November 6, 2009

Successful environmentalism

Actually, there are a lot of examples of environmental policies working. You don't hear much about them, though. For whatever reason, nobody ever promotes environmentalism by referring to past successes.

Ozone layer -- Saved by getting rid of certain chemicals, although their replacements might be causing global warming.

Acid rain -- Better scrubbers on smokestacks have largely fixed this problem. It turned out that the technology wasn't as costly as it seemed.

Smog in LA -- About an order of magnitude better than when I was a kid, although the cost in poorer miles per gallon must be huge. You may recall that there used to be two different MPG ratings from the government on cars, one for California and one for the rest of the country, with the California one about, I don't know, one-tenth worse. Now, everybody has the California smog-fighting equipment on their cars, so that must increase our oil bill by many billions annually.

Lead -- Here's where one environmental improvement caused another improvement. The catalytic converter (invented by GM and given free to other car companies -- thanks, GM!) would be ruined by leaded gasoline, so unleaded gas was introduced.

Redwoods -- Saved by the Save the Redwoods League, co-founded by Madison Grant.

Pelicans -- Very rare at the beach when I was a kid, now plentiful due to ban on DDT, which makes eggshells brittle

Bald Eagles -- Not plentiful, but they're back. (This is one you occasionally hear about, because people like large vicious animals.)

You might think that environmentalists would promote an image for themselves that says, "Trust us. We fixed problems in the past and we know how to fix them now," but, instead, apocalypse and misanthropy seems to sell a lot better.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

66 comments:

D. Smolken said...

Gregg Easterbrook wrote a whole book about this called "A Moment On The Earth". A large chunk of it documents how environmentalists are ashamed of their past successes, try to flush them down the memory hole, and consider anyone who mentions their past achievements an enemy.

robert said...

Alistair Cooke, in his book SIX MEN, reflects on how amazingly clean and breathable the air of London and other British cities had become by the 1970s (notwithstanding car fumes), compared with the insufferable pea-soup fogs of his 1910s and 1920s boyhood.

During 1956, four years after a winter where the smog was so thick that it killed thousands in London alone, the British Government passed a law, without the smallest fanfare, which had an extremely dramatic effect on smokestack chimneys and other sources of belching atmospheric filth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Air_Act_1956

But you don't see British environmentalists saying "Trust us, we helped get rid of the pea-soupers over 50 years ago."

Chris said...

The thing now is global warming. What would environmentalists have us envision as the "before" and "after" for this? I remember the days of heavy smog in LA and appreciate the improvement, but do people really feel that they would be happier or better off if the atmospheric temperature was lower? It's abstract compared to things like eagles and redwoods and smog.

Jimmy Crackedcorn said...

All of those other conditions were a clear variance from the norm, even if most people didn't know what the norm was. There was also a clear link between cause and effect.

What is the norm for global temperature? Who will have to sarifice what in order to keep it at the supposed norm?

What bothers me now about the environmental movement is their desire to use government power to add significant control over people's lives and significant transfers of wealth from "rich" countries (given our debtor status one must use the term lightly) to "poor" countries.

But what bothers me most of all is why they have abandoned concerns about population reduction, which has ramifications for urban sprawl, deforestation and global warming. Why they almost had it under control in the developed world, and easily could if...

Well...you know what follows the "if," and you know why they no longer care about population control...here.

Anonymous said...

The Burke Museum in Seattle has a small permanent exhibit showcasing local environmental successes. I noticed it because such a thing is so extremely rare.

RandyB said...

Thanks for the list, Steve. Things like this are the reason I'm not a conservative. Given the opportunity, the business community WOULD:
destroy the environment
do anything possible to cut wages
sell us unsafe products

As to another conservative mantra, preferring localized government to federal, in implementation that means racing to the bottom of regulation of these area to attract business. Like credit cards in Delaware, which has the veneer of a competitive industry, but nearly universal fee structures and rate-hike triggers.

AL said...

"Pelicans -- Very rare at the beach when I was a kid, now plentiful due to ban on DDT, which makes eggshells brittle."

Environmentalists might want to steer clear of this. DDT has saved massive numbers of human lives. Then again, they might view that as millions more people raping the earth and belching out pollutants.

The environmentalist movement closely mirrors the fad diet industry. We were supposed to eat oat bran, then we were supposed to drink skim milk, then we were supposed to drink whole milk while we ate steaks and steered clear of bread. Now it's back to skim milk.

The earth was cooling, until it was warming. DDT was good until it was bad, but then too many Africans died of malaria, at which point it was good again. The only common thread is that at all times it is absolutely necessary that we render money and authority to the environmentalists. But they never admit they were wrong before; they simply assert that they are even more right this time around.

