Environmental Myths Masterfully Debunked

Published January 1, 2009

Greener Than Thou
by Terry L. Anderson and Laura E. Huggins
Hoover Institution Press, 2008
172 pages, $15.00, ISBN 978-0817948528

Greener Than Thou, the new book by Terry L. Anderson and Laura E. Huggins of the Hoover Institution, puts the environmental movement on a path toward free-market environmentalism—a path, Anderson and Huggins say, that is more likely to achieve the movement’s goals.

Historically, the freest economies have done better for the environment, while command-and-control economies have lagged far behind.

Also historically, it seems “being green” has meant supporting top-down control.

Democrats criticize the environmental record of the Bush administration and recall the good ol’ days of the Clinton administration, when strict standards were placed on arsenic levels in streams and lakes and millions of acres were declared roadless.

Republicans yearn for even earlier days, clinging to the image of Teddy Roosevelt as the original conservationist even though his great expansion of federal land ownership entrenched resource socialism on the U.S. landscape, harms the environment, and contradicts professed Republican principles.

Big Business Taken In

Anderson and Huggins also report a phenomenon we now witness daily: “Even big business, although risking being strangled by environmental restrictions, is accepting that change is in the air” and want a place at the decision-making table. They now fall in lockstep with the environmental advocacy groups who are in effect their captors.

The book focuses on free-market solutions to environmental problems, emphasizing the important role of markets, incentives, and property rights. The authors state, “At the heart of FME [free market environmentalism] is a system of property rights to natural resources that whether held for individuals or a group, create inherent incentives for resource users.”

Myths Debunked

The book debunks four environmental myths:

1. No price for environmental purity is too high.
2. Materialism and concern for nature cannot coexist.
3. Constraining markets and the use of private property protects the environment.
4. Malthusian population growth will outstrip resources.

In debunking these myths, the authors reappraise interesting historical figures such as Aldo Leopold, often considered a bulwark of today’s environmental movement based on his famous book A Sand County Almanac. In fact, the authors note, Leopold preached property rights and individual incentives to protect the environment, whereas Teddy Roosevelt, our first government conservationist, usurped private property for government control as had never been done before or since.

New Approaches Needed

Anderson and Huggins do an excellent job debunking the global warming scam in an unemotional “just the facts, ma’am” manner. Most unique to this book is an excellent analysis of how green groups are attempting to manipulate religion to their advantage. The authors conclude the book with a statement that might resonate with readers on either side of any political aisle:

“Command and control environmental regulations, which in some cases improved the environment, have had their day,” the authors note. “Many of those cases, such as stopping rivers from burning, eliminating smog in cities, protecting the bald eagle, and establishing wilderness areas, are examples of ‘picking the low-hanging fruit.’ Legislation regulating point sources of pollution, halting the actual killing of endangered species, and limiting land use to non-mechanized travel in remote areas easily passed Congress because the costs were relatively low and the benefit relatively high.

“Going further, however, to pick the higher-hanging fruit for which costs are much larger and the benefits more debatable will require new approaches,” they conclude.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director for The Heartland Institute.