In this weeks reading the Friedman's spend a lot of time comparing the government's efforts at protecting the environment. They look at the FDA, the Consumer Products Safety Commission, and finally the EPA. For this weeks book notes, I want to focus in their comments regarding the EPA. The point of the book notes project is to learn from previous thinkers lessons that may apply today. I think there are tremendous lessons to learn from this section of the book.
Any discussion about the environment usually starts with some poor assumptions. The Friedmans write:
Public discussion of the environmental issue is frequently characterized more by emotion than reason. Much of it proceeds as if the issue is pollution versus no pollution, as if it were desirable and possible to have a world without pollution. That is clearly nonsense. No one who contemplates the problem seriously will regard zero pollution as either a desirable or a possible state of affairs.
This was true in the 1970's and it's true today. When we talk about man-made global warming, we have to recognize that we can never have "zero pollution". In order to have any technology, and any real standard of living, there will be pollution. We must decide what an acceptable level of pollution is.
This isn't the only stumbling block to a rational discussion of the environment. There is also a, "...tendency to pose it in terms of good or evil -- to proceed as if bad, malicious people are pouring pollutants into the atmosphere out of the blackness of their hearts, that the problem is one of motives, that if only those of us who are noble would rise in our wrath to subdue the evil men, all would be well." I think that this is often the case with environmentalists across the board.
Personally, I believe the "man-made global warming" movement is more about control of people than about protecting the environment. However, I am always willing to discuss the issue with anyone. I think the Friedman's have presented two great ground rules for the next discussion with my eco-friends. If today's environmentalist can agree that we will always have some pollution in the environment, and that most people who "pollute" aren't evil villains with black hat's and cheesy mustache's, perhaps we can have a real discussion. But that might be wishing for a little too much.
For Next Week: Finish the book!!
In Two Weeks: I plan on starting Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater.