When Environmentalists Clash

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I’m interested in how environmentalism has become a powerful cultural force and has taken on increasingly religious overtones in recent years. This week there is a fascinating debate taking place on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal between two kinds of environmentalists.

The first kind, represented here by Bjorn Lomborg, views environmental problems as it does any other problem in life, to be addressed by a series of trade-offs. The second, represented by Peter Singer, talks in much more moralistic and absolutist terms about humanity’s alleged duty towards other species.

Although these are big differences, there are similarities between the two environmentalists here. Both of them are comfortable with massive state-run programs designed to improve the environment, advocating $250 billion initiatives from the developed world, so we might well ask them how we’re supposed to do that when the West is a bazillion dollars in debt.

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About Dr. J

I am an Associate Professor and head of the Department of Humanities at Faulkner University. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy.
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2 Responses to When Environmentalists Clash

  1. Jeff Jewell says:

    I am a fan of Lomborg, despite his big government tendencies. He is one of the few prominent environmentalists who advocate any kind of cost-benefit analysis. Of his willingness to do that has made him an absolute pariah in the larger environmental movement. I think Lomborg makes a really compelling case that the West does have a moral and financial obligation to fix the world’s drinking water problem. According to him its a simple solution that would require $250 billion or so and would save millions of lives every single year. As far as cost/benefit goes its probably hard to get a much better tradeoff than that. Of course most environmentalists are obsessed with over-population – so saving human lives is not a very high priority.

  2. Jeff Jewell says:

    Just to clarify, the $250 billion or so to make sure the entire world has clean drinking water is a one-time expense, not a recurring annual charge. Spread that $250 billion over a few years and all of the industrialized countries and you have a very small, manageable hit on any countries budget. The U.S. could easily pay its share by diverting all of the foreign aid that goes to tin-pot dictators and despots. Of course I realize I am entirely in fantasy land when I contemplate outcomes like that.

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