Thinking about the environment

Where you stand on the environmental debate can be charted on four dimensions. Are you religious about the environment or practical? Do you trust in the efficacy of government regulations or not? You can make a grid based on this. In quadrant I (religious/distrustful) you find Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber). In quadrant II (religious/trustful) you find Greenpeace, PETA maybe. Quadrant IV (practical/ trustful) features people like Teddy Roosevelt, and the property rights and “wise use” crowd inhabit quadrant III(practical/distrustful.) Few people comfortably occupy only one quadrant all the time, but these are helpful categories.

Let's talk a little more about the terms. People who are religious about the environment believe in the environment for its own sake. Their ideas are based on faith. They personify nature and use terms like "nature's choice" or "crimes against nature". Among the more radical it is an article of faith that humans deserve no special consideration, and maybe even less than other creatures.

Practical people think nature is to be used by humans. They use terms like conserve or preserve, but have little compunction about timbering, hunting or fishing. Their goal is to make sure these resources last forever or at least a very long time, because they intend to make a living from them. Oh yes, they do call animals, trees etc. "resources", something the religious rarely do. They often have pets, but usually not companion animals.

Trust or distrust of regulations to protect the environment is relatively straightforward. It is complicated only by the recent popularity of market-based regulation among adherents of both sides of the spectrum.

These groups can cooperate, but they do so for varied reasons that cause friction eventually. The practical/trustful might cooperate with the religious/trustful to help a species of animals to repopulate a region, but they will probably part company when hunting season comes around.

I promised to write something about President bush and the environment and I will, but I first wanted to lay the groundwork to get an idea of what we are talking about. I will also have to write in categories; otherwise it will be too long. So I propose writing on the topics of earth, air and water in that order in later posts. It should be fun for all of us.

I think most Bush supporters are moderately in the practical/distrustful quadrant. When they run into the religious/trustfuls they sometimes are using the same words, but they aren't speaking the same language. We should keep that in mind for our own debate here.

Posted by Jack at June 2, 2005 9:11 PM | TrackBack (1)