For my write-up today on Al Gore's Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, I'll start with something that Gore says on page 179:
and women who care must be politically empowered to demand and help
effect remedies to ecological problems wherever they live. As the
dramatic environmental problems in Eastern Europe show, freedom is a
necessary condition for an effective stewardship of the environment.
Here in the United States, a hugely disproportionate number of the worst
hazardous waste sites are in poor and minority communities that have
relatively little political power because of race or poverty or both.
Indeed, almost wherever people at the grass-roots level are deprived of a
voice in the decisions that affect their lives, they and the
environment suffer. I have therefore come to believe that an essential
prerequisite for saving the environment is the spread of democratic
government to more nations of the world."
A while back, I wrote a post
about Newt Gingrich's argument that capitalism is better for the
environment than socialism and communism. I've heard a similar argument
from other right-wingers: "Oh, so capitalism is bad for the
environment, huh?", the argument runs. "What about the damage that was
done to the environment in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?
Chernobyl, anyone? And how about China's pollution of the environment?"
disagree with this argument if it's point is that a laissez-faire
economy is best for the environment. In my opinion, it would be
comparing apples and oranges to liken the government imposing
environmental regulations to the sort of system that Communist countries
had or have. Communist countries were collectivist, but my impression
is that they were willing to disregard the environment when they felt
that doing so would increase productivity. Saying that Communist countries have hurt the environment does not mean that laissez-faire capitalism is right.
the same time, I do think that capitalism can generate the wealth and
productivity that are necessary for cleaner technology to be developed,
and for companies to be able to financially bear environmental
regulations. And please keep in mind that many countries that
have been called socialistic----such as certain nations in Western
Europe and Scandinavia----actually have a solid capitalistic element.
also think that Gore does well to point out that democracy can be
conducive to good environmental stewardship. In a democracy, if I don't
like for my neck of the woods to be polluted, I can make my will known
on this and perhaps effect change. My understanding is that, in a
number of Communist countries, people had no say about what their
government did, and so they couldn't do much if the government
contributed to the pollution of where they lived. And yet, democracy
may not be fool-proof, for polluters are also part of a democracy, and
they have a significant amount of power and influence on the
government. And even everyday people may not like rigorous action on
the environment, fearing that this could cost them their jobs.
Moreover, even in our democracy, there are people who lack power, and
their neighborhoods especially suffer environmental degradation, as Gore
notes. That needs to be taken into consideration, and somehow
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