For all of its negativity and pessimism, the environmental movement has made a contribution. It has raised the issue of the environment to a new level of human consciousness. It did this, however, at the expense of lowering the worth of mankind in the eyes of all too many people. It made every person who comes to live beside us another consumer competing for our dwindling resources, or another polluter adding to the burden of this planet. The purveyors of the Green religion seem to have taken over Augustine’s morbid dogma of “original sin.” Humans are said to be “the cancer of the earth” – selfish, greedy, and destructive to the environment.
The environmental pessimists propose that the planet can be saved only by mass planning and coercion. They lobby the government to impose more and more regulations to control human activity. These regulatory solutions, of course, are profoundly in line with their political bias toward the far Left ( i.e. centralism, social engineering, and public control, if not ownership, of most resources). The pessimists insist on the need to curtail human freedom in one way or another.
Julian Simon’s environmental optimism,
however, was based on the philosophy that every human being is another
wealth-creator. He commented that it was strange that every calf that is born
is counted as adding to the GNP, yet every additional human is not counted as
adding to the national wealth. By marshalling facts, facts, facts, Simon was
able to persuade the Regan administration that immigrants create rather than
drain the national wealth. He argued that the most densely populated
regions on earth were the wealthiest rather than the reverse (
As for living with mass planning and co-ercion, regulations may prevent bad things from happening, but they cannot promote courage, kindness, beauty, caring, vitality, colourful diversity, creativity and human excellence. Neither regulations or any form of collectivism could have resulted in painting a Mona Lisa, discovering the theory of relativity or designing the Sydney Opera House. Nor could a regime of compulsion have inspired Norman Borlung to teach high-yield agriculture so successfully on three continents. Such enriching human attributes can only grow in the soil of human freedom. The world cannot be changed by regulations, but as Borlung proved, people can be changed by education and enlightenment. There is nothing so powerful as a human idea whose time has come.