Monday, June 1, 2009

Research: How Can We Possibly Save the Environment ?

The following essay essentially deals with environmentalists’ concern about the future of planet earth and how it can possibly be saved from further ruin. It particularly examines this vital issue of paramount importance in the light of two prominent essays on the subject; one, Bliese’s essay ‘Traditionalist Conservatism and Environmental Ethics’ and the other Anderson & Leal’s treatise ‘Free Market Versus Political Environmentalism’. Both essays try to explore whether the solution lies in the domain of governmental intervention, personal initiative or in the world of free market enterprise. Let us see which ideology appeals us more and why.

Anderson and Leal’s environmental philosophy is ‘pro-business’ and pro-enterprise while Bliese’s philosophy is defined in ‘religious and moral terms’ (136). His environmental conservatism is not ‘pro-business’ at all. As a traditional conservationist, Bliese has nothing to do with materialism. He wishes, “"to conserve the humane and ethical values of the west rather than the economic privileges of a fraction of the west’ (136). On the contrary, Anderson and Leal attach little importance to the role of ethics in the upliftment of environment. Their essay talks about ‘bliss point economics’. Clearly, the priorities differ so much! Economics is not Bliese’s focus at all. To him, nothing is more precious than environment itself.

Anderson’s philosophy is based upon the idea of private gains and material incentives which in turn can lead to environmental gains. Bliese’s philosophy hinges on the idea of selfless collective effort leading to collective gains in environmental protection. While Anderson relies upon man’s instinct to make profit as a catalyst for environmental improvement, Bliese makes a an emotional and a passionate appeal to man’s conscience to do something for environment before it is too late!

Both Bliese and Anderson acknowledge the fact that the government’s control and intervention doesn’t necessarily augur well. There are many past instances of ‘market failures’ resulting out of failed governmental policies and botched up projects. There is a common agreement that one cannot probably rely upon the government to deal with the problem of environmental conservation and protection. Both, Bliese and Anderson agree that government agencies work on extraneous considerations and environment is the last thing on their mind. The politicians either cater to their constituencies or some special interest groups, from whom they expect political favors or largesse. Hence, one cannot expect them to be sincere or above board in their efforts to conserve Nature.

Anderson’s criticism of government is more caustic than Bliese and the reason for that is obvious. Bliese is a traditional conservationist and Anderson is a champion of free market enterprise. There is a greater need for Anderson to establish the superiority of the private sector over the government to secure his aim of greater private control over property and environment. Bliese’s focus is elsewhere; he addresses man’s conscience to achieve this target.

Bliese’s essays deals with the need to evolve ourselves in an ethical manner so that we willingly refrain from doing anything harmful to Nature whereas Anderson advocates a switch to free market environmentalism. He believes that natural resources get plundered because they fall in public domain. Since, they are nobody’s property; there is no concern for their upkeep and well-being. Anderson believes full property rights would give the owners a sense of belonging to their property and they will not let their properties slip into a quagmire of ruin. This in turn would promote an ambient environment.

This doesn’t mean that Bliese blindly agrees with Anderson’s idea of absolute freedom to private players in the name of environmental welfare. He makes it clear that governmental agencies may be incompetent but they are far more reliable when compared to private institutions. He feels that the market institutions are, “insufficient as guarantors of the integrity of the environment, human as well as natural” (150). While Anderson heavily banks upon free private enterprise and reposes trust in their ability to deal with environmental problems.

Although there is a basic agreement between Anderson and Bliese about the idea of preserving Nature, there method to attain this goal is radically different from each other. While Anderson is too individualistic and business like, Bliese is all embracive and looks at the problem from a much wider historic and emotional angle. Nature for him is not just a piece of real estate but a divine deity and a motherly figure that deserves respect and regard. Anderson’s view of Nature is essentially commercial.

Anderson is a fierce advocate of free market environmentalism; he wants complete private property rights and right of water marketing. He believes that the freedom to do business without unnecessary checks can lead to better understanding of ground realities and greater utilization of natural resources. Whereas Bliese doesn’t endorse unbridled business activity without proper checks in place. He is not anti-business but at the same time he wants proper checks and balances in place. Bliese also wants the humanization of industrial system so that it remains alive to its obligations towards Nature and humanity.

Bliese agrees with Anderson and Leal on the harmful consequences of state subsidies. The subsidies certainly result in the wastage of natural resources, cause huge financial loss to the exchequer and weaken the economy. Both essays agree that tax holidays, below-cost grazing, interest subsidies and subsidies on water and timber lead to over utilization of natural resources. In such a scenario, the farmers tend to waste water, over fell trees and thereby cause irreparable loss to the environment. This results in much faster depletion of natural resources and poses a real environmental threat. Both agree on stopping such subsidies for national and environmental good.