It all gets very stale.

headache said...

Nice post Steve. In the old Apartheid South Africa, most of the Drakensberg mountains belonged to the Department of Forestry. These mountains are a major catchment area which is important in a dry country like South Africa. They were well kept and the rangers conducted preventive fires every autumn when the grass became dry. It was a pleasure to hike and climb there. The rangers also kept log books and if persons went missing the air force came looking for them. This is they kind of non-fad, serious, traditional and effective environmentalism which has a practical purpose and makes sense to any reasonable person.

More and more of this beautiful land is being claimed by tribes who feel it was pinched from them by colonial authorities. Of course once they get it, they apply ruinous agricultural methods and the rivers turn into dongas, with a lot of permanent soil erosion. Black governments in southern Africa have been destroying the land much faster than any industry could. But of course you will never read about this coz Black Nationalism is the holy cow of our day and the MSM, churches, UN, EU and US gov. are too timid to openly discuss the cause of much of the ecological destruction in Africa, including the expanding Sahara.

jack strocchi said...

Conservatives should be conservationist. Think of the earth as ecological capital, just as your house is residential capital. You would not want to let the home or neighborhood go to rack and ruin would you?

That means hiring people to clean up the mess, taking care to repair routine wear and tear and making sure that guests or occupants dont trash the joint.

Generally theres a lot of simple conservationist measures that would reduce the abuse of the earth. Tending towards a low-meat diet (once a week) would be a great start and likely increase your life span by a few years.

neil craig said...

The Ozone layer one is questionable since although we were told it would take 50 years before the hole would start declining it did so almost immediately - at the time Mount Erebus stopped pouring millions of tons of SO2 into the atmosphere.

The evidence that DDT actually causes egg shell thining is very dubious Certainly the DDT ban, by allowing malaria to get worse, has killed more people than Hitler, though since they are mostly African children it isn't news.

Most surprisingly & even less reported is that acid rain is good for trees:

"British acid rain is good for Norway's trees, says a Norwegian scientific study.

It wipes out damage caused by pollution from local industry and has helped the country's forests spread by a quarter in recent decades.

The report, by the state-run Norwegian forestry research institute, says that acid rain has been unfairly demonised.

Svein Solberg, of the institute, said: "After 15 years' research, it is now clear to us that, as far as forests are concerned, our fear of acid rain was totally unfounded.

"What we have found is that Norwegian forests have had a growth rate of some 25 per cent over the past 15 years and that acid rain is the reason."

http://web.archive.org/web/20040630202225/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/08/03/wrain03.xml

Robert is quite right about the disappearance of London smog being a major life saver - it was done by the Clean Air Act of 1956 - before there was a modern form of "environmentalist" movement.

Anonymous said...

Acid rain is also caused by cloud-seeding compound "dimethyl sulphide", which is produced by phytoplankton blooms, which can occur due to fertilizer run off.

It has been argued that the French, with their large nuclear power industry, were keen to foster the idea acid rain was caused by Europe's power stations to make coal-fired electricity in Germany and Britain more expensive.

If acid rain is now solved that either means power stations were the main cause or that less nitrogen and phosphur is flowing into the seas and oceans creating phytoplankton blooms.

Incidentally, lower levels of cloudiness may also lead to warming, so maybe cleaning up acid rain/agricultural run off causes global warming.

Anonymous said...

De-Industrialization and the catalytic converter have had the most dramatic, and beneficial effect, on pollution levels in Western Cities.

You could probably drink from The Thames if it wasn't for the rats piss.

Richard

Sue Generis said...

Things like this are the reason I'm not a conservative. Given the opportunity, the business community WOULD:
destroy the environment
do anything possible to cut wages
sell us unsafe products


Things like this are the reason that I despair at the stupidity of liberals.

l said...

You don't raise a lot of money in fund-raisers (or pass legislation) by saying "The world is not ending tomorrow, but things could be incrementally better."

Truth(er) said...

"Thanks for the list, Steve. Things like this are the reason I'm not a conservative. Given the opportunity, the business community WOULD:
destroy the environment
do anything possible to cut wages
sell us unsafe products."

Correction: the business community would do all of that...with government help.

Anonymous said...

In truth, large parts of the Environmental movement are slowly waking up to the fact that 'apocalypse', 'misanthropy' – and all the media messages that so-called 'Concerned Ethical'/ 'Pioneer' types love to hear – are loathed by many other segments of the population (ie the majority).

