Capitalism, Dinosaurs, and Environmentalism

This is yet an other essay on environmental catastrophe. It says that something is bad but it does not say why.

The most common reason why people think this kind of thing is fear that comes from the Garden of Eden problem. In a world where one cannot effectively prosper by cooperating with others, we keep alive the fantasy that we have some alternate pastoral reality that we can depart to, just as though we know we can return to the home of our parents should our ambitions in the vast uncertain world fail us. Gardens of Eden are natural places that give us comfort. They let us think that we can return to them if our stresses and strains of daily life become too great.

The second reason for this thinking is caused by the Pharaoh Problem. In this world, one’s state in life is caused by the actions or intentions of some individual, group, society, mystical entity, or natural tendency, rather than caused by one’s own actions. Or more likely one’s failure to act with discipline. And most commonly, one’s ignorance or error about the world itself. People with this affliction rail against the consumption of resources in the world because they seem to comfortably capture so few of them themselves. This is the most common error, which is to apply the egalitarian principles of the family, where you can know how to allocate resources) to the extended order of human cooperation (where you cannot know how to allocate resources, and must let the market do so.)

The third most predominant reason for this thinking is self-loathing. In other words, the belief that man is bad, evil, selfish and violent. The heroic western view is that man is wonderful, exceptional, and capable of great things if given the discipline and tools to accomplish them. These are two visions of the world. It is important to note that only western civilization adopted arete, the idea of excellence, applied it to man, and developed the idea of competition as a means of identifying and improving it. And the commensurate value system that appreciates and even glorifies excellence, rather than envying it.

This article does not explain the underlying problem, which is an increase in human population. Counter to what the UN and others on the left acknowledge, the problem comes from poor countries. The west consumes more, but produces even more disproportionately higher. Even if the underlying problem was recognized, it can be solved through only two means. First, by the dictatorial imposition of birth control. Second by the dictatorial imposition of consumption. And third by the forced implementation of capitalism’s property rights. The latter simply making it both unnecessary to breed large families because of lower costs and savings, because it is more expensive to raise them, and because it takes a greater investment in each individual for them to be productive members of society and to live in prosperity.

Capitalism, even a state of democratic socialism with weak and uncompetitive capitalism, will cause people to decrease birth rates in order to conserve productive capital. The way to save the earth’s species is to implement widespread property rights, and capitalism, regardless of the political structure that the people employ. And given those rights, there are only a few that they will choose if given the chance to do so.

Humans spur worst extinction since dinosaurs

OSLO (Reuters) – Humans are responsible for the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs and must make unprecedented extra efforts to reach a goal of slowing losses by 2010, a U.N. report said on Monday.

Habitats ranging from coral reefs to tropical rainforests face mounting threats, the Secretariat of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity said in the report, issued at the start of a March 20-31 U.N. meeting in Curitiba, Brazil.

“In effect, we are currently responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of earth, and the greatest since the dinosaurs disappeared, 65 million years ago,” said the 92-page Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 report.

Apart from the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the other “Big Five” extinctions were about 205, 250, 375 and 440 million years ago. Scientists suspect that asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions or sudden climate shifts may explain the five.

A rising human population of 6.5 billion was undermining the environment for animals and plants via pollution, expanding cities, deforestation, introduction of “alien species” and global warming, it said.

It estimated the current pace of extinctions was 1,000 times faster than historical rates, jeopardizing a global goal set at a 2002 U.N. summit in Johannesburg “to achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss”.

“Unprecedented additional efforts’ will be needed to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target at national, regional and global levels,” it said. The report was bleaker than a first U.N. review of the diversity of life issued in 2001.


According to a “Red List” compiled by the World Conservation Union, 844 animals and plants are known to have gone extinct in the last 500 years, ranging from the dodo to the Golden Toad in Costa Rica. It says the figures are probably a big underestimate.

“The direct causes of biodiversity loss — habitat change, over-exploitation, the introduction of invasive alien species, nutrient loading and climate change — show no sign of abating,” the report said.

Despite the threats, it said the 2010 goal was “by no means an impossible one”.

It urged better efforts to safeguard habitats ranging from deserts to jungles and better management of resources from fresh water to timber. About 12 percent of the earth’s land surface is in protected areas, against just 0.6 percent of the oceans.

It also recommended more work to curb pollution and to rein in industrial emissions of gases released by burning fossil fuels and widely blamed for global warming.

The report said, for instance, that the annual net loss of forests was 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) — an area the size of Panama or Ireland — from 2000-2005. Still, the figure was slightly less than 8.9 million hectares a year from 1990-2000.

And it said that annual environmental losses from introduced pests in the United States, Australia, Britain, South Africa, India and Brazil had been estimated at more than $100 billion.

About 300 “invasive species” — molluscs, crustaceans and fish — have been introduced to the Mediterranean from the Red Sea since the late 19th century when the Suez Canal opened.

It gave mixed overall marks for progress on four key goals.

It said there was “reasonable progress” toward global cooperation but “limited” advances in ensuring enough cash and research. It estimated that annual aid to help slow biodiversity losses sank to $750 million from $1 billion since 1998.

And it said there was “far from sufficient” progress in better planning and implementation of biodiversity decisions and a “mixed” record in better understanding of biodiversity.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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