The nature debate, part 2: No rights for rocks
The most polluted nations lack property rights
The “ideas” that Suzuki suggested might be adopted from Ecuador and Bolivia are in no way “innovative.” In the case of Ecuador, the idea is called blackmail: effectively threatening to despoil an area of the Amazon unless a ransom is paid. As I noted, this shake-down has failed completely. In the case of Bolivia, the big idea is autarchic upgrading of resources, in this case lithium, so as not be “exploited” by foreign investors. Even Suzuki acknowledged the project was on the rocks. He also appeared to be ignorant of the degree to which Canadians upgrade Canada’s resources, and of the sound economic reasons why unprocessed or semi-processed resources might be exported.
The final — and most misguided — idea was that “Mother Nature” be given constitutional rights. I noted that only humans can have rights and values. Some humans might well think that other objects or life forms should receive priority, but that is still a human value, even if it is an anti-human one. Meanwhile the specific example in Suzuki’s program of a river’s “rights” in fact amounted to an American expatriate couple using a constitutional provision to secure their own property, which supports my point about using nature as a puppet, but also confirms that it is private rights that are the best guarantors of the environment.
I pointed out that Ecuador and Bolivia are both desperately poor countries with repressive regimes. I suggested that Canada, one of the freest and wealthiest countries on earth, would seem to have much more to teach them than they have to teach it, and that in general wealth and freedom tend to correlate with concern for the environment.
Boyd suggests that such a view is woefully naïve and out of date. He cites the Environmental Performance Index as of prime importance in the “reams of empirical evidence” that prove me wrong. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to have actually read the latest EPI, which notes that “Economic development matters. The Environmental Health scores, in particular, reveal a significant relationship with GDP per capita.”
Admittedly, the EPI seeks every opportunity to downplay and denigrate economic growth. More fundamentally, such an index is only as reliable as its data and weightings. The EPI is grossly biased in that it weights human health at less than half that of the biosphere, where it admits that its metrics and methodology are debatable. Above all, its authors are absolutely devoted to official climate alarmism, despite mounting doubts about the science.
When you take a closer look at the EPI’s methodology and rankings, it is obvious that the global governance fix is in. Canada scores at the absolute top of the rankings for human health. However, its ranking is dragged down by the heavy weighting given to greenhouse gas emissions, which are obviously correlated with the country’s size, northern nature and developed status. Canada thus ranks 102nd on “climate change.” Undoubtedly, the country would rank much higher if Canadians were poor and freezing in the dark. Having a large ecological footprint — itself a bogus neo-Malthusian notion — is far from synonymous with trampling the Earth. Thus the EPI demonstrates that all Canada has going for it is that it’s a great environment for people!
It is ironic, meanwhile, — given Boyd’s rejection of “the purported evils of government regulation” — that Canada scores poorly on agriculture because of subsidies and trails on fisheries because of government mismanagement. Despite all the murky metrics, however, Boyd fails to mention that the Canadian performance is improving relative to both Ecuador and Bolivia.
The Conference Board of Canada report can be safely ignored because it reflects the same flawed mindset as the EPI.
When it comes to the Industrial Revolution and the environmental movement, Boyd has it quite — but typically — wrong. While there are obviously externalities from industrial production, the impetus to clean those up came from within capitalism and the democratic systems that it promoted. Historically, countries without — or with uncertain — property rights and autocratic governments have been by far the worst environmental performers. The Soviet Union and China are the worst examples.
Boyd claim that private property rights are useless when it comes to climate change might be true if catastrophic man-made climate change were a reality. Nobody denies genuine “tragedies of the commons,” but even then Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom has noted that private-sector solutions tend to be more effective than the government variety, which often cause “chaos.”
Boyd’s attempt to attribute to me the view that France, Norway and Sweden “ought to be economic basket cases” indicates rhetorical desperation.
His conclusion indicates that he shares Suzuki’s view that humans are enemies of the environment, and thus that Gaia must have constitutional rights. That is his opinion, and he is welcome to it, but it is not the opinion of Gaia.