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Happy Earth Day! Now go thank a capitalist!

Posted by Richard on April 22, 2005

Today is the 35th anniversary of the first Earth Day, and Investor’s Business Daily has an excellent editorial that makes three key points.

First, the environment today is far cleaner than 35 years ago and a long list of threatened resources are on the increase.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, core air quality indicators such as ozone (down 31%), nitrogen dioxide (down 42%), sulfur dioxides (down 72%), carbon dioxide (down 76%), particulate matter (down 31%) and lead (down 98%), are all well below their mid-1970s levels.

In fact, the 2005 edition of the "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators" reveals that U.S. air pollution levels have fallen to the lowest on record.

It’s more than air quality, though. Authors of the index, published by the Pacific Research Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, have compiled a long list of indicators that show the environment as a whole has improved and will continue to do so.

Second, the environmentalists won’t let that progress stop them from predicting doom and gloom, attacking our wasteful lifestyle, and demanding that we produce and consume less and "live more simply."

Should anyone bring up the fact that the world is a cleaner place than it was in 1970, the green alarmists will, of course, take full credit for the progress before moving briskly back to their reflexive attack on modernity and freedom.

Nothing unexpected about that. If environmentalists declare victory, it’s political suicide for the movement and those who set up nice lives for themselves by braying at corporate America and the conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels.

Third, environmentalism is a luxury good made possible by the success of capitalism in creating wealth. The eco-freaks who want us to emulate the third world economically for the benefit of the environment need to go visit that third world and see just how totally off-base they are.

Lost in all the finger-pointing will be the contribution that capitalism has made to cleaning up the nation and world. Environmentalism is a luxury that flourishes only in nations with advanced economies. And advanced economies are products of capitalist systems.

Paul Taylor has written that the U.S. spends as much on environmental protection — roughly 5% of GDP — as on national defense and homeland security. That can’t happen in nations where people are poor. Environmentalism is as much of an extravagance in those countries as a new Bentley.

That’s why it’s so exasperating to watch the green lobby continue to fight the very thing that’s brought them the benefits they enjoy.

Yes, the green movement has made a big difference in our world. But sadly, it’s been taken over by anti-capitalists. Which is why everything it now promotes must be met with healthy skepticism.


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