Category Archives: green

In response to the Dark Side of Green

I’m posting this as a separate article in response to Trevor’s link to this Washington Times article since I’m coming to the party a bit late, and the comments on that post have already degenerated into a flamewar.

It’s difficult to analyze the claims John Berlau makes in that interview without reading his book for the full context, however I’ll do my best based on the interview. I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve got no love for the anti-human, Malthusian factions of the environmental movement (aka “dark greens”) and think most of the worry about “population control” is overblown. But Berlau makes some dubious straw-man arguments.

With regards to the claim that New Orleans would have been saved if it weren’t for environmental groups, Grist Magazine sheds some light on the subject with links to a couple rebuttals and, in the comments, a press release from Save Our Wetlands. The long and short of it is the lawsuit did not stop the development of the seagates and the seagates would not have prevented the disaster anyway. SOWA also argues that the disaster would have been worse if the seagates had been built, because there would have been more housing development in areas that were flooded.

The DDT/malaria debate has been an ongoing controversy. The Wikipedia entry on DDT has covers both sides of the argument. The questions that must be asked are whether the negative health effects of DDT spraying in the third world would out weigh the benefits and whether there are other means of fighting malaria. An EPA study indicates that DDT remains the cheapest insecticide for malaria control, but as demand for DDT decreases, the price increases. Meanwhile, the costs of certain other insecticides is dropping, indicating that the costs of malaria control may be based on economies of scale. Also, there is a promising malaria vaccine in the works.

I don’t recall ever hearing that trees cause air pollution before, I’d have to read Berlau’s evidence before responding. Who knows, he could be right.

“And, by effectively banning the family-size station wagon with fuel economy standards and trying to greatly downsize SUVs, environmentalists’ policies are achieving their goals of creating more difficulties for large families.”

This is probably the most absurd claim in the interview. Plenty of station wagons, mini-vans, and even SUVs meet fuel economy standards advocated by environmental groups. And I could have sworn the reason for fuel standards had something to with something called the greenhouse effect.

Robert Stacy McCain: The dark side of green

McCain: On a more serious note, how did environmentalists contribute to the disaster in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina?

John Berlau: They blocked the building of large steel and concrete floodgates around Lake Pontchartrain that the Corps of Engineers, the … state congressional delegation, and the New Orleans levee board had all endorsed as being able to provide the best protection against storm surge from hurricanes. The gates were similar to the folding “seagates” that were being built, and now have been built, in the Netherlands that only close during North Sea storms. Like those, these gates would have only closed during severe storms — blocking water from getting into Lake Pontchartrain and flooding New Orleans. Renowned hurricane experts say these gates would have likely prevented most of Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans. But the Environmental Defense Fund (now Environmental Defense) and the Louisiana group Save Our Wetlands persuaded a federal judge to halt the gates in 1977 because of the alleged damage they could do to fish, even though the project had already been granted a thumbs-up in a review from the Environmental Protection Agency.

[Interview continues at link. The moral I get from this is we cannot predict all of the outcomes of our decisions, thus much 'good guy / bad guy' style politics are likely mistaken.]

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