Archive for the ‘WWF’ Category

The Mises Blog on climate change: a beacon of "dim rhetoric" on a surprisingly successful "Earth Hour"

March 31st, 2009 No comments

The Ludwig von Mises Institute (which kindly hosts these pages!) continues to outdo itself on providing empty climate posts, this time by bringing us a new author, Jason King (completely new to LvMI, and apparently with no prior internet-searchable commentary whatsoever).   How is it that LvMI is proving so singularly effective in telling us so little about Austrian perspectives on climate, climate politics and climate policy?

Mr. King presents us with “The Law of Intended Darkness”, a puzzlingly empty Mises Daily essay  that criticizes “Earth Hour” that – as a gesture to symbolize public support for political, corporate, community and personal action regarding climate change – was staged around the world last Saturday, March 28th, between 8:30 and 9:30 pm, with participating communities, firms and individuals shutting off non-essential lights for one hour.  

Mr. King’s chief points are (1) to criticize the Earth Hour for being likely ineffective, in and of itself, in affecting energy use over the course of an hour, and (2) so to conclude that participation in the Earth Hour must be intended to be symbolic.  Mr. King concludes with a triumphant report that the main sponsors of the event, the internationally well-regarded World Wildlife Fund, have themselves stressed that “The purpose of the event [is] not to save money or power. It’s a symbolic event”, but what Mr. King reveals instead is that he has completely failed to examine whether Earth Hour might be effective on its intended terms of symbolic speech. 

Rather than considering whether the event has been or is likely to be effective – from the point of the sponsors and participants – in gathering support and galvanizing action, what Mr. King has done is to wasted our time with his own essentially idle and rather poor speculations as to whether Earth Hour might be effective in reducing energy use for an hour – a goal that the organizers have expressly said is not their primary purpose.   As a result, Mr. King has in effect told us nothing. Mr. King argues that, since “the effects of Earth Hour boil down to dim rhetoric,” “as much attention should be placed on humanity’s hot air footprint as its carbon one.”  Cute, but this time the dim rhetoric and the hot air all Mr. King’s own.

Too bad – one wonders not only about whether Earth Hour might be effective on its own terms, but what are the aims of the project and its many corporate, municipal and individual participants, whether such aims are consistent with liberty or Austrian principles, or, if, not, what approaches are preferable for dealing with conflicting preferences regarding open-access resources in which there are no effective property rights.  Should citizens be seeking particular actions from their governments to deal with a collective problem that cannot be solved purely by private transactions and that requires international action?  All of this beef seems simply too much for LvMI and its readers to chew.

To tip my own hand, I noted last year Gene Callahan’s point that, with respect to climate change as much as for other matters,  public moral pressure is a perfectly appropriate way by which concerned citizens, acting in the market of public opinion, can influence behavior that generates externalities.  Further, given the nature of the atmosphere, any effective approach to climate change requires multilateral action (and as no single government can force a solution on others, this looks like Coasean bargaining, not Pigovian rule-making), and I hardly expect that we can expect to address global issues such as climate change without involving our governments (which don’t appear anxious to step out of the way in any event).

The inquiring reader – hardly in evidence on the related blog thread – is forced to do his own research about this, the third annual  “Earth Hour”, which was apparently a fairly strong success.   Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour.  In 2008 some 53 million people and 371 cities in 35 countries switched off their lights, including global landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square.  WWF reports that participation grew strongly in 2009, to hundreds of millions of people in over 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countriesMany more landmark buildings around the world switched off this year, including the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas strip, Niagara Falls, the Eiffel Tower, Rio de Janiero’s statue of “Christ the Redeemer,” Athens’s Acropolis, Egypt’s Great Pyramids, Table Mountain in Cape Town, the Merlion in Singapore, Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, the Shanghai Hong Kong New World Tower, and the London Eye.

Those interested in who participated and why might take a further look at the Earth Hour site linked above and here and here.

And as for thoughtful engagement regarding climate on the front pages of Mises Daily and the Mises Economic Blog?  Hope springs eternal.  At least LvMI and its editor, Jeffrey Tucker, allow an open discussion and are not running a corporate-funded spin site like Rob Bradley‘s “Master Resource” blog, which bans dissenters and refuses to acknowledge Exxon’s explicit support for carbon taxes.

Environmental damage as theft: report by prominent enviros "highlights the need for secure ownership of wildlife resources by poor people"

June 2nd, 2008 No comments

Yes, even enviros recognize the importance of clear and enforceable property rights in protecting wlidlife.

A new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF finds that “Well-managed wildlife trade has the potential to deliver significant development benfits for the world’s poor.”   According to a press release, the report “In particular, … highlights the need for secure ownership of wildlife resources by poor people.”  The press release further noted:

According to Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International’s Species Programme: “Trade in wildlife products can have a significant positive economic impact on people’s livelihoods, childhood education, and the role of women in developing countries, provided it is legal, well-managed and sustainable.”

Conversely, wholesale ‘plundering’ of natural resources and illegal trade not only deplete wildlife populations, but also deprive poor communities of vital livelihood benefits. 

It’s good to see important environmentalists becoming quasi-Austrians in recognizing that property rights deficiencies – and the stripping of resources by non-owners – lie at the core of environmental problems.

Categories: enviros, property rights, TRAFFIC, wildlife, WWF Tags: