Environmentalism and Reality

I am writing this post as a response (agreement) to Shannon’s post rather than just putting it in the comments…

From time to time if I am stuck conversing with a die-hard environmentalist, I will ask them what they think the WORST thing that has happened with regards to the environment is, in their opinion. I usually don’t listen to their reply to closely and then tell them what they OUGHT to be saying

The Fall of Communism and End of Socialism

Under Communism prior to Deng Xiaoping, mainland China was a starving wasteland with few consumer goods, frequent famines, and millions living in caves (no joke). After Deng unleashed his reforms in the countryside, which migrated to the cities, the Chinese government removed the boot of this failed dogma and unleashed a nation of hard charging entrepreneurs and traders. For years the overseas Chinese were some of the most successful business people in Asia – now they were free to raise the standards of living of their own people.

Power plants were built – millions of homes didn’t even have heat – and the country roared to life. New cities were built, highways, ports and railways crossed the country, and now China is the manufacturer for a huge variety of what you have in your house today.

And what did the Chinese consumer want? They wanted what YOU have – a car (bicycles went by the wayside as soon as they had the money), a nice flat, overseas travel, air conditioning and heat in the winter, electricity to power their myriad consumer devices and appliances, and food of all types (especially meat products). An explosion of manufacturing and consumption erupted throughout the country which hasn’t abated (may be slowing a bit now due to the recession).

While Chinese Communism was abandoning Marxist economic principles (but keeping the dictatorship of the state, a core theme), India was abandoning its inward-focused socialism. In the 80’s India began some tentative reforms which also brought the economy to life, as Indians’ overseas were also known as prosperous businesspeople, like the overseas Chinese. Like the Chinese – the Indians wanted what Western consumers had – cosmetics, cars, clothes, air conditioning, power for appliances, more types of food, and all the rest. While their economy was still tied to a democracy (and thus couldn’t run over the rights of everyone in pursuit of development) they focused more on services and managed an incredible run of growth which led to Mumbai being one of the most expensive cities in the entire world to live in.

Don’t forget Brazil – Brazil also moved away from many socialist principles and the economy started to grow to keep up with its burgeoning population, who also want many of the comforts that we take for granted in the West.

China, India and Brazil represent a giant mass of humanity, the most populous countries in their respective continents, all of whom featured BILLIONS of consumers “voting with their feet” (through their actions, since they didn’t really leave) and showing that what they wanted wasn’t a simple, spartan zero-footprint life but in fact the cars, power, air conditioning, and higher end food (meats and not simple grains) that are bemoaned in the West.

IF ONLY – I tell the environmentalist – that you would have allied yourself with Socialism and Communism, two ideologies that made some of the most ambitious and entrepreneurial people in the world poor and impoverished – you would have been able to keep those countries “down”, with few cars (except for the elite) and a tiny infrastructure which is tied to limited consumption.

I remember when East Germany fell – and saw a brief interview with an East German intellectual – saying that he wished for a “third way”, other than the capitalism of the West when the wall fell – but that never happened.

Another opportunity lost for the environmentalist… after all barbed wire, guard towers, and shoot-to-kill orders are a small price to pay for the absence of cars and carbon, right?

A completely bankrupt ideology, which has been blasted to oblivion in the developed world. Their moment, like that of the East German intellectual – never comes when people are given a chance to live their lives fully.

11 thoughts on “Environmentalism and Reality”

  1. The radical left half of the environmentalist act from the same psychological drives that drove people to communism. 70 years ago these people would have been communist. They have the same exaggerated sense of their own grasp of the world’s complexity as well as their ability to order the lives of future generations.

  2. Well,maybe they want to control other people’s lives,because they don’t have lives of their own. The environment is just a pretext.

  3. When I moved to pittsburgh, pa in 1970 the polution index ranged from a low of 100 to a high of 300. Environmentalists took no pride in these numbers. The closed down the steel mills and all the other smokestack businesses. Drove them overseas to India and China, I suppose. By 1980 our air was clean and there weas massive unemployment. Many Pittsburgers left town. During that time I could hire PhDs for $7.00/hour. People with 30 years on-the-job experience for $6.00.

    Soon other industries left town. Pittsburgh used to be the #3 city in the US in terms of corporate headquarters. Today it is not in the top 300. Even the Mellons and Heinzs sold out and left town.

    But now Pittsburgh has clean air. And because so many people have left, very high property taxes. And laws that keeep new imndustries out. Today our graduates all leave town to find new jobs. Except the dumb ones.

    Obama says he is going to pass laws to eliminate the cycle of boom and bust. Because no one can gaurantee permanent boom this means we will have permanet bust.

  4. Sol: Left PA in the early 60’s, me and my Penn State engineering degrees, why – no opportunity or future, stupid pols, stupid union leaders and stupid business leaders. And now we want to create a “rust belt” of the whole US (see California)

  5. I’m not sure I follow – didn’t Russia’s environment get massively damaged by the communists, with poisoned lakes and such? Wasn’t East Germany’s industry horribly polluting and inefficient compared to West Germany? Why therefore is the fall of communism a bad thing for the environment? Yeah, I suppose if you think CO2 is worse than heavy metal pollution, it could seem that way, but otherwise?

  6. I’m with David W…it’s not at all clear that the fall of Communism and the consequent economic development in these countries was bad for the environment, unless we specifically define “bad for the environment” as meaning “large-scale industrialization.”

    Which generates more pollution: a few hundred million cooking fires, or power plants generating enough electricity for a few hundred million electric stoves? Without doing the analysis, I bet the answer is the cooking fires.

    Also consider untreated sewage,etc

  7. I agree with you guys that the environmental movement today consists of nothing but hard-core leftists who really do not care about the environment itself. The comments these people made with regards to the possibility of “cold fusion” 20 years ago made this very clear to me.

    However, there was considerable pollution back in the day (early 70’s and before) that many of you who are over 40 will remember. I agree that this problem got blown totally out of proportion by the leftists, but it was a real problem that we successfully tackled. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, destroyed much of their land so badly that some of it will remain poisoned for generation (places in Central Asia and parts of Siberia). Much of this degradation came to light only after the Soviet Union had collapsed in ’92. According to Ralph Peter’s latest book, there are places in Central Asia where people have birth defects that would match anything that a Hollywood screen writer could come up with.

    China has had some of this, but is making efforts to clean itself up. I’ve been to Shanghai and Beijing. The pollution is bad, but not as bad as the western press would have you believe. I’ve experienced worse in Southern Taiwan and Bangkok. The air pollution in Shanghai and Beijing today is comparable to that of SoCal in the mid 80’s (it is MUCH better now).

    Much of the bruhaha over global warming is due to the lack of real environmental issues in the developed world today.

    I stand by my comments about population issues in the late 60’s. It is true that it was known even then that increased standard of living and consumer choices led to reduced birth rates. However, this was believed to be a “western-only” thing as the rest of the world was not developed at the time. Remember that even Spain and Italy still had high birth rates at the time and was viewed as culturally “immutable”. We have since learned otherwise.

    Hermann Kahn (the 300 lbs. scientist who was the basis for the character of Dr. Strangelov) wrote a book in 1970 called “The Year 2000” where he predicted that global birthrates would drop as a result of industrialization. His book was considered controversial at the time because it was believed that such a population trend was a western-only trait. He also predicted that sub-cultures, like the hippies, would proliferate over time.

  8. I studied Gosplan back in the day… took a class on the soviet economy just for grins in college.

    I do think that the Soviets did a lot to wreck their environment along with their economy. Note how I really didn’t mention the soviets in the above listing – because they really didn’t open up their economy in the first place, just sold off oil and spent the $ on their trophy capital Moscow.

    The Chinese and the Indians and the Brazilians definitely use far more resources today than they would have under their respective former modes of governing. They also have massively upgraded the standards of living for their people, and they have growing populations, unlike Russia, which is shrinking rapidly.

    In the case of the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians I think definitely they use more resources today and do more “damage” to the environment as defined by carbon emissions and the like than they did under socialism.

    As for the Soviets, it is more of a toss-up. Also note that much of the Soviet industrial output was weaponry, so for all the pollution, they have little to show for it, anyways.

  9. The model for the character of Dr. Strangelove was probably Johann Von Neumann, not Herbert Kahn. Von Neumann was a proponent of game theory who urged President Eisenhower to drop the H-bomb on the Russians before they could develop an operational weapon. Von Neumann and Kahn were both consultants to the RAND institute. I don’t know if Stanley Kubrick left an opinion regarding this issue.

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