Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day Reading

Today is Earth Day. According to Reason Magazine, if you must read one Earth Day story, it should be its 2000 cover story (the 30th anniversary of Earth Day), "Earth Day, Then and Now: The Planet's Future Has Never Looked Better." A few excerpts:

Three decades later (in 2000), the world hasn't come to an end; if anything, the planet's ecological future has never looked so promising. With half a billion people suiting up around the globe for Earth Day 2000, now is a good time to look back on the predictions made at the first Earth Day and see how they've held up and what we can learn from them. The short answer: The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong.

There's much to celebrate on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. Indeed, one of the chief things to get happy about is that the doomsters were so wrong. Civilization didn't collapse, hundreds of millions didn't die in famines, pesticides didn't cause epidemics of cancer, and the air and water didn't get dirtier in the industrialized countries.

As far as affluence goes, it is clearly the case that the richer the country, the cleaner the water, the clearer the air, and the more protected the forests. Additionally, richer countries also boast less hunger, longer lifespans, lower fertility rates, and more land set aside for nature. Relatively poor people can't afford to care overmuch for the state of the natural world.

Another good article for Earth Day reading is the classic "Recycling is Garbage" by NY Times writer John Tierney, who writes that "Rinsing out tuna cans and tying up newspapers may make you feel virtuous, but recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources."

And one more: George Mason economist Don Boudreaux's excellent article "I Recycle:" In fact, market prices compel us to recycle when recycling is appropriate—and to not recycle when recycling is inappropriate.

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