These are some researchers who are pointing out to greens which messages will not work:
http://www.cultdyn.co.uk/articles.html

They could also tell conservatives which messages will work for which people, and which will fail - though they're probably too liberal to want to help directly.

Read their stuff and see what's going on in people's heads - forget the simplistic name-calling bun-fight stuff.

Get serious with the evidence, as you do with other things!

Truth(er) said...

Clean air and clean water has nothing to do with environmentalism. It has everything to do with municipal services. Keeping a large urban population away from poisons and toxins while keeping them living close together is a standard practice of every urban environment.

I mean, by the listed examples one could conclude that the Romans were environmentalists because they developed sewer systems and indoor plumbing.

jimbo said...

Liberals don't want to admit that past regulation has done any good, because they think that unless people think everything is getting worse and worse, they'll never convince anyone to do anything. Conservatives don't want to admit it because it implies that government regulation can actually do some good.

blighter said...

I think it's the same logic that leads civil rights organizations to refuse to acknowledge any progress on that front since the darkest days of jim crow: to acknowledge progress is to acknowledge less of a need for your own services. This leads to all kinds of bad outcomes: a harder time fundraising, less appearances on TV, a diminished sense of your own vital importance, etc.

On the other hand, if we are always on the verge of the eco-pocalypse and just barely keeping the rise of American Nazism at bay, then the need for strong environmental & civil rights groups becomes obvious and they get all kinds of money & respect showered on them.

It's a fairly natural human impulse: no one wants to acknowledge their own obsolescence. In some areas of human life it's impossible to ignore (the stale buggy-whip manufacturer) in other areas, it's relatively easy: environmentalism, civil rights groups, government bureaucracies (is the rural electrification program still going strong?)..

sykes.1 said...

As a retired professor of environmental engineering, I could add numerous other improvements. Three decades of investments and new regulations really paid off. Every city, even small ones, and much of rural America is noticeably cleaner and healthier than it was in 1960.

However, I deeply resent giving credit to "environmentalists" for these achievements. Modern "environmentalists" are totalitarian socialists of the Nazi/Communist ilk. Some of them (FOE, ELF et al) are violent criminals and many are literally insane. Almost of them are superstitious, anti-science and irrational. They support radical depopulation, euthanisia of the "unfit,"s deindustrialization and the elimination of most agriculture. They openly support aggressive, violent state action to implement their goals. They are a major threat to our society.

Anonymous said...

As so often happens with a movement or cause, the extremists have hijacked environmentalism, adopted a near religious fervor, and given it a bad name.

But the truth is you don't want to go back to the conditions of the early industrial era. Even as recently as the '50s and '60s some communities were becoming uninhabitable.

I generally take a libertarian/small government approach. But, along with workplace safety, environmental protection is an area that I make a huge exception. Allowing market forces to decide would never result in a healthy environment. People are simply too far removed from the point of production to realize the damage that unregulated industry can do. And, due to the fact that pollution doesn't respect state boundaries, regulation is the federal level is needed to control such issues.

Robert said...

Alligators and buffalo also come to mind as success stories. Also, environmentalism is not a liberal or conservtive thing.

Mr. Anon said...

"RandyB said...

Thanks for the list, Steve. Things like this are the reason I'm not a conservative. Given the opportunity, the business community WOULD:
destroy the environment
do anything possible to cut wages
sell us unsafe products

As to another conservative mantra, preferring localized government to federal, in implementation that means racing to the bottom of regulation of these area to attract business. Like credit cards in Delaware, which has the veneer of a competitive industry, but nearly universal fee structures and rate-hike triggers."

Delaware? Credit-cards? Why do those ring a bell? Oh yeah, Joe Biden that recent, very conservative Senator from Delaware was a prominent member on the Senate Finance and Banking committee. And his son was a lobbyist for the credit card industry. But I'm sure they never talked shop.

Yes, stay on the left - where the liberals are looking out for you. By the way, "conservative" does not mean "flunkey of wealthy moneyed interests" despite what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity would have you believe.

Anonymous said...

The environmentalists don't want you to know of their past successes because then they would be forced to admit that industrial society is not utterly sinful or totally inconsistent with environmental health.

They don't want you to know that relatively minor incremental alterations work. They want you to think that to get rid of whatever the pressing problem is, you have to reboot the whole system

David said...

A very small percentage of "environmentalists" are concerned about the environment, and conduct successful campaigns to clean things up and preserve species. These are the winners - and yep, we rarely hear about them.

