“The Environmental Creed”

This is a 2007 essay economist Don Boudreaux wrote that was published during that year in the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. It is now posted at Dr. Boudreaux’s website.

The Environmental Creed

Careful observers often and correctly note that, for many of its adherents, environmentalism is a religion.

Too many environmentalists disregard inconvenient truths that would undermine their faith that calamities are percolating just over the horizon. It might well be that humans’ “footprint” on the Earth is larger than ever; it might even be true that this larger footprint creates some health risks for us modern humans that our pre-industrial ancestors never encountered.

But it is undeniably true that we denizens of industrial, market economies live far better and far healthier than did any our pre-industrial ancestors.

Compared to those ancestors, our life expectancies at birth today are about three times higher. Our bodies are cleaner and more free of disease. Our homes are sanitary. We have indoor plumbing and anti-bacterial soap; our ancestors had outhouses. Our clothes are cleaner and, despite recent hysteria, our food supply is safer.

What we almost never hear from self-proclaimed “environmentalists” is recognition of the upside of contemporary life. The commerce and industry that produce all the things that environmentalists ecstatically despise also produce incredible amounts of wealth, health and cleanliness — not to mention the leisure necessary for modern people to reflect upon and enjoy nature.

Also, too many environmentalists condemn people who don’t share their creed. For example, I don’t recycle my trash because my time is too precious for me to spend it sorting such items into different containers. I never criticize those who do recycle, but environmentalists point accusing fingers at us nonrecyclers. In environmentalists’ eyes, those who unquestioningly disregard the value of one resource (time) in order to spend it on the conservation of other resources (wood, plastic and glass) are righteous while those of us who value and conserve time are sinners.