Re: [asa] Wilson's "The Creation"

From: Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net>
Date: Wed Sep 06 2006 - 13:32:08 EDT

At 05:13 PM 9/5/2006, George Murphy wrote:

>But as Wilson notes, the opposition to sound
>environmental policy from some on the religious
>right continues to be a problem - & that's
>especially the case since some people with those
>views are in positions to influence or make
>policy in the current administration.

@ Really? Which of the principles below do you
and the religious left reject / consider to be
unsound, and why specifically?:

I. People are the most important resource.

All environmental policy should be based on the
idea that people are the most important resource.
The inherent value of each individual is greater
than the inherent value of any other resource.
Accordingly, the foremost measure of quality of
our environment is human health, safety and
well-being. A policy cannot be good for the
environment if it is bad for people. The best
judge of what is or is not desirable is the affected individual.

Human intellect and accumulated knowledge are the
only means by which the environment can be
willfully improved or modified. Environmental
policies should inspire people to be good
stewards. Within the framework of equity and
liability individuals carry out deeds that create
incremental benefits in the quality or quantity
of a resource or improve some aspect of the
environment. Cumulatively these deeds result in
progress and provide direct and indirect environmental benefits to society.

  II. Renewable natural resources are resilient
and dynamic and respond positively to wise management.

Renewable natural resources trees, plants,
soil, air, water, fish and wildlife and
collections thereof wetlands, deserts, forests
and prairies are the resources we are dependent
upon for food, clothing, medicine, shelter and to
meet innumerable other human needs. Human life
depends upon their use and conservation. Such
resources are continually regenerated through
growth, reproduction or other naturally occurring
processes which cleanse, cycle or otherwise
create them anew. While all living organisms and
activities produce byproducts, nature has a
profound ability to carry, recycle, recover and
cleanse. These characteristics make it possible
for us to wisely use renewable resources now
while ensuring they are conserved for future
generations. As Teddy Roosevelt, a founding
father of conservation, recognized: "A Nation
treats its resources well if it turns them over
to the next generation improved and not impaired in value."

III. The most promising new opportunities for
environmental improvements lie in extending the
protection of private property and unleashing the
creative powers of the free market.

Ownership inspires stewardship. Private property
stewards have the incentive to enhance their
resources and the incentive to protect them.
Polluting another's property is to trespass or to
cause injury. Polluters, not those most
vulnerable in the political process, should pay
for damages done to others. Good stewardship is
the wise use or conservation of nature's bounty,
based on our needs. With some exception, where
property rights are absent, we must seek to
extend them. If this proves elusive, we must seek
to bring the forces of the market to bear to the
greatest extent possible. There is a direct and
positive relationship between modern market
economies and a clean, healthy and safe
environment. There is also a direct and positive
relationship between the complexity of a
situation and the need for freedom. Markets
reward efficiency, which is environmentally good,
while minimizing the harm done by unwise actions.
In the market, successes are spread by example,
and since costs are not subsidized but are borne
privately, unwise actions are on a smaller scale
and of a shorter duration. As a result, such
actions are on a smaller scale and of a shorter
duration. We must work to decouple conservation
policies from regulation or government ownership.
In aggregate, markets not mandates, most
accurately reflect what people value and
therefore choose for their environment.

IV. Our efforts to reduce, control and remediate
pollution should achieve real environmental benefits.

The term pollution is applied to a vast array of
substances and conditions that vary greatly in
their effect on man. It is used to describe fatal
threats to human health, as well as to describe
physically harmless conditions that fall short of
someone's aesthetic ideal. Pollutants occur
naturally or can be a by-product of technology.
Their origin does not determine their degree of
threat. Most carcinogens, for example, occur
naturally but do not engender popular fear to the
same degree that man-made carcinogens do.
Microbiological pollutants, bacteria and viruses,
though natural, are by far the most injurious
form of pollution. Technology and its byproducts
must be respected but not feared. Science is an
invaluable tool for rationally weighing risks to
human health or assessing and measuring other
environmental impacts. Health and well-being are
our primary environmental measures. Science also
provides a means of considering the costs and
benefits of actions designed to reduce, control
and remediate pollution or other environmental
impacts so that we may have a cleaner, healthier and safer environment.