The rest seem to be ideologues: communists or nihilists, using environmental concerns as a false front in their campaign against freedom or humanity. They don't care about fields and streams and species. They care about using "the environment" as a club to pound ideological enemies. Global warm-- er, global cool-- er, climate change (that's the ticket!) is just the latest scam. The earth's climate has continually changed from Day One. Variations in sunspot activity have more to do with climate change than "industrialism" and the internal combustion engine and "selfishness" do.

The Puritan streak never left the American character. It festers, and frequently breaks out in the form of a "moral" crusade. Prohibition...the war (pick one) to save All That Is Good...burning witches, etc. Now it's a million swipples not flushing their toilets after they pee and "seeking legislation." From Cotton Mather to Billy Sunday to Al Gore runs this line: compulsion (of you by me) is necessary for Salvation!

Praise the Lawd!

Aaron said...

It's an interesting point that environmentalists don't like to claim victory. I think it comes down to a couple things. For one, they tend to be absolutists on these issues. Compare it to the pro-life movement: if you believe abortion is murder, then reducing it from 1 million/year to 10/year would be better, but it wouldn't be acceptable, and you wouldn't throw a party and declare your work finished. Likewise, if cutting down an acre of rain forest is murdering the planet, then as long as there's one acre being cut down, you can't declare victory and stop fighting.

Also, to the extent these problems have been solved, they weren't solved the way environmentalists really want them solved. We didn't solve acid rain by tearing down factories; we solved it by inventing a way to make them cleaner. We didn't stop clear-cutting old growth forests by cutting back on construction; we did it by planting more trees and farming them more sensibly. We fix environmental problems with technical innovations by private industry.

Sure, the government got the ball rolling sometimes, but ultimately it was industry that got the job done. If industry were the bad guy to the government's good guy on environmental issues the way we're taught, then why are countries like China and Russia so worse off in this area? Why is the country that's supposedly run by a Big Biz cabal treating the environment so well?

Because most of them are leftists, environmentalists want to "win" on their issues by smacking private industry around and replacing it with government if possible. It doesn't really feel like winning to them when businesses adapt and fix their problems and go right on existing and making money---in some cases, increasing profits in the bargain! When CFCs were outlawed, some of the biggest supporters and beneficiaries of that law were companies that were already making the alternative (and more expensive) products. So yeah, maybe the ozone got thicker, but some businesses profited too, so that has to be frustrating for the typical environmental activist.

Anonymous said...

This is the thing: the hysteria about AGW crowds out more serious environmental crises. The depletion of the ocean's fish stocks, clean air, deforestation - have we solved all of these problems?

If I'm an evil industrialist, I'm doing backflips that the world is obsessed with carbon dioxide emissions while I continue to pollute like crazy.

mufy said...

The "Save the Whales" campaign was an enormous success. Had they waited just another few decades or so to ban whaling, many species of great whales would have likely gone extinct.

The DDT ban was probably the worst mistake of the environmentalist movement. Banning DDT as a crop duster in 1st world countries made sense, but banning it as a malaria control agent in the 3rd world was a tragic mistake.

Tatu said...

All these environmental issues are separate, with the connecting thing being the set of people who are concerned about them. One can only go so far in arguing that because someone was right about things A, B, and C, it's necessarily so that he or she's also correct about D or E if D and E are completely different issues (as global warming is different from issues related to ozone hole, acid rain and so on.) Incidentally, Steve might want to add overpopulation on the list, as global TFR:s aren't that far from replacement level, in part thanks to efforts to decrease population growth.

Discussion about environmentalists using environmental concerns as a hobbyhorse for advancing regulations reminds me of a tidbit of wisdom I once read, which went something like "Libertarians disbelieve in global warming, as a merciful Lord could never have been cruel enough put them on a planet where there are problems big enough to need governmental regulation to solve." In other words, it's not really about whether global warming science is correct or not - if there was global warming it's fairly obvious to most people that it needs governmental regulation to solve, so some regulation-hating people are inclined to skip the whole discussion by doing whatever they can to prove there's no global warming. Which is wrongheaded as hell, but there you go.

"The earth was cooling, until it was warming."

Yes, there have been two environmental trends at play here - global cooling caused by aerosols and global warming caused by greenhouse gases. During the 50s, there was some global cooling, as the effect of aerosols was stronger than the effect of greenhouse gases, but during 70s, there was some debate about which of these trends would prove to be stronger - soon afterwards, most scientists came to the conclusion that the warming trend was stronger, partly because environmental reforms had reduced the amount of aerosols in the air. I don't really know why anyone uses this as an argument against global warming.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You seem to have accepted some myths.

For example, tell me how CFCs (ie Freon) end up in the southern hemisphere when the majority of it was produced and used in the northern hemisphere (hint, hemispheric circulation patterns are important).

