Daily Archives: 2007.06.25 00:14

Points on Environmentalism

Best Engrish I could find in Hiroshima. Bad picture quality, though.

Environmentalists still like ramming their heads against brick walls.

Lately environmentalist stories and short-sighted “green” ideas have been blooming on the internet faster than Chinese algae. Christian Science Monitor hit the nail on the head about carbon emissions today with this article, and then went completely the other way with a mainstream-friendly article (one can only wonder if the editor felt it necessary to post a self-rebuttal after being frank about environmental issues). The former is the only one I’ve seen that addresses the problem with power plants. It does not offer any solutions, however, as is typical in journalism.

Short-sighted and unrealistic environmentalist ideas bother me on a deep level. Let me take you on a bullet-point journey to organize why… or at least cut down on my ramblingness:

  • The environment is important, regardless which one you are talking about (I, for one, don’t stop at this planet when contemplating our habitat).
  • Broadly speaking, all other animals adapt to their environments. Humans have gotten ahead by finding ways of adapting the surrounding environment to suit our needs. We need not be ashamed of this natural ability of ours (self-loathing is self-defeating). And we should also consciously admit that this is indeed a natural phenomenon.
  • We have an influence on the environment, but we do not know to what degree despite the claims of certain knowledge by many trusted sources (Al Gore’s co-stars and anyone driving a Prius in Hollywood as a statement (as opposed to those who do it to save money or because they like the car itself)).
  • The environmental/green lobby is generally left-wing, anti-corporate and somewhat anti-American/West/Successful Nation. This is strange in itself, as the 1st World center-to-right nations (yes, in the big scheme of things France is more center than left when compared to, say, the DPRK) are the only ones contemplating environmental issues with any seriousness and allow their populace to mouth off against them; try that in the lovely republics of China or even heavy-polluter India.
  • Being left-wing, the general environmental lobby does not understand and does not want to understand the economic forces that guide the majority of decisions that drives lives and nations, and thereby the impact humanity has on the Earth.
  • Most environmental proposals are ridiculous for their lack of practicability, and are blown off immediately by engineers, industry investors and governments. Any that gain media attention (like Gore’s piece) suddenly become the big talk because it is politically incorrect to deny any environmentalist ideas the privilege of being both technically ridiculous and ridiculously vacuous. Being nice sounding does not, however, change the fact that most environmentalists’ ideas are preposterous and tend to, in the end, be far more energy wasteful than the current status-quo (consider this article).
  • Humanity will always need more and more energy.
  • Cars are not the devil. Neither are power plants. But electric cars powered by power plants that burn coal are far more wasteful than cars that burn regular old gasoline. The difference is that you can choose to not see the smog produced at a distant locale when you look through your shiny new rose-tinted windshield (cars from any number of movie award ceremonies? or how about giving technology innovation awards away to ideas everyone has already had for a long time… like an electric car?)
  • Humanity, as a whole, will not allow itself to self-destruct (though several constituent societies appear to actively seek destruction).
  • The world of humans is driven by need. This need is commoditized and expressed in economic systems, whether we like that idea or not. In the end no matter which way the flag waves this has always and forever made businessmen powerful, whether they were bankers, investors, traders (or in the case of suppressed, State controlled economies) the King Himself. This is true whether we’re talking about the gloriously disastrous socio-economic experiment that was the USSR, ancient Carthage or modern day USA.
  • Convincing consumers the benefits of eco-ventures is not practical or effective. Convincing the businessmen who will profit or lose by these ideas is far more important. All the sweet love and genius of human harmony will not make any money; only having something someone else needs will. Something someone else needs is not to be confused with something someone else wants. Need, whether perceived or real, drives economies; personal desires fueled by popular fads merely nudge economies in fantastically disastrous directions for short periods of time.

Environmentalist thinkers will never arrive at a sound alternative to our energy needs that are cheaper than what we have now. Their own dogma precludes this because their approach to marketing their ideas will always miss the mark, even if one of them comes up with a great idea. Businessmen with the capital and know-how required to manifest new ideas will be interested only concepts like “cheap power” and “sellable power” not “clean power”. They need something that can sell at a profit, not something that will bust them financially and maybe earn a tip of the hat in some tiny info box on a children’s textbook page long after they are dead.

Society will never band together to buy expensive, restrictive-use power.  The key here is “good” power all being restricted in some way, or “bad” power requiring some element of restriction to render it “good”. This makes “good” power expensive and “bad” power cheap. Which forces a quirky singularity in environmentalist economic planning: an ideal environmentalist economy is possible only for societies with the resources to afford it, making the only societies capable of “good” behavior a very small, elite, club. This makes those societies a power elite if they take the environmental crusade a step further by making environmental policy into rules, and enforce those rules the only way possible (with violence). Thought creating an elite class would not be the intent at the outset, maintenance of elite status will always become a goal of its own later on (the universal rule underlying this is “capacity drives intent” — memorize that).

Alert readers may have noticed that the situation described above applies to any technology that gives one society (or set of societies) an advantage over others. Technology, and indeed evolution itself, always tends toward monopoly, and monopoly always tends towards instability, and instability is ultimately the only reliable monopoly breaker. (Yes, this is depressing and ugly if you think about it carefully.)