Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Drop that bottle of Evian, now!

The much-publicized environmental campaigns of the past few decades against global warming, chemicals, urban sprawl, and a hundred other celebrated causes have brought tremendous financial rewards to the leaders of those movements. Each reproach drives expiatory donations and membership from an anxious public. More handsomely, however, the ratcheting of environmental anxiety makes each cause a political issue, driving massive tax-funded subsidies to give environmentalists jobs as professional lobbyists, researchers and lawyers. And because the profitable manufacture of anxiety depends on the natural but rudimentary distrust of change, environmentalists are by and large ideologically forced by the dynamism of the free market into adopting irrational socialist rhetoric about "essential needs," "public trusts" and "commodification," and placing their trust instead in rigid government regulation.

Peter Shawn Taylor in yesterday's Financial Post notes the environmentalist doctrine of "hydrologic destiny" and its costly but under-publicized returns on political investment in "Ontario's Greenbelt Plan, the work of the International Joint Commission (IJC) on U.S./Canada boundary waters as well as the Great Lakes Charter agreement signed in 2005 by the eight Great Lakes states plus Ontario and Quebec, which virtually bans watershed diversions" (emphases added):

Then there's the case of Waukesha County, Wis., where much of the local water supply is contaminated with radium. Waukesha is just short drive from Lake Michigan, but because the sub-continental divide runs through the county, many municipalities within it are prevented from piping in safe water from the lake. The City of Waukesha is contemplating a petition under the Great Lakes Charter for an exemption to divert Lake Michigan water for human safety reasons. But its success is unclear and opponents have been lining up for years. The American Civil Liberties Union has declared it will challenge the application on the basis of "environmental justice." The Wisconsin director of the ACLU has said that "water diversions will almost certainly increase suburban sprawl." Hydrologic destiny thus becomes a new way to make life miserable for humans. Save the water, kill the cities.

Accepting the sanctity of watersheds means putting water droplets ahead of human necessity. But the endgame is about more than just fighting sprawl. Everyone who defends hydrologic destiny, from the Sierra Club to Ontario's McGuinty regime, understands well enough that if water can't be moved from one watershed to another, then it can never be sold to someone who might need it. Protecting watersheds is all about keeping a lid on the rational pricing and sale of water. It's not about science or logic, it's about an anti-market ideology.

If Canada is ever to see an economic benefit from its massive and renewable wealth in fresh water -- selling it to the thirsty U.S. southwest for instance -- the watershed doctrine of hydrologic destiny will have to go.


Anonymous said...

Actually, no. The issue IS truly about sprawl and protecting the watersheds. Most greens don't really give a shit about market ideology one way or another. If the market works on an environmental issue, fine. If the market is right doesn't, then fuck it.

It's right whingers like yourself that are obsessed with market ideology. Every problem looks like a nail to a man with only a hammer in his toolbox.

MapMaster said...

Shall people profit by delivering what other people want or shall others profit by preventing them? Environmentalism makes out handsomely from the latter, which is inherently exclusive of the former. In other words, they have a financial interest in generating anxiety about urban sprawl and watersheds.

Land, food, water (and watersheds) are abundant in Canada. Where is the crisis? Left to its own devices, the market will compensate for any shortages or impending damage — should that ever happen — by raising prices and developing more economical and efficient services. Put those resources in charge of bureaucrats and regulators, however, and response to or disregard of signals of environmental disaster depend on entirely political considerations, however many well-meaning environmentalists you deputize. The worst environmental disasters have occurred in those countries where governmental regulatory control of resources is the most absolute.

gm said...

Actually, no. The issue IS truly about sprawl but freedom. Most greens don't really give a shit about freedom one way or another. If freedom works on an environmental issue, fine. If freedom doesn't, then fuck it.

It's left whingers like me that are obsessed with statist ideology. Every problem looks like a bullet to a man with only a gun in his toolbox.