For that matter, which country in the northern hemisphere with a large population and a large total output of CO2 still produces and uses Freon?

Also, which company with an expiring patent on Freon stood to benefit from Environmental activism about CFCs?

Of course, one would have to be a conspiracy nut-job to believe that corporations could stop their normally rapacious and short-sighted activities in order to manipulate those highly intelligent environmentalists.

MoFo said...

gotta quibble. The Montreal Protocol (Ozone) is held up as a model for international cooperation in dealing with environmental problems.

But I agree with your larger point, apocolypse is always good business whether your talking enviro, religious, military, political, etc.

Fear is a great motivator.

Anonymous said...

"jack strocchi said...
Conservatives should be conservationist. Think of the earth as ecological capital, just as your house is residential capital. You would not want to let the home or neighborhood go to rack and ruin would you?

That means hiring people to clean up the mess, taking care to repair routine wear and tear and making sure that guests or occupants dont trash the joint.

Generally theres a lot of simple conservationist measures that would reduce the abuse of the earth. Tending towards a low-meat diet (once a week) would be a great start and likely increase your life span by a few years."

Well said. I would only add that population stabilization should be a priority as well.

PR

Anonymous said...

Conservatives should be conservationist.

Yep. And there's huge amount of overlap between the environmentalist insights on the interdependency of ecosystems/sustainable development and conservative insights on the fragility of culture and the need for culturally sustainable economic changes (e.g., don't import loads of foreigners even if it helps the economic bottom-line in the short term)

J. Paige said...

Ummm, don't you think huge improvements in water quality (i.e., fish can live there now) aren't worth noting?

I think you are wrong about gas mileage in modern cars, too. Better engineering has given us good mileage and low NOX.

Conservative is the root word of conservatism, appropriately so.

The root of nearly every environental problem is population. Stabilize the US population at 200 mil or so, with modern pollution control methods, and the place would be an eco-paradise. But if we go a billion on North America in 2100, there will be no more nature.

J. Paige Straley

Canadian CIncinnatus said...

I think you have hit upon a subtle but relevant point about the psychology of environmentalism: the environmentalists are Luddites who are embarrassed by their successes because these were, for the most part, engineering solutions to specific problems. They don't want acid rain to go down because we put scrubbers on coal fired power plants any more than they want smog in LA to go down because the cars we now drive have catalytic converters on them. They would rather have these problems solved by getting rid of coal fired power plants and passenger cars entirely. Environmentalists are romantics who agree with Rousseau that man is truly free only in a state of nature, and all those damn technological have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too solutions to the problems they posit get in the way of that message.

rob said...

AL,

You make a fantastic argument. It applies to cancer as well. Oncologists say you should take chemotherapy drugs when you have cancer. But when you don't have cancer, they say don't take the drugs. Why can't they decide?

Chemotherapy, like DDT, is good until it's bad.

I don't know about the whole blessed earth, but where I live, it warms ands cools on a an annual cycle. It is indeed cooling until it is warming. When it's cold, I run a heater, but that would be really effing dumb when it's hot. Why oh why can't I make up my mind?

You see, everything has costs and benefits. It's a good idea to do something when then benefits are high relative to costs. Sometimes reality changes, when it does, it's smart to adapt, or as some people call it, "flip flop."

Did you really not know this, or are you just pretending? Please, tell me you're pretending.

rob said...

Because everything has costs as well as benefits, often the cure leads to a new disease. It was not all that long ago that a fair proportion of Americans were malnourished. We fixed that.

Fixing that problem lead to a new problem, indeed to a new country: Fatassistan.

Malnutrition is bad, and obesity is bad, do you conclude that ending hunger in the US was on balance neutral, or since it cost money, a net negative? You might, but that's the wrong conclusion. The new problem is less bad than the old one.

Conservative should not mean troglodyte.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody in the comments so far mentioned the quasi-religious aspect of environmentalism. Humanity has sinned and it must pay back! Religion became uncool among swipples long ago, but the religious instinct lives on. It just finds other avenues for expression. How would past environmentalist successes come into the narrative of original sin and repentance? I don't see a place for them in it.

meep said...

I do wonder about this as well.


Here's a prickly story - if anybody gets into clean water issues, they'll notice two of the largest pollutants are:
1. fertilizer used on lawns [ok, that can be banned - SWPLs look down on the schmoes who care about having pretty lawns]
2. drugs people use, especially female hormones [um, hmm. are they going to ban birth control pills? estrogen/progesterone for menopausal women? hormones for those trying to change their sex? Prozac? Paxil? Adderall? Yeah, right.]

