Saturday, February 23, 2008

Samizdata quote of the day

Here from Samizdata is a quote that gets more profound the more you consider its implications:
  • Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.
  • Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine, 1943.
Environmental issues today are not a function of a lack of information, knowledge nor technique. Generally, they are not a function of neglect. Rather they are the result of well intentioned interventions wherein the people advocating the particular course of action are precluded by their ideological perspective from altering the path they have set out for themselves. This is the case with climate change, waste management, energy policy, habitat preservation and water management.

Resource management is not constrained by lack of information, by its foundational science: it is bounded by the rationality of the people making political decisions about the management of human activities and the agendas individuals bring to the policy arena.

Some examples from recent posts relate to climate change, poverty reduction, carbon emissions and energy policy.

O.K., so why does this situation persist? Good question. Phillip Stott has this answer:
  • To me, that is one of the most maddening things about the environmentalists’ pre-occupation with the issue of global warming: it is driving out virtually every other environmental issue and is eviscerating the concept of individual responsibility for dealing with environmental problems on a local basis.
  • Highlighting global warming as a priority makes every other environmental concern secondary. The political and scientific zealotry with regard to global warming has taken public attention away from a host of legitimate environmental issues.
  • Concentrating public attention and efforts on combating global warming has swept these genuine environmental issues under the rug and has made dealing with the environment a governmental issue instead of one in which all of us can play a constructive role.
Problems persist because they are subsumed within the larger political agenda of well-intentioned people who believe that their ends justify whatever means are necessary for them to be achieved.