This section of DiscoverTheNetworks discusses the antithesis of radical environmentalism -- a rational perspective that seeks to strike a balance between a healthy respect for the natural world and its resources on the one hand, and a recognition of the potential benefits that mankind and nature alike may derive from industrial progress on the other. Such an outlook embraces the following principles:
1: Environmental protection need not be incompatible with capitalism; nor does it differ essentially from any other public good, like uncongested highways, a strong national defense, or an ethical government. Except for the fact that it is a public good, environmental protection is not philosophically different from ordinary consumer goods. From this premise, it follows logically that the more economic prosperity a nation has, the more environmental protection that nation can afford.
2: Environmentalism is not a religion. Science, and not mythology or political ideology, should guide public policy.
3: Environmentalism should embrace economic rationality. If environmental protection is a good, the rational thing to do is to purchase this good at the lowest possible cost. It is not rational to purchase it in inefficient but emotionally satisfying forms, such as recycled materials that cost more in net energy to recycle than to produce from scratch. Environmentalism ought to insist on free-market solutions to problems that plague the natural world, acknowledging that socialist economies have consistently produced less environmental protection than their capitalist counterparts.
4: Environmentalism should be respectful of property rights. The government does not have a right to protect the environment by stealing land, bit by bit, from its owners. At the very least, it must pay fair compensation for whatever land it takes.
5: Environmentalism should be respectful of national sovereignty. The United States, for example, has the right to protect its air and water on its own terms. International bodies do not have that right, particularly when they seek to implement treaties that impose economic burdens on America while giving Third World industrial competitors free rein to pollute.
6: Environmentalism should be just as concerned with the human environment as with the natural environment. People, too, need good habitats. Because the quality of the environment is a part of our quality of life, the highest quality of life is not synonymous with the highest possible GNP. An understanding of this principle distinguishes real conservatives from corporatist pretenders who would gladly pave Yellowstone Park in exchange for a 10 pecent rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
This introduction is adapted from "The Right Conservative Position on the Environment," written by Robert Locke and published by FrontPageMag.com on November 2, 2001.