Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Anti-Environmentalism ect...

This article is, for the most part, a critique of the dichotomous viewpoints of Malthusians/environmentalists and their opposites known as the contrarians. From what I gather from this is that the world is not going to benefit much from either side. The Malthusians and hardcore environmentalists are saying how people are destroying the planet and we are going to run out of resources very soon. They take an apocalyptic view of the world. The contrarians, on the other hand, do kind of the opposite and say that all these environmental problems are bull. One of the main ideas that I got from this article is that the issues are far more complicated than the black and white these opposing sides talk about.
Starting with the Malthusian and environmentalist perspective, the authors critique the ideas they have estabolished. One issue being that these doomsayers have for a long time ranting about resource depletion being imminent. It is probably safe to say that we will run out of fossil fuels at some point in the future, but the main point is that the Malthusian types undermine technological advances to find new resources and innovations.
Another point made is that environmentalists have the tendency to obsess over overpopulation and how it is putting strains on "natural limits". They do not really look at the evidence that it is a social problem involving maldistrobution of resources. The complex factors that affected population growth spurts is not looked at and hunger and famine are seen as a population problem that needs to be adressed by possibly implementing laws that would curb population growth.

On the other side of the discussion lies the contrarians. They, for the most part, are on the other side of the issue of environmentalism. It is clear that not all people considered contrarian totally disregard global environment issues. There are those that object to the other side's apocolyptic style view of the future of this planet. But, there are those that feel all these issues are lies.
One thing I found interesting about these contrarians is that the "political right-wingers", if you will, use thier thoughts and arguments to promote thier agendas and to try and deregulate environmental laws, promote privitization and bolster free market.

The authors in the article go through some strengths and weakness of the contrarian argument.
One of its contributions has been pointing out the anti-humanism, ecocentrism and racism within neo-Malthusian thought. This means that these people often care far more about environmental cocerns than human life and that people in third world countries and the poor in first world counties are the ones that need to stop procreating to help curb population growth. It goes along with the idea that nature is good and people are bad.

One of the critiques of the contrarian view is that they tend to present stereotypical environmentalists in thier arguments. These being the anti-humanists and Malthusians. They also tend to see them all as being left-wing liberals when in fact there are many conservative environemtnalists and liberals who dont give a shit about going green.
Another critisism of the contrarian is the tendency to be too damn optimisitic about worldviews and environmental outcomes. One going as far as to declare the end of pollution in our lifetime. Another saying that nuclear power will be a perfectly fine alternative energy source, because we can just dump the waste in the desert in Arizona. I can't imagine that being the least bit good to anyone.
The contrarians also have the tendency to be quite dichotomous in their thinking and solution finding. They argue ideas in very simplistic ways instead of really acknowleding the true complexity of the situation. It is always just people Vs. nature, growth vs. environment. Thier solutions seem to be limited. It is like we can only invest into one of two possible ideas for helping reduce global climate change or anything else. Lomborg argues that there is only so much money that could be used for these types of projects. The authors say that we could devest money from something useless like military funds and use that money to fund more environmental projects. There are probably a lot more things we could due away with and use the money to help support environmental problems.

Finding a middle ground in all of this would probably be a good place to stand. Being a doomsayer isnt going to get people to help support your cause and saying that the problem doesnt exist certainly isnt going to help, because in reality there is something there. The authors make is clear that this is a very complex set of problems that cannot really be reduced into simplistic terms and do it justice.


  1. Would the technological and renewable resource advances be well distributed? What about education? That's not even well distributed to people on campus, such as able-bodied students using the elevators. And why would I feel like such an ass to say "use the stairs!" or "walk a half mile to class instead of waiting a half hour for a parking spot!" which are logical energy saving ideas. People living on the border of the Sahara who don't know their ovens could use less trees if they built them slightly differently will continue using more trees. (it's a small example and people aren't the biggest cause of deforestation there, but everything helps)

    I found the part about contrarians confusing the public and policy makers for lame reasons interesting as well (if that's what Kent was talking about). I wonder if those silly "think" tanks started those corn ethanol commercials\conversations because it fit their agendas and bank accounts.

    If apocalyptic based environmentalism was turned to solution based, it probably wouldn't sound so outrageous and full of those little green lies. What kind of contrarian would suggest nuclear waste be put in the Arazona desert if s\he knew people lived there? I would consider them near-sighted as Malthusians.

    Obama's inauguration speech dealt a little with the defunding useless projects to promote efficient ones. However, efficiency is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the complexity would be at least slightly simplified if people realized social injustice and environmental injustice are closely synonymous.. Was this too long and ranty?

  2. I find it very unfortunate that such an important issue is being represented as dichotomous when the issue at hand is far more complex. I think it causes great confusion concerning the public, which in some cases prevents environmental action from taking place. However, I do not think that this article was arguing or suggesting that any middle ground be reached. I think it was far more complex than simply finding another place along some continuum from 'apocalypse' to 'disbelief'.
    Also, when you said that “the Malthusian types undermine technological advances to find new resources and innovations,” I think the article was saying that Malthusian types underestimated technological advances rather than trying to oppose them. Anyway, it goes without saying that we are where we are in terms of technology and we can't really go back to the 'primitive' ways of life, nor can we rely on the technological advances of the future. We have to deal with the now. Romanticizing either way is, in my opinion, extremely counter-productive.
    Overall, I find the situation incredibly frustrating and I am wondering how we are going to dig ourselves out of this huge mess that we have helped create. I find it sad that different organizations, corporations, agencies, etc. are manipulating people into believing one thing or another for their own gain, with little regard for our collective well-being.