Green political activism is inferior to free market environmentalism |

Green political activism is inferior to free market environmentalism

Right Angles
James D. Kellogg
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
James D. Kellogg

I’m a proponent of free market environmentalism, a philosophy founded on the constitutional rule of law, property rights, and free markets. These principles are fundamental to the economic growth and prosperity of the United States of America.

The correlation between an increased standard of living and a commitment to environmental stewardship is irrefutable. Liberty fosters enterprise, property rights allow environmental elements to become assets, and capitalism provides the means to engage in cooperative trade that benefits our environment.

On the contrary, the green political activism of groups like the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) is rooted in the ideology of social equity and restricted economic activity. ICLEI advocates assert that environmental quality and conservation are dependent on zealous government regulation and control.

At best, this approach is detrimental to economies and counter-productive to conservation and environmental preservation.

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Just as free societies are preferable to socialist states, free market environmentalism is superior to green political activism. Becoming a true environmentalist involves far more than buying local, stuffing everything in the recycling bin and banning plastic bags.

Entrepreneurs who adopt the free market environmentalism philosophy devise smarter solutions to environmental problems. Instead of more regulation, government bureaucracy, and financial waste, they focus on the convergence of profit and conservation.

Businesses and private individuals can accomplish any environmental goal if they have the opportunity to prosper from their efforts through markets.

As a case in point, free market environmentalism entrepreneurs have been instrumental in setting up water banks in Colorado. A water bank uses free-market transactions to facilitate the transfer of water rights between water rights owners and those in need of additional water supplies. Confusion and costs associated with trading water are reduced while the potential for water shortages are alleviated.

On the other hand, green political activism focuses on programs like curbside recycling, which is mandated in many communities. It feels good, as long as we ignore the fact that this endeavor depends on more trucks. That means more steel and rubber, more fuel, and more emissions. The end result is consumption of valuable resources and a net negative effect on the environment.

Long before local governments contemplated recycling, it was a productive and essential part of the market system in manufacturing.

Informed voluntary recycling programs driven by private industry actually conserve resources and increase wealth.

Free market environmentalism approaches often utilize symbiotic business relationships, in which the waste of one manufacturer is sold as a raw material for another industry. That’s critical, because recycling itself is a manufacturing process with environmental impacts.

Of course, any discussion of the environment must include mention of “green jobs.” Green political activists have prompted every level of government to embrace measures aimed at creating these fabled careers.

Proposals are built on government subsidies for favored technologies and wishful thinking about alternative energy sources. Accordingly, states such as Colorado adopt mandates that require power companies to produce power from renewable sources. This makes energy more expensive and less reliable, with negligible effect on the local environment.

Those who espouse free market environmentalism understand that energy efficiency is a critical component of the free market. Companies that reduce the cost of desired goods and services through reduced energy consumption reap economic rewards. Without a doubt, there are boundless opportunities to develop new energy resources, industries and jobs. Ultimately, market-based competition will be the catalyst of these advancements.

There’s plenty of evidence that governments are poor environmental stewards. And special interest-driven regulation is punitive and ineffective.

It’s time to implement smarter solutions to environmental goals. The free market environmentalism strategy entails liberty and economics instead of political activism. By focusing on profits, capitalism can be the engine for true long-term environmental sustainability.

James D. Kellogg of New Castle is a professional engineer, the author of the novel “E-Force,” and the founder of Contact him at

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