I do bring up the second issue to people who go batshit over relatively minor exposures to various chemicals, but have no problem screwing with their personal body chemistry as well as the chemistry of others. They worry that the bananas are organic [um, they've got these really thick peels], but are ingesting all sorts of things for which the long-term effects might not be pleasant. But no one particularly wants to investigate that.

Secondhand smoke = evil

Secondhand hormones = wait! do you want to oppress women?!?!?!

ZZMike said...

"Pelicans -- Very rare at the beach when I was a kid, now plentiful due to ban on DDT, which makes eggshells brittle."

Great news for pelicans.

Terrible news for people. Rachel Carson's crusade against DDT has caused at least a few millions of deaths from malaria.

(Al beat me to it, but this is an important point.)

rob tries a foolish argument:

"Oncologists say you should take chemotherapy drugs when you have cancer. But when you don't have cancer, they say don't take the drugs. Why can't they decide?"

That's just ridiculous. Chemo isn't a vaccine, it's a cell-destroyer. That's right - that's its purpose.

Cancer cells grow much faster than regular cells, so they get killed off faster by the chemo. Hair is a fast-grower, so it gets killed off too - that's why chemo patients are bald.

Try to find out the difference between a vaccine and a cure.

Jimmy Crackedcorn said...

Conservatives should be conservationist

Indeed. This would go a long way towards increasing our support amongst whites and Asians. It's essential to the GOP's success.

As a simple question, how much of America's "imporvements" on the environmental front have simply been the result of offshoring manufactuing to less elightened countries? Quite a bit, I'd think.

Half Sigma said...

Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, was the first environmentalsit president. Those were the days when all the smart peopel were Republican. Today, Republicans have lost the smart-people vote.

The big environmental cause du jour is global warming; unforutnately, this is a bogus issue made up by leftists (carbon dioxide won't cause any significant amount of global warming), but now all the smart people have been brainwashed into believing it.

rob said...

ZZMike,

Read better. Learn about comparisons and analogies.

I did not compare chemo to vaccines. Nor is any similarity necessary.

The comparison, for those who couldn't understand it.

DDT: Does something good. It also does something bad.

Chemotherapy: Does something good. It also does something bad.

Depending on what's going on, using chemotherapy is a good idea. Sometimes, though, something else is going on, and chemo is a bad idea. Ditto DDT.

We call these things tradeoffs.

Were you confused because vaccines should be used before getting a disease, while chemotherapy, because the bad things it does are bad should not be used before getting a disease?

Remember the old SNL Tonto, Frankenstein and whoever skits, fire bad? Fire good? How they could never decide? That's because sometimes, depending on the situation, it is good. Sometimes it is bad. The same applies to DDT and chemotherapy.

stari_momak said...

I'm not going to research this, so some might be wrong but here are some more candidates

1) Clean water in general (no flaming rivers anymore)
2) Planned wetland management, e.g. Bolsa Chica
3) improvements in Santa Monica bay water quality, indeed along all the coast
4) pressure to adopt stringent anti-spill measures against both tanker and rig spills. We haven't had a repeat of the famous 69 Santa Barbara spill
5) Greenspace -- south OC is bad enough without it, I shudder to think what it would look like if the developers didn't have to set aside park/nature land.
6) Population stabilization -- well, it worked on *US* at the edge of my consciousness I can still remember the ZPG radio commericals. I remember reading the "Birth Dearth" and my older sister, on seeing the cover, saying -- "but they told us to stop at two!"
7) Recovery of the North American Bison
8) declining Mercury levels

stari_momak said...

@Neal Craig --

since sub-Saharan Africans seem to produce at their Malthusian Maximum (see the latest Ethiopian famine, or the various resource/land wars) it is pretty likely that whatever additional deaths lack of DDT caused were soon made up with more children -- or conversely, those who didn't die of malaria probably would have died of starvation, war, another disease.

Anonymous said...

"Pelicans -- Very rare at the beach when I was a kid, now plentiful due to ban on DDT, which makes eggshells brittle."

Great news for pelicans.

Terrible news for people. Rachel Carson's crusade against DDT has caused at least a few millions of deaths from malaria."

But I LIKE pelicans more than 3rd world millions -- the vast majority of whom would never have been born to suffer malaria if not for do-gooders with their green revolutions to greatly increase food production techniques that were then taught to the incompetent 3rd worlders -- who then promptly bred lots and lots more people.

Why, yes, I DO think there is something to neo-Malthusianism, especially if we're going to breed the White people, who've made all the innovations that made neo-Malthusianism look to be mistaken -- out of existence.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

You have to comment on this study. Note: link goes to a pdf.