V. The Learning Curve is Green.

As we accumulate additional knowledge we learn
how to get more output from less input. The more
scientific, technical and artistic knowledge we
have, the more efficient we are in meeting our
needs. As we gain knowledge, we are able to
conserve by substituting information for other
resources. We get more miles per gallon, more
board-feet per acre of timber, a higher
agricultural yield per cultivated acre, more GNP
per unit of energy. Technological advancement
confers environmental benefits. Progress made it
possible for the American farmer of today to feed
and clothe a population more than two and a half
times the size of the one we had in 1910 and
triple exports over the same time frame while
lowering the total acreage in production from 325
million to 297 million acres. That is 28 million
acres less, an area larger than the state of
Louisiana that is now available for other uses
such as wildlife habitat. American agriculture
has demonstrated that as an unintended
consequence of seeking efficiencies, there are
environmental benefits. As Warren Brookes used to
put it simply , "The learning curve is green."
This phenomenon has a tremendous positive effect
on our environment and progress along the
learning curve is best advanced by the relentless
competition in the market to find the best or wisest use of a resource.

VI. Management of natural resources should be
conducted on a site and situation specific basis.

Resource management should allow for variation of
conditions from location to location and time to
time. A site and situation specific approach
takes advantage of the fact that those closest to
a resource are best able to manage it. Such
practices allow us to set priorities and break
problems down into manageable units. Natural
resource managers, on site and familiar with the
situation, whether tending to the backyard garden
or the back forty pasture, are best able to
determine what to do, how to do it and when to do
it. They are able to adapt management strategies
to account for feedback and changes. A site and
situation specific management scheme fits the
particulars as no government mandate or standard
can. Additionally, a site and situation specific
approach is more consistent with policies carried
out at lesser political levels. The closer the
management of natural resources is to the
affected parties, the more likely it is to
reflect their needs and desires. The more
centralized management is, the more likely it is
to be arbitrary, ineffectual or even
counterproductive. A site and situation specific
approach avoids the institutional power and
ideological concerns that dominate politicized central planning.

VII. Science should be employed as a tool to guide public policy.

Societal decisions rely upon science but
ultimately are the product of ethics, beliefs,
consensus and many other processes outside the
domain of science. Understanding science for what
it is and is not is central to developing
intelligent environmental polices. Science is the
product of the scientific method, the process of
asking questions and finding answers in an
objective manner. It is a powerful tool for
understanding our environment and measuring the
consequences of various courses of action.
Through science we can assess risks, as well as
weigh costs against benefits. While science
cannot be substituted for public policy, public
policy on scientific subjects should reflect
scientific knowledge. A law is a determination to
force compliance with a code of conduct. Laws go
beyond that which can be established with
scientific certainty. Laws are based upon
normative values and beliefs and are a commitment
to use force. Commitments to use the force of law
should be made with great caution and demand a
high degree of scientific certainty. To do
otherwise is likely to result in environmental
laws based upon scientific opinions rather than
scientific facts. Such laws are likely to be
wasteful, disruptive or even counterproductive,
as scientific opinions change profoundly and
often at a faster pace than public policy. The
notion behind the Hippocratic oath first do no
harm should govern the enactment of public policy.

VIII. Environmental policies which emanate from
liberty are the most successful.

Our chosen environment is liberty, and liberty is
the central organizing principle of America. To
be consistent with our most cherished principle,
our environmental policies must be consistent
with liberty. Restricting liberty not only denies
Americans their chosen environment, but also constrains environmental progress.

Liberty has powerful environmental benefits.
Freedom unleashes forces most needed to make our
environment cleaner, healthier and safer for the
future. It fosters scientific inquiry,
technological innovation, entrepreneurship, rapid
information exchange, accuracy and flexibility.
Free people work to improve the environment, and
liberty is the energy behind environmental progress.

More: Principles of the American Conservation
Ethic http://web.archive.org/web/20050306053745/http://www.nwi.org/ACE.html

~ Janice

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Received on Wed Sep 6 13:33:03 2006

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