convert post-consumer paper into usable paper than it does to fell trees and make new paper from the fresh pulp. And since 90% of all paper is made from trees that were grown on tree farms owned or leased by the paper companies, trees that were grown for the express purpose of being felled and used for this purpose, all of the arguments in favor of recycling paper fall flat. Any "solution" that requires more money, energy, and resources than the original "problem" is not a solution at all; it's just an exacerbation of a problem. That isn't to say that I'm against using something that was originally used for one purpose to fulfill another purpose. That would just be stupid. I'm all in favor of taking, for example, used paper that has no confidential information on it, cutting it up, and having it used for scratch paper. But taking it to have it recycled, where it will be subjected to all sorts of nasty chemicals that will have to be dumped somewhere, creating more direct waste in the form of those toxic wastes and indirect waste in the form of the byproducts of the energy that's needed to operate these facilities... That makes no sense to me whatsoever, and I won't pretend that it does.

Summed up as succinctly as I know how, I'm in favor of people using their heads for something more than holding their hats. Too bad that doesn't happen as often as we'd like.

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