Bob said...

If lack of DDT is causing deaths in the third world, you sure couldn't notice it based on their rapid population growth.

Why do environmentalists have to care about helping third world populations that are irresponsibly breeding like rabbits when hardly anyone else does?

Dutch Boy said...

One toxin that the environmentalists and government have overlooked is mercury. The backround levels are increasing due to the rapid expansion of coal-fired power plants in China. Concentrations of mercury in the ng/ml range are toxic to the human nervous and immune systems.

Bob said...

Also much lulz at the paranoia about cap and trade.

A modest plan to make sure that huge CO2 emitters pay for their pollution is supposed is "fascism" and "nihilism"? Really?

It is even set up using a permit trading system that conservative economists have been pushing since the 1980's rather than a straight tax.

dearieme said...

"Robert is quite right about the disappearance of London smog being a major life saver - it was done by the Clean Air Act of 1956 - before there was a modern form of "environmentalist" movement."

In his "Skeptical Environmentalist" Lomberg points out that after the Clean Air Act the air pollution in London fell at the same rate as it was falling before the Act was passed.

Anonymous said...

"I do bring up the second issue to people who go batshit over relatively minor exposures to various chemicals, but have no problem screwing with their personal body chemistry as well as the chemistry of others. They worry that the bananas are organic [um, they've got these really thick peels], but are ingesting all sorts of things for which the long-term effects might not be pleasant. But no one particularly wants to investigate that.

Secondhand smoke = evil

Secondhand hormones = wait! do you want to oppress women?!?!?!"

I never thought of it that way. Good point.

-Vanilla Thunder

stari_momak said...

Also much lulz at the paranoia about cap and trade.

The problem with cap and trade is that it is an invitation to rent seeking. Any economist will tell you a carbon tax will produce a better result with less deadweight loss. As the Teikuan dude said -- cap and trade is yet another opportunity for the Goldman Sach boys to skim off the true wealth producers.

stari_momak said...

But I LIKE pelicans more than 3rd world millions

Well, anonymous had the "courage" to say what I wouldn't. There is only one thing cooler than to be waiting in a line-up seeing the brown pelicans "surfing" on the air pushed up ahead of the waves, its like the hovercraft version of air surfing. The one cooler thing is of course seeing marine mammals -- dolphins, seal lions, surfing *in* the waves.

And that suggests another one -- recovery of seal lion, seal, and sea otter populations.

Rollo said...

Conservatives should be conservationist.

Britain's Tory leader, David Cameron, is certainly on the green bandwagon. Here's a piece he wrote for greenish-leftish The Independent. As he points out, Maggie Thatcher was the first major world leader to raise the spectre of global warming.

Gil said...

I agree with Jack Strocchi: if Righties and the free market self-regulate ahead of time then they won't give Lefties any ammo to get the government to force them to clean up their act. But then slavery in the West was forced by governments to end, it wasn't merely phased out by the free market. Do Righties then rail "it's not about freeing the slaves - it's about government control and wrecking the free market and, ultimately, bringing out about a One World Socialist Government"?

On the other hand, Righties helped killed the millions of African children because they thought DDT was all powerful so they broadsprayed it. Surprise, surprise, mosquitos were building up a resistance to DDT and spraying was stopped before DDT became utterly usless. Besides the tinpot African dictatorships that are really killing millions. If African leaders gave up their powergrabbing and left the people to modernise then you'd see a real miracle.

nick said...

Another big price we've paid for environmental improvements is the transfer of much of our manufacturing -- which was very polluting -- overseas to places like China. The pollution hasn't disappeared. It and the accompanying economic growth have moved to the other side of the planet.

Ray Sawhill said...

Contrary to the impression the newspapers (and some political figures) seem to have left some of you with, environmentalists come in all kinds of different shapes, sizes, and flavors. Not all are Democrats, not all are foolish romantics, and there are even some who aren't obsessed by global warming. Examples: old Republican ladies who like trees better than people, hunters who send money to Ducks Unlimited, marine biologists who do what they can for the sake of dugongs and sea turtles. There are lots of small victories to celebrate: ponds that have been protected so migrating geese have somewhere to land, parklands staked out and maintained ...

It doesn't take a lot of time spent exploring the eco-world to realize that the scoldy, no-fun public image of environmentalism is an injustice. Lots of people are eco because they love life and have a big spirit. And they range from the very scientific to the very practical to the very romantic. There are even a decent number of eco people who dislike the Al Gore/Sierra Club side of environmentalism. Mr. Skeptical Bjorn Lomborg describes himself as an enviromentalist for all his skepticism. And I've known plenty of eco-people who like to drink, carry guns, dance, and have kids.

