Thursday, January 5, 2012

Love Your Monsters - Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene

Welcome to the Collaborative Revolution!

The collection of essays set forth in "Love Your Monsters - Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene" by Environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus looks like it will be a great read for those of us seeking to increase the efficiency with which facilities and infrastructure are delivered in the BUILT environment.  Nordhaus has taken on traditional environmentalists in the past, arguing against the "humans are the problem" crowd for some time now.  The latest collection of essays appears to continue the tradition.

Ron Bailey at provides an Excellent Review from which the excerpt below was taken.

A devastating critique of Malthusian environmentalism is offered by Daniel Sarewitz in his essay "Liberalism’s Modest Proposal, Or the Tyranny of Scientific Rationality." He begins by citing Jonathan Swift’s famous satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which Swift suggested that the problem of Irish famine might simply be dealt with by eating Irish babies. Sarewitz argues that Swift’s goal was to show that “pretty much any position, however repulsive, could be advanced on the back of rationality.” Sarewitz argues with regard to the problem of climate change modern environmentalists have adopted a form of scientific rationality in which the fact that burning fossil fuels to produce cheap energy harms the climate suggests that solution is to “make energy more expensive.” Sarewitz then points out that the access to cheap energy is, in fact, “a basic requirement for human development and dignity.” He adds, “This fact is so blindingly obvious that nearly any large developing country has treated the idea of a global agreement to raise the price of energy as a joke of Swiftean character. The difference being, of course, that it was not a joke.”
Sarewitz then identifies the political incoherence that lies at the heart of environmentalism. On the one hand, environmentalists want to avoid the risks of new technologies and on the other Malthusian hand they worry about declining stocks of natural resources. Consequently, environmentalists “find themselves, for reasons of risk, opposing new technologies that could help resolve issues of scarcity.” As an example of this political and scientific incoherence, Sarewitz cites the case of genetically enhanced crops which environmentalists oppose because of their alleged risks to human health although such crops would ameliorate environmentalist concerns about soil and water depletion, pesticide residues, and population growth. Sarewitz cuts through the current incoherence by rejecting the environmentalist scheme to raise energy prices by means of a global cap-and-trade regime on fossil fuels. Sarewitz instead argues for an intensive research effort aimed at developing cheap low-carbon energy sources.
The Swiftean tale advocating the Irish eat their babies during the famine compares favorably with the anology of cinching a tourniquet around our collective necks to stop the nose bleed that is global warming.  To the extent global warming is a problem and can be controlled we have many options short of shutting off the flow of blood and oxygen to the world's economies which is exactly what policies that "necessarily cause the cost of electricity [aka energy] to skyrocket" do.

Love Your Monsters invokes the moral hazards Frankenstein cautions against.  Frankenstein only went rogue after he was rejected, shunned and abused by his creator.  This fits the theme I advocate here which is to embrace cheap energy, the innovatiion and technologies required to exploit it and the development that results from it.  If those who favor sustainable development leave the field to others - i.e. reject, shun and abuse shale gas, fracking, nuclear power plants etc. - we will have no positive influnce.  Further, the desperate masses of the world, and the governments beholden to them, have ZERO interest in continuing to burn dung, plow with oxen and live hand to mouth.  Resources, like the 6.6 Tcf of accessible shale gas reseves mentioned in the earlier post, will be devoloped and used to improve the lives of billions.

It's time to rethink sustainability and the path forward.

James L. Salmon, Esq.
Collaborative Construction
300 Pike Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Office 513-721-5672
Fax 513-562-4388
Cell 512-630-4446
Collaborative Construction Website
Sustainable Land Development International

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