Environmentalism has a reputation for misanthropy and an antagonism towards capitalism. The EPI does little to amend that reputation. Environmental performance inversely correlates with a nation's industrial growth at a moderate but statistically significant .16 and inversely with its total fertility rate at a rigorous .80.
This association is natural enough, since the easiest way for a person to reduce his environmental impact is to just die. In the words spoken by David Graber decades ago:
I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true. Somewhere along the line – at about a billion [?!] years ago – we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”As argued previously, green initiatives have to be economically sensible and painless in their execution to receive broad support and to ultimately be successful. The inordinate amount of attention given to human-induced CO2 emissions, and the consequential sacrifices urged and regulatory bodies advocated does not endear the guy on the street to the cause. Instead, the whole thing seems silly:
Attributing global climate change to human CO2 production is akin to trying to diagnose an automotive problem by ignoring the engine (analogous to the Sun in the climate system) and the transmission (water vapour) and instead focusing entirely, not on one nut on a rear wheel, which would be analogous to total CO2, but on one thread on that nut, which represents the human contribution.That most major environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the WWF do not advocate immigration restriction in the US or explicitly favor strategies to reduce births in the third-world generally and among the most destitute women especially (instead emphasizing access to generic family planning services throughout the world) gives the impression that being good stewards of the earth is not their sole reason for being.
Risking too much self-indulgence, this train of thought lies at the heart of my ambiguity toward such groups. It seems there are ulterior motives antagonistic towards capitalism and human progression more generally among many environmentalists. The two-page press release, for instance, devotes two full paragraphs to the US' poor performance (39th best of the 149 countries evaluated) relative to other industrialized nations.
Why not focus instead on the fact that developed Euro-descended countries (plus Japan) clean (heh) the rest of the world's clocks? There isn't a single Western nation in the entire bottom half of the rankings. Using Samuel Huntington's nine civilizational categorizations, the aggregated EPI score for each* (adjusted for population size at the national level):
Japanese -- 84.5
Western -- 84.0
Latin American -- 81.3
Orthodox -- 79.5
Buddhist -- 71.0
Sinic -- 67.0
Islamic -- 65.2
Hindu -- 60.7
African -- 59.0
In a contemporary West that is so hard-pressed to criticize other civilizations or praise its own, environmental performance and human (and animal) rights are areas where most Good progressives are still willing to make critical value judgments.
A little tweaking and the broader movement is aiming at some worthy eugenic goals--namely drastically cutting third-world birthrates, especially in Africa, and at least advocating Western fertility rebounds to replacement levels. If the worst environmental performers are also the countries that are growing the fastest, the obvious conclusion is that the 'global' environmental performance is going to suffer going forward.
I say "eugenic" because there is also a strong correlation of .76 between estimated national average IQ and environmental performance. A more intelligent, industrialized, liberal, white (and Japanese) world is a more environmentally-friendly world. To make a statement that is made so clear by the EPI rankings themselves, however, is to invite excoriation from the very same people who attach so much importance on the index scores. But their moral posturing does nothing to repudiate the fact that the world is becoming less intelligent, less liberal, and less white (and much less Japanese).
Third-world immigration fuels a growth in purchasing power for the home country through remittances and migrant returns without doing much to ensure that commensurate 'EPI' progress takes place there. These groups could easily advocate that until, say, Nicaragua reaches environmental parity with the US, immigration from that country cannot be condoned. Leverage the developed world's wealth to get less developed nations to clean up their acts, instead of appearing to oppose wealth creation in itself.
Environmentalists could make an even more direct appeal to immigration restriction, of course--that more people mean more problems. But an article in the most recent issue of National Geographic illustrates this moral bankruptcy through its glaring omission of any mention of immigration in a 4,000-plus word feature about dry conditions in the American Southwest:
For most people in the region, the news hasn't quite sunk in. Between 2000 and 2006 the seven states of the Colorado basin added five million people, a 10 percent population increase. Subdivisions continue to sprout in the desert, farther and farther from the cities whose own water supply is uncertain. Water managers are facing up to hard times ahead. "I look at the turn of the century as the defining moment when the New West began," says Pat Mulroy, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. "It's like the impact of global warming fell on us overnight."It has been much warmer and drier in the past (the 20th Century was the wettest the American Southwest has seen in the last thousand years) of course, although there's not agreement on why. Yet the article takes as fact that CAGW is going to lead to a secular rise in temperature and dryness in this region. Whatever the prognosis going forward, the threat of the Colorado River being drained is being made more potent through rampant immigration from Latin America.
CAGW has many of the strappings of a religious movement. There are carbon offsets (indulgences); Chosen climate modelers (prophets) who can see a future that Others cannot; those who point out their failures to take into account various feedbacks and solar activity, or who more directly protest that global average temperatures have become slightly cooler over the last decade when a secular warming trend supposedly should be occuring, are attacked as deniers (false prophets); apocalyptic scenarios await a world that doesn't inact IPCC recommendations immediately (the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah); the messianic zeal with which all nations and people are urged to cut growth under threat of economic and social sanctions (conversion of pagans and smiting of heretics); the general circulation models are not falsifiable because they're predicting what will occur in the future (what Revelations says will happen at the end); etc.
I can understand the frustration atheists and agnostics have with the outwardly pious. In their certainty many will not give your skepticism the time of day. Parenthetically, if you're interested in that skepticism, the prolific Al Fin regularly features it in his posts.
*I made a few executive decisions in determining where certain countries fit. Sudan and Chad are both 'Islamic', Nigeria is 'African' (Huntington splits the three of them between those two civilizations), and the Philippines are Sinic (he labels them as both Western and Sinic). All of China is 'Sinic', though Huntington sensibly considers the Tibetan autonomous region to be Buddhist. Guyana is 'Hindu' since those of Indian descent comprise at least half of its population. I left Papua New Guinea out, even though Huntington bemusingly considers it Western, presumably due to the high percentage of the population that practices Christianity (exclusionary, I know!). Also, neither Fiji nor the Solomon Islands are included. Data via Swivel here.