Bliese endorses the free market environmentalists concerns about internalizing the externalities in his essay. The onus must squarely lie upon the people who actually pollute or damage the environment. The innocent people must not end up paying for the sins of others. Such externalities must be internalized. Those who cause harm to the environment must pay for it adequately. This internalizing of externalities would certainly go a long way in curbing the tendency to cause harm to Nature. In spite of this agreement, the concern of the traditional environmentalists primarily remains limited to environmental ethics and not economics.

The traditional environmentalist believes in providing incentives to those who help preserve environment. These incentives are radically different from the incentives Anderson and Leal look forward to. These incentives can be given to people who keep the environment clean, go in for recycling of goods, reduce litter and act responsibly. The traditional environmentalist agrees that money for such incentives can be generated through imposition of pollution tax etc.

The traditional environmentalists’ concern for Nature is evidently much deeper than that of a free market environmentalist, as it is clearly reflected in the two essays under consideration. The traditional conservationist worships Nature as an embodiment of God and feels committed to preserve Nature for future generations. His romantic love for nature sets him apart from a free market environmentalist like Anderson who seeks to save Nature for mere material gains.

Bliese sees in Nature the wisdom of all past generations. The realization that man can only destroy Nature and can’t create it has a humbling effect on the traditionalist .This conclusively proves that man’s wisdom is far limited in comparison with Nature’s vast powers. The essay on free market environmentalism shows no such realization or belief.

While Bliese identifies with Nature and seeks inspiration and wisdom from it, the free market environmentalist talks about good business strategy as a method to check environmental decay. Anderson believes that free property rights promote a sense of belonging and good business returns or incentives can prompt an individual to preserve Nature for his own profit. A tuna fish farmer will internalize the water in his stream to save his fish, and a business house engaged in entertainment and tourism business would preserve the wild life over felling of the trees when he would know that these animals and endangered species bring tourists to his property.

On the contrary, Bliese points to the fact that a traditional environmentalist does not believe in any ideology, especially abstract ideology. His crusade for the preservation of Nature is driven by piety, ethics and realization of a social contract across ages. On the other hand, Anderson and Leal’s philosophy is a clear cut business ideology. Their strategy to save Nature is devoid of any element of piety, ethics or commitment to past. The ideology of free market enterprise is drawn on bone-rigid business statistics and mathematical data collected from different business houses. Those examples may very well be exceptions rather than a rule. No wonder, this ideology is shallow and is duly rejected by the traditional conservationists like Bliese.

Bliese’s environmental philosophy is based upon rock-solid basis of human character whereas Anderson and Leal are themselves aware of the inbuilt weaknesses of their ideology. They know its scope is very limited. It has no answer for bigger environmental hazards like ozone depletion or green house effect etc. Their defense in the matter is not only unconvincing but also self-contradictory, “If free market environmentalism stimulates environmentalists to apply free mar¬ket solutions to the easier problems, it can free political resources to work on the tougher problems that, at the moment, seem to be the domain of government” (417). So much for their criticism of government performance and governmental control all along! Their comment that the environmentalists should, “bid with timber companies. Environmental groups could lease the most critical owl habitat and allow no logging there” (416) is equally impractical and unconvincing.

One tends to endorse the traditional conservationists’ policy of harmonious coexistence with Nature or ‘modus Vivendi’ as an ultimate solution to the problem of environment. The emphasis on ‘sustainable development’ driven by time-tested virtues of piety, ethics and prudence are far more plausible tools to preserve Nature than mere reliance upon urge for profit. If desire for profit can make someone one do something environment friendly, there is a strong possibility that he will do something equally hazardous in order to make further profit, if the situation so demands. I do believe that without real concern for environment, Nature cannot be saved or preserved.

Environment must be saved from man’s ignorance and crass indifference. Any environmental philosophy that is even remotely connected with material considerations is fraught with danger of plunging Nature into further turmoil and risk. This risk is not worth taking at all. I strongly agree with Bliese that environmental ethics and an inner realization alone can save this world from an impending catastrophe.

Works Cited

Anderson, Terry. L. and Donald R. Leal. ‘Free Market Versus Political Environmentalism’.
Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005.

Bliese, John. R. E. ‘Traditionalist Conservatism and Environmental Ethics’. Environmental
Ethics. 1997. Volume 19, number 2

1 comment:

Mike's Vent Cleaning said...

Very good reading that.There is definitely a need for considering the needs of the environment and protect it from all adverse effects that is happening today.

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