Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Spike-ing Eco-Economics

Note: Last week, Early this week, I put out a request for suggestions for anti-environmental web sites and blogs, organizations and publications. I've been looking myself, and found quite a few. Most characterize themselves deceptively as "free-market environmentalists, "common-sense environmentalists," and the like. This will be the first of many posts taking a look at the information these outlets disserminate. I eagerly encourage your feedback and comments.


There are so many half-truths, assumptions and logical fallacies present in this essay by Daniel Ben-Ami in Spiked (which I found through the Commons Blog) that I'm really not sure where to begin... The largest frame Ben-Ami employs is the association of "environmentalism" with (for lack of a better term) Luddism. But, since Ben-Ami has read books like Natural Capitalism, he should know that this just isn't true. No one in the sustainability movement advocates for arbitrary limits on growth or economic development -- they do advocate for recognizing (as Ben-Ami dismisses cavalierly) that human economics exist within the natural environment -- I challenge Ben-Ami and his fellow "free market environmentalists" to show me a product or service that doesn't rely on natural resources... He states at one point that "the earth is not a closed system - it receives an enormous amount of energy from the sun every day." Those are exactly the kinds of arguments that the sustainability movement makes: the sun provides a regular income of energy, while oil and coal are finite in supply. Humans economics can continue to thrive sustainably if we rely on daily income (solar energy) rather than our "savings" of energy (oil and coal). We're also the one's arguing for increased efficiency -- that's what the "three Rs" are about, for instance. Of course, Ben-Ami's solution: relying on "technological developments" in the future, even while he and his ilk dismiss technological innovations that currently exist (renewable energy, hybrid engines, "cradle-to-cradle" design).

A little intellectual honesty would be refreshing from the "free market environmentalism" crowd -- just admit that you really don't care for either the free market or environmentalism. But don't sneer at our assessments of problems and then throw our own solutions back at us, or rely on vague abstractions like "the market" and "technology." Markets and technology are not quasi-spiritual forces -- they're human-created tools that the sustainability movement is actually trying to use.