Religion & Liberty Online


Two quick bits for your Tuesday:

Federal judges on green junkets at your expense? CRC says so!

– Is “steady state ecological economics” the answer to environmental and economic woes?

[also, a quick thanks to Jordan for inviting me to join the PowerBlog team.]

Federal judges on green junkets at your expense?

But the three organizations CRC singles out have an agenda that goes beyond education and is the equivalent of lobbying, Kendall contends. FREE, for example, describes itself on its Web site as “an organization devoted to social change that harmonizes environmental quality with responsible liberty and economic progress.”

In 2002, according to the CRC report, FREE hosted a six-day judicial seminar in Montana on “the ecology, economics and ethics of climate change.” Among those attending were Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg and Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

FREE’s website makes no secret that it focuses it seminars “on four audiences: federal judges, law professors, business leaders, and environmental entrepreneurs” but apparently CRC has been after these guys for a while.

So why the fuss? FREE is libertarian – right of center, and CRC is, uh, not. I suppose as long as they’re getting input (training, lobbying, whatever you want to call it) from all sides I have no problem with it.

In this case CRC sounds a little like Ahab chasing their whale. Speaking of chasing elusive creatures, a conservation biologist claims that ‘Steady state’ should be the goal for sustainable economic and natural environments:

Czech, a conservation biologist by trade, said economic growth is inherently dangerous to the world and that a less-polluting steady state economy, an economic model that defies conventional economic thought, is necessary to stave off runaway pollution and the eventual collapse of the world economy.

Czech advocates a concept he calls “ecological economics,” which applies the rules of the natural world to economics. “Ecological economics deals with scale, distribution, allocation of resources through the laws of thermodynamics and the principles of ecology,” Czech said. “Ecologists are the economists of nature.”

Hmmmm. OK, let’s look at this for a second –

…economic growth is inherently dangerous… What would happen if the “steady state” economy was pre-EPA industrial U.S. (1964) or Africa or China today? No growth, no new capital or tax base to fund environmental innovation and cleanup efforts, no alternative energy research, no urban mass transit development. A steady-state economy locks us into the kind of pollution and economic destruction he fears. In fact, what if as this blogger writes, ecology leads to abundance and economic growth? Is that sort of economic growth dangerous?

…an economic model that defies conventional economic thought… Because conventional wisdom is that socialist economies fail every time they are tried.

…applies the rules of the natural world to economics…. Nature abides by the laws of physics (including conservation of energy and entropy). The allocation of resources, like energy, isn’t steady state. In fact it’s dynamic and constantly changes as different species become more effective in their environment. Many call that evolution or adaptation.

The only way to keep ecosystems in a steady state is to artificially manage the habitat, not turn it over to the laws of physics. Wouldn’t you love it if your yard would stay manicured and green without yardwork? Walk away from it for a month and see what happens. But that’s exactly what he’s advocating here economically – establishing artificial controls on economics to restrict growth for the sake of not improving the environment, but keeping it at a status quo.

The greatest economic engine on the planet right now is the one that fuels global innovation on eliminating fossil fuels, harnesses alternative energies, and educates and encourages other nations on environmental stewardship and smart growth.

UPDATE: A commenter on the original post over at The Evangelical Ecologist says Czech’s views don’t represent the “mainstream” of ecological economics. Good to know there is a mainstream view from those folks, I suppose.

John Couretas

is a writer and editor based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.