Natural Capitalism ; Reconciling Ecology and Economics to Improve Everyone's Standard of Living

By Brad Knickerbocker writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 4, 2001 | Go to article overview

Natural Capitalism ; Reconciling Ecology and Economics to Improve Everyone's Standard of Living


Brad Knickerbocker writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Around the world, there are stark reminders of the impact that economic decisions can have on the environment: the Dalmatian coast of Croatia denuded of trees cut for shipbuilding, California's Owens Valley sucked dust-dry of water to supply Los Angeles, desertification in Africa due to overcultivation and overgrazing.

That's pretty much been the history of civilization, right up to the Three Gorges Dam in China - the largest hydropower project in the history of the world. When completed, critics warn, it will inundate 244 square miles, threatening already-endangered wildlife and forcing the relocation of at least 1 million people.

To a lesser degree, the reverse is true. Recent efforts to protect the environment have hindered economic growth: coastal zoning regulations blocking new resorts, clean-air and clean-water statutes restricting industrial output, endangered-species laws preventing housing developments and farming in certain areas.

This apparent conflict between ecology and economy - felt deeply and fought fiercely by partisans on both sides - is etymologically ironic. Both words come from the same Greek root - oikos, meaning household or habitat.

But now there are growing signs that these two contentious symbols of how we treat - and are sustained by - the earth are coming together. One is the tendency among pro-environment thinkers and activists to tout the necessity of factoring in the environment when gauging economic well-being and setting policy (promoting "Natural Capitalism," to use the title of a recent book on the subject).

At the same time, there is a more conservative line of scholarship and advocacy that emphasizes "market environmentalism" - the belief that private property and self-interest lead to environmental protection. Or as Aldo Leopold, conservationist and author of "A Sand County Almanac," once wrote: "Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest."

While no one is proclaiming a new age of peace and love between the two, environmentalists and free marketeers are finding ways to work together for mutual benefit.

For example, Environmental Defense recently teamed up with the Political Economy Research Center to protect fisheries. (Environmental Defense is a national research and advocacy organization with a staff of more than 75 scientists, economists, and attorneys. PERC, based in Bozeman, Mont., studies ways to apply "free market environmentalism" to problems involving natural resources and pollution.)

What both organizations would like to see - and are pushing Congress to authorize - is the use of "individual transferable quotas" (ITQ's) as a regulatory tool to reduce overfishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Set by management agencies, ITQ's would limit the commercial catch while allowing fishermen to buy and sell permits. Other environmental groups, including Greenpeace, argue against any scheme that acknowledges the right to own a natural resource - in essence, a property right.

But Environmental Defense economist Peter Emerson says "providing better economic returns for fishermen" has to be a part of addressing the troubling decline in fisheries around the world. And this in turn means finding ways to reduce "excess capacity" - the number of fishing boats scrambling after a dwindling resource.

For free marketeers at PERC, this would be an important step toward letting commercial markets and property rights help protect the environment.

While this coming together of interests is unusual, it is not unique. The two organizations have worked together to promote water markets (programs for buying and selling water rights in the thirsty West), to end below-cost timber sales on national forests, and to urge the "polluter pays" principle in determining who bears the cost of environmental cleanup. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Natural Capitalism ; Reconciling Ecology and Economics to Improve Everyone's Standard of Living
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.