Incidentally, nothing automatically wrong, so far as I'm concerned, with eco-extremists. They grab attention, they react to and point out things that more "reasonable" people overlook ... I don't want them in charge of anything, god knows. But they're capable of creating excellent political theater, and they're valuable functioning as canaries in the mineshaft.

Anyway: Can we please have a little less in the way of sweeping generalizations about "environmentalism"? There's a lot of different environmentalisms, from foolish all the way to doing some modest good in your neighborhood as we speak.

jqhart said...

The education study linked above by anonymous (and again by me here) is very interesting.

See especially page 26. It turns out that 15-year-old U.S. whites score about the same to a bit better than (almost entirely white) central and northern European countries on internationally standardized math and science tests. In other words, U.S. K-12 education is no worse than Europe's in the results it produces with biologically similar brains. However, if you factor in that the U.S. spends far more per pupil than European countries, it is far less cost efficient.

Mexicans have scored big improvements recently. I suspect that U.S. Latinos, if they ever learn good English, will end up scoring well above blacks, indeed closer to whites than to blacks. Right now in the U.S. Latinos actually score slightly less well than blacks, no doubt due to their far poorer English skills.

Of course, as the U.S. becomes increasingly NAM, our overall test results will sink towards those of other NA/NE countries. But unless those of whites or northern asians fall, there's no reason to blame our education system.

Seemingly quite OT (albeit I'm responding to a post above), but related to this thread insofar as with the environmental improvements, things are better than they seem, and a part of government is not doing as badly as many had supposed (at least relatively speaking), and yet liberals don't brag about it -- for quite obvious reasons in the case of education.

Anonymous said...

Eagles seem to be doing pretty well in Alaska:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZJKmPa42PM

Anonymous said...

. Do Righties then rail "it's not about freeing the slaves - it's about government control

That was the line they (the pro-slavery crowd) took back then.

Of course, I am the opinion that slavery would have ended eventually by popular vote - maybe a few decades more, but it would have happened.

Anonymous said...

Headache: Any proof that black land claimants are destroying the Drakensberg? Not saying I don't believe you, just never heard that one before.

Dan Kurt said...

re: "Successful environmentalism" the entire list.

I knew it; actually I suspected it. Steve is to science as a Classic Comic Book is to the Classic Book. Sure he has his head generally in the right place, knows something about HBD, can zip around with a spread sheet and perhaps use some plug-in statistical tools but his list of "Successful environmentalism" exposes him to be a clone of Malcolm Gladwell, just another superficial word smith posing as a deep thinker when it comes to science topics. Maybe that is why Gladwell is his bete noire as Steve unconsciously recognizes the similarity between the two of them.

That said, I will continue to read him. Still love ya Steve. But, the one on LEAD especially was a hoot. Charles F. Kettering of Tetraethyl Lead fame is laughing at this from his perch in heaven over the irony.

Anonymous said...

Wow, excellent post. the problem that i see is that those were pro human actions but some moder environmentalists are anti human.

rob said...

Dan,

Please provide a citation that pumping lead into the air water and soil is a plus. Do you take lead supplements? If not, why not?

Truth(er)

Clean air and clean water has[sic] nothing to do with environmentalism.

It would seem to be common sense. But there are plenty of anti-environmentalists who think pumping lead into the air and water is fanfuckingtastic. See Dan Kurt above.

If one defines defines environmentalism as "shit that did no good" then environmentalism would indeed have done no good. That is not a reasonable definition, as it would require putting everyone who opposed, say phasing out lead, in the retard-psycho camp.

I don't have any numbers on it, but I do wonder how many lives the catalytic converter has saved by preventing CO poisoning.

Once again, good policy is not a team sport. If swipples said jumping of a cliff were a bad idea, would you do it to spite them?

David said...

Aaron said

> if cutting down an acre of rain forest is *murdering* the planet, then as long as there's one acre being cut down, you can't declare victory <

Also, political tactics include extremism for a very good reason: without a hard push, the middle never moves.

Part of the conservative mentality is a resistance to change. Much hollering and urging is needed for many years before a conservative-minded person will move off his spot and settle on another one. Most people are conservative-minded in this sense (and good for them). This is why small "policy wonk" suggestions never fire the blood and never go anywhere. Merely to get most people to stop littering, you need a doomsday campaign - Chief Whatshisname shedding that tear, the whooping up of the Gaia religion, books (and tapes) predicting the end of the world in garbage in 1990, etc.

If I'm right, this would explain why even successful, rational enviros are chary of patting themselves on the back.