A costly good
Acton Institute Powerblog

A costly good

In the words of the Cornwall Declaration, “A clean environment is a costly good.” A round-up of recent stories attests to the truth of this statement.

Wal-Mart pledged on Tuesday to provide $35 million for use to protect wildlife habitat. Wal-Mart can afford to use this money to “buy an amount of land equal to all the land its stores, parking lots and distribution centers use over the next 10 years” in part because of its economic success, topping the 2004 Fortune 500 list.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on efforts to integrate energy development and environmental stewardship. The push to keep land with energy deposits untouched and pristine amounts to an opportunity cost. Instead, adaptive management attempts to balance economic and environmental concerns. “We’ve got a world-class gas play occurring in the same landscape that is home to world-class populations of wildlife,” says Mr. Belinda, the lead wildlife scientist with the Pinedale office of the BLM [Bureau of Land Management]. “I think we can have both without sacrificing one for the other.”

And finally, we should keep in mind that countries with developing economies are often the ones that do not have the economic strength to implement environmentally-friendly practices. The Cornwall Declaration, when talking about the costly good of a clean environment, states that “growing affluence, technological innovation, and the application of human and material capital are integral to environmental improvement. The tendency among some to oppose economic progress in the name of environmental stewardship is often sadly self-defeating.” Case in point, Huaxi Village in Zhejiang Province, China, in which villagers, many of them elderly, demonstrated against the pollution from nearby factories. According to The New York Times, Wang Yuehe, a villager, said “We can’t grow our crops. The factories had promised to do a good environmental job, but they have done almost nothing.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.