Biodiversity

Kevin Geiger geiger at meeker.ucar.edu
Thu Oct 12 16:34:02 MDT 1995


On Thu, 12 Oct 1995, Chris M. Sciabarra wrote:
(snip)
> 	Also, I was struck by a recent cover story on "Siberia" in TIME 
> magazine, showing that if we have legitimate worries about market 
> solutions to environmental problems, the non-market record with such 
> problems is far more devastating.  The destruction of biodiversity in 
> Siberia by Soviet authorities who created a vast toxic waste dump of 
> nuclear materials and sulfur deposits is well documented.  There's got to 
> be a better way.
> 
> 					- Chris
I am not certain it is that simple.  I think you need more support 
to your assertion that the "non-market record with such problems is far more 
devastating."  Granted there were some major problems in the former USSR 
and its satellite republics but there are some major non-market 
environmental laws in the US that have been very successful, like the 
Wilderness Act of 64.  If this non-market approach was not initiated the 
market would have gobbled up the public resources as you and others 
maintain (correctly) it has done on Forest and BLM lands.  A market response 
in 1964 would have had a "far more devastating" impact because wilderness land 
would never have been set up under a market principle.  The free market 
environmentalism paradigm fails to adequately "value" wilderness land.  I have 
heard your Dr. Terry Anderson explain that people need to be charged for 
the USE of public lands:  Forest, BLM and Wilderness.  But since so few 
people use wilderness land the price would be outrageously high.  The result 
under a strictly free market principle would be to get rid of the land since it 
not only fails to make money but, in fact, costs money.  This is
just not acceptable and most Americans would agree because wilderness 
land (areas that cannot be developed) are important.  A recent 
survey of areas located near federal wilderness land documented that 81% of the 
respondents thought wilderness was important for their area from the 
standpoint of solitude, open space and the people it attracts.  (Bates et 
al, _Searching Out the Headwaters_ 1995 pg. 77)  It is also true 
that people who never have stepped foot onto wilderness land 
consider wilderness important for its existence value.  
Wilderness, to a vast majority of Americans, is not something that needs to 
pass a free market test.  It has already passed a far more rigorous test in the 
minds of people throughout the country.  

To address your concerns in the USSR, many of the problems can be explained 
through the context of the Cold War.  Consider that the USSR was involved in a 
"war" with the more developed and advanced Western capitalist nations 
that had more economic power.  Rapid industrialization, not the form of 
development, caused the majority of the environmental problems you are 
referencing.  For the USSR environmental degradation was a consequence of the 
USSR's perceived need to industrialize fast in order to survive against 
its Western rivals.   

Don't get me wrong.  I believe the USSR did some competing itself with 
the West.   The infamous shoe banging incident at the UN does indicate that 
competition was a two way street.  The USSR played a game 
that it could cut corners in environmental quality to industrialize fast and 
beat the West.  We know they were wrong, but the blame should not be laid only 
on one side.  The West did its share to push the USSR into rapid 
industrialization out of fear as well as visions of a worldwide Socialist 
system. 

Yes, there *is* always a better way but some things just don't need the 
tinkering of mankind's perverse hands.

Kevin Geiger

"Man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to 
let alone."  

-Henry David Thoreau-


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