Profiling Environmentalism (Part 2)

Tanner Davis wrote an intriguing article in this blog titled, “Profiling Environmentalism.” He proposed that environmentalists generally fall into three categories:

  • Light Greens: mildly optimistic folks who encourage individual consumers to take small (but in the aggregate helpful) actions to raise environmental quality.
  • Dark Greens: quite pessimistic folks who fear the inevitable environmental destruction as industrialization spreads throughout the global economy. To save the planet, these folks spurn technological advances and seek to abandon modern life.
  • Bright Greens: very optimistic folks, as described by Alex Steffen, who exhibit a strong faith in further technological innovations and examples of entrepreneurial zeal to create prosperity with an ever cleaner ecological footprint.

Davis favors these Bright Green folks, as they embrace the pursuit of human well-being through economic development and environmental well-being through smaller ecological footprints. I heartily agree.

In fact, the “Brights” may inherently understand that economic development is necessary for creating ecological innovations in technology. However, whether a virtuous cycle between economic progress and technological innovation will continue enhancing environmental quality depends on at least two important things:

  • The desire for environmental quality increases with prosperity (individual income), and
  • The institutions in society effectively reward entrepreneurial activity that makes environmental quality affordable for those who seek both prosperity and a “greener” world in which to live.

The idea of an Environmental Kuznet’s Curve (EKC), where higher levels of prosperity in a society initially causes environmental quality to decline, but then eventually causes it to increase again after some level of prosperity is achieved, has been bantered about the economics literature for some time. Many economists don’t believe that the inverted U-shape relationship between prosperity and environmental quality exists, as many different empirical studies have simply not been able to create conclusive results.

However, as Bruce Yandle, et. al. points out in a survey of EKC articles, a nation’s institutions can have significant impact on the rate and quality of technological innovations. This can alter the pathway to prosperity that a developing nation chooses to pursue, which may cause either environmental degradation or improvement. Yet no studies appear to effectively control for this possibility.

If true, then this may be why one developing country exhibits terrible environmental impacts while another country preserves environmental quality, despite their pursuing relatively similar growth paths toward economic prosperity. Perhaps if we could control for institutional differences between these countries, we could identify whether an environmental EKC exists, and whether there are “greener” pathways for all countries to achieve prosperity.

Stay tuned, faithful readers, for “Part 3″…

Comments (4)

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  1. Walter Horsting says:

    Green Energy’s waste stream of rare earth elements tosses away enough of the super fuel thorium to power the entire planet using molten salt reactor technology. The nearly $1 Billion spent daily on climate change and green energy world wide will build 600MWs a day of hyper dense, walk away safe, 24×7 load following power that can power the planet cleaning up the tailing ponds of REE processing plants. So why we dither on intermittent energy, China is now taking our ORNL MSR designs with the intent of owning the global IP for our taxpayer research from the 1960s.

    • I classify the ”greens” in two lots: 1] former Reds, put a green topcoat on, as camouflage and are continuing the same red agenda / they are the leaders and manipulators (in the 60’s there was plenty communist in the western democracies, what happened to them? – they change colour, but not the habits = I cal them: ”the Chameleons)

      2] the second lot of ”Greens” are the ”blind followers” – used to be only the hippies – now the big city punks joined; their hearts are on the right place – but their brains are one meter lower than where it should be

      3] there in nothing ”green” about all of them… for green needs CO2 plus water on the land – they are against CO2 and are against building new dams, to save storm-water on dry land and improve the climate:

      • Tanner says:

        Stefan: It is very clear that you are a skeptic and a denier. However, environmentalists don’t just focus on solving global warming. They address a wide range of issues including pollution (air, water, land), overpopulation, resource management, wildlife protection, etc. While the media has focused a lot on climate change and global warming in recent years, that certainly is not their sole issue they want to solve. So, your comments strictly geared towards climate change are a bit off the mark.

        To address your first point, the “chameleons” that you mention, however, do appear in society. If I understand you correctly, they say that they’re environmentalists but don’t actually take action to improve the situation. They are followers by word but not deed. This classification sadly persists in our world, which is why the “light green” framework doesn’t appear to be very effective today.

        Your second point seems a lot like the first point. These “blind followers,” if their “brains are one meter lower than where it should be,” would be classified as “chameleons” because they are environmentalists in name only.

        Lastly, light, dark, and bright greens are in fact “green.” Each framework attempts to address an environmental degradation at many different levels, however. Using bright greens as the example (because that is the one that I advocate for), they are not necessarily against CO2 or building new dams. Rather, they are attempting to make buildings, dams, and technology more efficient to limit, not eliminate, CO2.

      • Hi Tanner

        1] yes, the phony ‘’environmentalist will do and say anything, just not to do a real job… b] overpopulation…? No Greene of any shade says to Rejandra Pachaury: ’’stop lying about the phony GLOBAL warming; go and tell the ladies in India to keep their legs crossed!” c] I’m glad that: for you ‘’global warming’’ and ‘’climate change’’ are two different things, me and you are correct on that one – the rest of the world is wrong!

        2]Tanner, I had to grow up east of the Iron Curtain, can recognize Marxist chameleons better than most; ‘’Greens on the west are the former western communist – in the 50’s-60’s there were lots of communist; where they now? They all put a green topcoat on and are continuing same agenda – nothing green about them. Small example: Australian leader of the Greens / senator – made himself a name for preventing hydro electric dam to be built – for the rest of his charier he is spilling crocodile tiers about CO2 and solar panels… (that dam would have produced much more electricity than all the solar panels in the world) dams are IMPROVING THE CLIMATE!!! If new dams built in Australia, Africa = would have improved the world climate (to complicated to explain in few words how)

        3] so far every shade of ‘’green / red’’ ids badmouthing CO2 – co2 is essential for trees and crops, the more of it the better. CO2 concentration in a big city is different problem, but, every Greene leaves in a big city = hypocrisy!!! B] climate is in constant change, there is no such a thing as ‘’GLOBAL warming’’ :
        please read my post and see/ learn about the ”self adjusting mechanizm the atmosphere has. Cheers!

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