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Thirty years of competition between undue alarmism and unthinking skepticism have confused environmental issues in the minds of most Americans.
On the one hand, we have those who are convinced, despite the evidence, that environmental catastrophe is imminent and, without a drastic change of human lifestyle, unavoidable.
On the other hand, we have those who are convinced, also despite the evidence, that human life has no discernible impact on the ecosystems within which it thrives.
Neither group serves humanity well. It's time for clear thinking on environmental policy, and it's time for the federal government to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The first thing that we have to realize is that property rights and free markets are essential protectors of, not detrimental to, a clean, sustainable environment.
Although the phenomenon was most pronounced in Eastern Europe during the heyday of the Soviet Union, it is also discernible in America: Government is the biggest polluter, and the biggest facilitator of pollution.
If we're going to preserve and redeem our environment, we must first understand that pollution is not mitigated by policies which legitimize it and even facilitate the trade of "pollution credits" -- a quantified, qualified "right to pollute." Pollution, properly understood, is an offense against the property rights of those whom it affects, and should be considered an actionable tort to be adjudicated by the legal system.
Secondly, we must do away with corporate welfare and its kissing cousin, "public property." When we vest control of our forests and other wild lands in government, why are we then surprised when politicians turn around and sell timber and mining "rights" -- at lower than market prices, and with taxpayer-subsidized roads to facilitate exploitation thrown in -- to the corporate interests which support their aspirations to greater power and longer political careers?
The fact is that when an individual or a business owns property, there's a built-in incentive to steward that property. When "the public" owns property, the only incentive is for everyone to "get theirs" -- and the corporations wield more influence in deciding how much is "theirs" than you or I do.
As your President, one of my first priorities would be ending corporate welfare and federal regulation that facilitates, rather than fights, pollution.
In tandem with ending that regulation, I'd work to ensure a strong judicial system for handling tort claims relating to the real damage that real pollution does to real people and their property.
Finally, I'd work to get "public" lands into private hands. Our environment has been harmed, not helped, by the movement to keep environmentally significant lands under the control of politicians.
If organizations like the Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club are serious about preserving wilderness areas, I want to give them the opportunity to do so -- by selling those areas to them. It is my considered opinion that Americans value these lands -- from Yosemite to Yellowstone, from Allegheny to Winema -- enough to care for them rather than trusting them to a government that has failed to do so properly.
The main objection I've heard to this idea is that these lands are "priceless."
Experience has proven that conjecture false. Everything has a price, and our politicians have sold our environment out from under us at bargain-basement rates.
The real question is whether those who claim to care about the environment are willing to put their money where their mouths are -- to pay the price -- or whether they'd prefer to continue playing the losing game of trusting politicians not to act like politicians. The latter is a really bad bet -- and the stakes are
"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."--Voltaire
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