Category: Environmental Stewardship

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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pollution“There are no solutions,” says economist Thomas Sowell. “There are only trade-offs.”

Sowell’s claim is especially true when it comes to the issue of pollution. We have no solution that will allow us to eliminate all pollution, so we are forced to make trade-offs, such as exchanging a certain level of pollution for economic growth.

What would happen, though, if we allowed our political presuppositions to determine which side of the tradeoff we must always choose? That’s the question at the heart of a recent debate about whether libertarians are too anti-pollution.

It all started when New York Times columnist and liberal economist Paul Krugman criticized the Libertarian Party platform’s position on environmental policy:

It opposes any kind of regulation; instead, it argues that we can rely on the courts. Is a giant corporation poisoning the air you breathe or the water you drink? Just sue: “Where damages can be proven and quantified in a court of law, restitution to the injured parties must be required.” Ordinary citizens against teams of high-priced corporate lawyers — what could go wrong?

Economist Tyler Cowen, though, says Krugman’s claim is the “opposite of the correct criticism.”
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airpollutionAir pollution is now the world’s fourth-leading fatal health risk, causing one in ten deaths in 2013. According to a new study by the World Bank, the premature deaths due to air pollution costs the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income, or about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses worldwide. That is about the size of the gross domestic product of India, Canada, and Mexico combined, notes the report

While we tend to think of air pollution as occurring in the urban areas of the developed world, most of the deaths are due to poor air quality in rural and underdeveloped regions:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
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large-animalThis past weekend a child fell into pit with a gorilla. To protect the child, the animal had to be killed, a tragic but necessary outcome. The reaction to the news, though, has been unbalanced and excessive. While no one (that I’ve seen) thinks it would be better for the child to have died than the ape be killed, hundreds of thousands of people have expressed their outrage on social media.

In many ways, this likely reflects the distorted values of our society. But the grief and anger also reveal a natural, in some cases Biblical, concern for the welfare of animals.

Although Christians are, according to God, more valuable than animals (Matthew 10:31), we do have a responsibility to care other creatures. Philosopher Douglas Groothuis even argues that “ordinary Christians can be pastors to animals.” He offers several “principles for how Christians can show pastoral concern to animals, whether or not they interact with them regularly and directly.”
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CEI
By now, readers should be aware of the campaign waged against the Competitive Enterprise Institute led by Al Gore and a cadre of attorneys generals with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at the top of the rogues’ gallery. The subpoena goes so far as to demand CEI produce “all documents or communications concerning research, advocacy, strategy, reports, studies, reviews or public opinions regarding Climate Change sent or received from” such specifically named think tanks as the Acton Institute, The Heartland Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as industry organizations the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Oil & Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s the latest volley from the left – including religious shareholder activists’ often successful efforts to force corporations withdraw financial support and cede membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council – to stifle any whiff of opposition when it comes to the hypothetical, manmade catastrophic climate-change theory. ALEC, in fact, joins Acton and many other groups named in the subpoena, and leaders from these organizations have joined CEI in a strongly worded full-page advertisement that appeared in the New York Times last week:

This abuse of power is unacceptable. It is unlawful. And it is un-American.

Regardless of one’s views on climate change, every American should reject the use of government power to harass or silence those who hold differing opinions. This intimidation campaign sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the rights of anyone who disagrees with the government’s position – whether it’s vaccines, GMOs, or any other politically charged issue. Law enforcement officials should never use their powers to silence participants in political debates.

For those who haven’t been shocked out of complacency by this latest, blatant abuse of politically empowered legal authority marshaled in an effort to shut down free speech and exchange of scientific public policy, allow your writer to recap briefly. U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude E. Walker – one member of Gore and Schneiderman’s lawyerly goon squad, which also includes AGs from California, Connecticut, District Of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State – issued a subpoena to CEI in late March. (more…)

soil-stewardship-sundayDuring the drought that struck the United States from 1934 to 1937, the soil became so badly eroded that static electricity built up on the farmlands of the Great Plains, pulling dust into the sky like a magnet. Massive clouds of dust rose up to 10,000 feet and, powered by high-altitude winds, was pushed as far east as New York City.

When the “black blizzard” hit Washington, D.C. in May 1934, Hugh Hammond Bennett — the “father of soil conservation” — was testifying before a congressional committee about the effects of soil erosion. Bennett’s testimony lead Congress to unanimously pass legislation declaring soil and water conservation a national policy and priority.

But fixing soil erosion was not something the government could do on its own. As the National Association of Conservation Districts explains, “Because nearly three-fourths of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land. In 1937, President Roosevelt wrote the governors of all the states recommending legislation that would allow local landowners to form soil conservation districts.”
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pollution-cleanedAlthough Earth Day 2016 has officially ended, the call for Christians to care for the Earth continues. For us, every day is Earth day.

Too often, though, we Christians don’t have a robust enough understanding of how to care for the environment or how that duty is connected to economics.

A decade ago, Acton research fellow Jordan Ballor wrote the best, brief explanation you’ll ever find on the connection between economics and environmental stewardship. As Ballor says, economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics.
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shavethatyakSince today is Earth Day you’ll be hearing even more discussions than usual about the problem of anthropocentric climate change. What you aren’t likely to hear is sufficient consideration of the question, “What kind of problem is it?”

Many people claim that it is an environmental problem. Some claim that it is a technological, scientific, or even moral problem. Others vigorously contend that is it not a “problem” at all. I believe that, first and foremost, anthropocentric climate change is a political problem. And political problems require that we choose a solution from a range of political options.

Although it may not exhaust the range of possibilities, I believe the basic listing of positions and options on climate change can be derived from a combination of these three categories:
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