If we’re to believe the loonies dressing up in silly costumes and gluing themselves to roads, “capitalism is the problem”. Capitalism, the eco-nuts want us to believe, is the mortal enemy of Mother Gaia.
In fact, the opposite is more often true.
But there are two reasons this false argument is so persistent: firstly, most eco-activists are left-leaning, so they are duty-bound to at least parrot the bog-standard leftist anti-capitalist rhetoric.
Secondly, and more importantly: A problem solved is an existential crisis for an activist. “Climate action” hoovers up hundreds of billions every year. Imagine if the activists declared that the so-called “climate crisis” was over. The river of gold would dry up and they’d be out of a cushy job. No more swanning about in Business Class to “climate summits” at luxury resorts.
Still, for all the sound and fury of activists, the public is proving stubbornly resistant to impoverishing themselves for “the climate”. So the green grifters have prepared a backup plan: a “biodiversity crisis”. Complete with its own “Intergovernmental Panel”.
They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.
The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency.
For starters, most of the human damage to biodiversity was done a long time ago. Species extinction rates peaked in the 19th century – mostly due to ships giving rats a free ride to previously isolated islands. Mass extinctions of megafauna in the New World were perpetrated thousands of years ago by primitive hunter gatherers, not top-hatted capitalists.
Of course, extinctions haven’t stopped but today they’re mostly caused by invasive species.
This is a specific problem that can be tackled and reversed, but it will take technology and science and money, not retreating into self-sufficiency and eating beans.
What fixes such problems are healthy capitalist democracies with money and willpower to do it. Success stories like the Australian government’s eradication of invasive pests on Macquarie Island are more common than eco-catastrophists would like to admit.
We’ve been here before. In 1981, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich predicted that 50% of all species would be extinct by 2005. In fact, about 1.4% of bird and mammal species, which are both easier to document than smaller creatures and more vulnerable to extinction, have gone extinct so far in several centuries.
The idea that “western values”, or “capitalism”, are the problem is wrong.
In fact, it’s the greens’ beloved primitive types who do the real damage. Poor populations have no recourse but to live off the land – and strip it bare. Rich countries actually use fewer resources to produce more food and wealth. Britain has more forest cover now than at any time since 1066. Wildlife species are returning in abundance.
Even the iconic enviro-species, whales, are thriving. In just our lifteime, humpback whales have gone from “endangered” to “vulnerable” to “least concern”. In many parts of the world, they are in numbers not seen since the advent of the whaling industry.
Around the world, apex species like wolves are increasing, tigers holding steady, and lions decreasing. Because wolves are in rich countries, tigers in middle income ones, and lions in impoverished developing countries.
But it’s not just self-interest that drives the eco-activists’ eternal catastrophism: it’s also ignorance.
A favourite nostrum of many environmentalists is that you cannot have infinite growth with finite resources. But this is plain wrong, because economic growth comes from doing more with less.Human Progress
Capitalist enterprise has led us to do more and more with less and less in everything from fuel consumption to crop yields.
But don’t expect environmental activists to man up and tell such inconvenient truths.
They’re not about to do themselves out of a job.
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