vbnautilus, on Sunday, July 12th, 2009, 4:41 AM, said:
No, that doesn't seem intuitively obvious to me at all. The people running huge chemical plants are not scraping and fighting for food. People often become wealthy at the expense of the environment, and if what you are doing is making you rich, you tend to keep doing it. Also, the more wealthy you become, the more power you have to destroy. The poor guy living in a tent is not really in a position to ruin the Mississippi. Environmental destruction is generally the result of the pursuit of individual wealth.
The people who run the plants live in the community too. The people who make the argument you give here act like the employees and bosses at the plant are aliens who beam in from space and then go to live comfortably on their home planet. The truth is, people care about how nice their place of residence is in direct relation to how much they can afford to care, and that includes the people who work in and run the factories.Another factor is that pollution is basically a bad choice for use of resources. It is almost always an inefficiency that will be cured over time via competition.And yes, I know all this isn't always true. There is such a thing as a negative externality, and we need to find ways to deal with it, but if the makes people poorer, it will do more harm than good. But overall, wealth = cleaner environment. The US has more trees now than when it was poor. The air is way, way cleaner than it was in the 70s. The water is cleaner. Lake Eerie used to occasionally start on fire it was so polluted. In the meantime, in Africa, people burn manure to heat their homes, leading to massive pollution and premature death. Yes, we have that big scary polluting power plant, but guess what -- we can heat and light 10,000 homes with less pollution than they can heat and sometimes light 100 homes. A lot of what enviro-people see is the effects of the efficiencies of consolidating our production. If you have one plant serving tens or hundreds of thousands of people, yes, it will produce more pollution than any particular individual. But it's obvious it won't produce as much as if each person had to generate their own heat source.Again, I won't ignore things like intentionally dumping toxic waste, but you can make those a crime without destroying the economy.