Saturday, April 02, 2005

Environmental de-alarmism

Jonah Goldberg:

The bad news is that a new United Nations report says the world's coming to an end.

But, first, some good news: America's doing great!

Seriously, forests are breaking out all over America. New England has more forests since the Civil War. In 1880, New York State was only 25 percent forested. Today it is more than 66 percent. In 1850, Vermont was only 35 percent forested. Now it's 76 percent forested and rising. In the south, more land is covered by forest than at any time in the last century. In 1936 a study found that 80 percent of piedmont Georgia was without trees. Today nearly 70 percent of the state is forested. In the last decade alone, America has added more than 10 million acres of forestland.

This sounds right. I know Kansas has to have more trees now than at any time since roughly the Jurassic period. Jonah then describes how all the little fuzzy animals are doing great too, and even the air and water are cleaner now. Why?

America's environmental revival is a rich and complicated story with many specific exceptions, caveats and, of course, setbacks. But the overarching theme is pretty simple: The richer you get, the healthier your environment gets. This is because rich societies can afford to indulge their environmental interests and movements. Poor countries cannot.

Unsurprisingly, rich countries tend to have a better grasp of economics and the role of markets, private stewardship and property rights, reasonable regulations, and so forth. With the exception of some oil-rich states, they're also almost always democratic and hence have systems that can successfully assign blame to, and demand restitution from, polluters. In socialized economies, a "tragedy of the commons" almost always arises. As Harvard president Lawrence Summers says, nobody's ever washed a rented car.

1 Comments:

Blogger Captain Salty said...

There's considerable evidence that your Kansas was forested more heavily than it is today not so long ago.

But, I digress. Jonah Goldberg's column in an rambling, dissociated mess. He doesn't know his hinder from a hole in the ground.

More here.

2:41 PM  

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