For years now we've been hearing an ever growing chorus about the need for conservation. Lately the cry for recycling, using less plastic, less water, less fuel, etc. is deafening. As the volume has increased, I have grown more and more uncomfortable with this whole idea of conservation. Something just didn't seem right about it.
Whenever "everyone" is saying something I start looking for the angle. I've come firmly to the conclusion over the years that the politically correct position always has a fallacy at its core. Political correctness is a technique used to pressure people into doing something they wouldn't do on their own or isn't in their best interest. So I've been searching for that fallacy in politically correct conservationism. Here is what I've realized.
At the core of the conservation argument is the idea that mankind harms the earth by the consumption necessary in everyday living. I have long been aware of the left's belief that humanity is a parasite on the earth. In their opinion, if it wasn't for mankind, the earth would be a beautiful, pristine place. You can see this premise on display in the History Channel's recent production "Life After People" or the National Geographic Channel's "Human Footprint."
There are two aspects this position. One, that we are raping the earth by harvesting natural resources and that two, we pollute the earth when we consume them. I contend that both premises are flawed.
Resources are product of humanity, not the earth. Sure, resources come from the earth, but they are useless to us until someone converts them to a useful form. Oil was an annoyance to land owners until a human being discovered it could be used for fuel and learned how to convert it into that useful form.
This is why the "population alarmists" have it all backwards. We need more people, not less. Humanity is the world's greatest resource. The greatest threat future western nation’s face is declining populations. None of them are reproducing and are no longer having children at replacement rates.
So why conserve oil? Oil has completely changed the quality of life for millions! It has done so in every way conceivable. Every aspect of our lives is better because of what the energy in oil is able to do for us. Here is the only reason I know of to conserve oil: you want to reduce the amount of money you spend on it. For me it is a purely financial decision. As far as I'm concerned, if you have decided that consuming energy is more valuable than the money in your pocket - then you must have determined that it will improve your life or the world around you to some degree more than the money was worth. Because consuming energy has a cost - it's use must have a tangible benefit to people or else they would save the money and use it for other purposes.
The critic of my position will no doubt say that people should use less because of the resulting pollution. (The other half of the "humans are destroying the earth" premise). I believe this premise is flawed as well. Pollution is not a product of consumption; it is a product of poverty. Prosperous, free people want to live in clean environments and they will pressure polluters using any means available (product boycotts, government action, picketing, etc) to clean up their act. Compare the environment in any free, prosperous country to any socialistic, non-free country. Athletes don't even want to compete in china due to the dirty air. Poor people care about eating - prosperous people care about everything else. PC Conservationism, if it had its way, would ultimately do more damage to the environment by spreading poverty.
When we decide to conserve, we're actually saying that we will deprive another human being the opportunity to provide us with that service or product. I don't think anyone wants the public to be pressured into not to buying their product. I don't want people to conserve when it comes to the services I provide. The price and your budget will force you to conserve appropriately. If you can afford something and have determined that your life would be better off if you had it/used it, then buy it - don't let the PC police deprive you and the seller of the benefit of the exchange.
PC conservationism shames people into avoiding consuming, which really just means, stop putting your fellow man to work. Furthermore, it demonizes the people and companies that transform the world from a wild and savage place into a comfortable and enjoyable place to be.
The beauty of the free market and freedom in general is that even the laziest man is required to serve his fellowman in order to provide for his basic needs. Our hunger drives us to serve our fellowman, and the needs of our fellowman that we are able to meet with our skills, energy, and resources provide the income that satisfies our hunger.
But if you have served your fellow man, made your money, then you should feel free to use that money in whatever way you see fit. I personally give a set percentage away, save a set percentage for the future, then use the rest to provide for my family's needs and bring pleasure to our lives. The consumption I engage in at that level is healthy and right. It puts people to work providing the services that I consume.
I am not going to be guilted by the PC Conservation Police to use some resource less than my finances allow based on their belief that I'm destroying the world.