Jun 152010

WSJ headline: “U.S. to Demand BP Fund

That is an inaccurate headline, of course. It’s the Obama administration that’s asking for it, not the U.S. The U.S. has laws against extortion. A better headline is a small blurb on the same page on which the misleading one appeared: “The White House plans to ask BP for a damage fund.”

If there is such an escrow account, though, who would keep the money for safekeeping and administer it? The Obama administration is not eligible, because its policy of nationalizing any industry within reach creates a conflict of interest.

The British government also has a conflict of interest.

The United Nations? The money would be gone in a day if deposited there.

Here are my three nominees:

  • The government of Ireland. The Irish have no great love for the Brits or for America, but get along reasonably well with both.
  • The government of the Czech Republic. Václav Klaus can be trusted not to be easily intimidated.
  • The government of Georgia. This would help focus more attention on a country that needs it. And Georgia would have great motivation not to mess up.
Aug 082009

One of the great thing about government ownership of the means of production is that development doesn’t need to be held back by environmental constraints. Take the nationalization of GM and Chrysler, for example. Now that a powerful government monopoly owns large portions of those two companies, they are able to walk away from responsibility for their polluted properties. (Detroit Free Press article here.) It’s not quite the same as what happened around the Sea of Azov, but there are significant similarities.

Ford, which is in a very different relationship to these same monopolists, still bears responsibility for its environmental problems. Dirty capitalists like that should expect to pay the price.

It’s not just the environment. It should also be pointed out that the same process of nationalization can also help us deal with our health care problems.

Oct 312008

Your average “environmentalist,” given a choice between growing the government and doing something good for the environment, will throw the environment under the bus every time. I’ve been saying that for several years now, but Steve Sailor suggests that a new opportunity may be coming whereby these people can prove me right again. It’s in his article, “Infrastructure blowout.”

The usual tax and spend crowd wants the govt to spend money on infrastructure to boost the economy. But it takes a lot of time to do any big projects, given the need for environmental impact statements and other hurdles. Steve asks, “Is the Democratic Congress really going to suspend the Environmental Protection Act and all the rest of the environmental impedimentia?”

The answer is: Sure it will, if that’s what’s needed to grow the government. But keep in mind that boosting the economy is not really the point, either. Growing the government is the main objective, and that can be accomplished by 15-year spending plans that do have to go through all the environmental motions.

Jun 072008

USA Today: “Fewer roads will be repaved this summer, thanks to soaring prices of oil-based asphalt.”
That’s pretty much what I expected. And it’s worse here in Calhoun County, Michigan. Forget re-paving. We don’t even get patches, except that here and there a road crew will throw some asphalt in the general direction of the potholes. I used to say that the worst roads in southern Michigan were in the two extreme corner counties: Berrien and Monroe. I used to defend other Michigan roads when out-of-state riders criticized them. Used to. My county of Calhoun is now competing heavily with Berrien and Monroe for worst place. At the rate it’s going, it will take 10 years to patch last winter’s damage. Pretty soon we could just replace some of the paved roads with gravel, like in Hall County, Nebraska. I can deal with it. I can get wider tires for my bicycle. And maybe it will help bring property values and property taxes down, too. That’s life under Bernanke’s weak dollar regime.

Dec 072007


This photo belongs in my Spokesrider blog, but it belongs here, too. It was taken at the end of the most unusual segment of a 3-day Labor Day weekend bike tour back in 1998. There is a connection to that article that Eunice Yu and Jianguo Liu wrote about the “Environmental impacts of divorce.” (I’ll get around to explaining the bike tour part over at The Spokesrider.)

I’m going to get started here WITHOUT explaining just yet how that photo fits.

In their conclusions, Yu and Liu explain that their paper is about more than just divorce.

Divorce is just one mechanism that leads to a decline in household size and extra households. Other mechanisms include declines in multigenerational households, delays in first marriage, increases in empty-nesters, and increases in separated couples. These alternate lifestyles may create environmental impacts similar to divorce through a reduction in average household size and an increase in the number of households. As global human values continue to shift toward greater autonomy and choice, the environmental impacts of increasing divorce will continue unless effective policies to minimize household dissolution are implemented or divorced households are able to improve their resource-use efficiency.

That last sentence seems to be a call for greater government action of a kind that leftwingers might like (though the very next sentence gives an example of how government restrictions on divorce don’t necessarily work). But I would like to point out that maybe it’s too much government action that has caused some of this autonomy that degrades the environment in the first place.

Take SCHIP, for example. It’s far from the first instance where government has taken over the role of parents, making their role less important. When government plays daddy and mommy to kids and provides their health care, then the decision-making process that led to daddy and mommy getting married in the first place is not such a terrifyingly important one. They can marry for what seems like love, or excitement, without really asking themselves if the other person is a good one with whom to make a lifelong committment. If it doesn’t work out and it ends in divorce, well, the government will help pick up the pieces. SCHIP just carries this shift in the role of marriage and parenthood a little further.

And if the Yu/Liu connection is correct, things like SCHIP may be responsible for environmental degredation.

There are some counterarguments that I’m not going to go into just yet. Nor have I explained yet what that photo has to do with it. Later.

Dec 062007

Michigan State University recently put out a press release about Dr. Jianguo Liu’s work connecting divorce rates with environmental degradation. Title: “A really inconvenient truth: Divorce is not green.”

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Liu some time back when he gave a talk about the habitat requirements of pandas in China. It was a good talk, and ranged over more ground than what’s mentioned in this press release.

But I do remember him mentioning the connection between divorce rates and habitat loss. More divorces mean fewer people per dwelling, which means more dwellings and less habitat for pandas.

I thought to myself at the time that it was just like in C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Great Divorce”. Lewis drew a picture of hell (not at all to be taken literally) as a place much like earth, except a little drearier, and where the houses are of poorer quality. This “hell” was a place that was constantly expanding, because when people didn’t get along, instead of reconciling they just moved a little farther apart from each other.

And Dr. Liu has shown that it’s actually true in another sense. When people don’t get along, they get divorced and live apart from each other, which raises hell with the environment.

The title of the book has to do with a divorce between heaven and hell, not with marital relations per se, but it’s interesting how it all fits together anyway.

I got to thinking of the book several days ago when I heard about the new movie, “The Wristcutters.” When I heard it described by someone who had seen it, I mentioned that it sounded like it could have been inspired in part by C.S. Lewis’s image of hell. A little googling told me I wasn’t the first person to make that connection.

And now, there is another connection for his book. The MSU press release contains links to places where it says one can download the article, but I’ve had absolutely no luck finding it in either of those places. So I fired off an e-mail to Dr. Liu asking about it, and also mentioning The Great Divorce. Maybe he will be amused. I had meant to tell him about it back when I heard his talk, and then completely forgot about it until now.

Sep 292007

District 3 schoolyard

This photo is dredged up from what once was a web site of mine, circa 1995. I got it to go with an article in the Weekend Edition of the WSJ, titled “Inconvenient Youths.” Here are samples:

In households across the country, kids are going after their parents for environmental offenses, from using plastic cups to serving non-grass-fed beef at the dinner table. Many of these kids are getting more explicit messages about becoming eco-warriors at school and from popular books and movies.


Some parents object to what they see as proselytizing by their kids’ schools. Mark D. Hill, who until recently was chairman of the Republican party in Marin County, says some mothers called him upset when their children came home from Bacich Elementary School in Kentfield, Calif., with fliers stuffed in their backpacks advertising a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.” The parents thought the public school shouldn’t promote the screening, which was paid for by a local parent, because they considered it a political statement.

Sally Peck, the principal of Bacich, disagrees. “We have a responsibility to educate our children,” she says.

Mr. Hill says the mothers worried their children would be criticized if they spoke out, so they kept their names secret. “It’s very scary for mothers,” he says. “They kind of go with the programs because they don’t want to be viewed as trouble-makers.”

It would seem that Principal Sally Peck is having trouble distinguishing indoctrination from education.   These people think it’s OK to indoctrinate kids in environmental morality, but watch what happens when you suggest that kids be taught sexual morality.

But it can’t be helped.  Some sort of morality is going to be taught.

Here’s an idea, and this is where the photo comes in.   The photo is of the old District No. 3 schoolyard in Bazile Mills, Nebraska.  It was taken a couple of hours before my first bike tour ever, in summer 1995.  The school was long gone, but I’m showing my youngest son where we used to play softball.  When I was a kid we lived in a house to the right of the church in the photo, where my father was pastor.   We usually walked to school across that field.

It was a two-room public school, and when the school consolidation movement came to Nebraska in the 1950s there was a big battle over whether the school should be closed and consolidated with the Creighton school, three miles away.   My parents were on the anti-consolidation side.   They were so unhappy with the high-handed techniques that had been used in an attempt to close the school that when it came time for me to go to high school, they didn’t send me to Creighton.  They instead sent me to a smaller school to the north at Center, on the edge of the Santee Sioux reservation.   I was fortunate to have had that experience — both the school experience and the witnessing of what my parents did to try to  preserve quality of education.

What does that have to do with our little eco-warriors?   Well, if teachers really want to teach about cutting down on greenhouse gases, they will want to teach the kids that the school districts should be broken up into small neighborhood schools — us-consolidated, if you will,  so that not so much fuel will need to be burned transporting kids to school and school activities.

One photo I didn’t find was of the area at the base of the Gull Creek valley in Kalamazoo County, MI.  That used to be the prettiest little valley in Kalamazoo County.  It reminded me of Ireland somewhat.  But when the community of Galesburg decided to build a new school, they did the same as so many others and built it out in the country where there was room for massive parking lots for all the kids who drive to school.   It destroyed the lower end of that little valley.  And who can blame kids for driving, or parents for driving their young ones, when the alternative is that abomination known as the school bus Whether children travel by bus or by car, if schools were unconsolidated it would make a huge difference in greenhouse gas emissions.

But no, just the opposite is being done.  Our Gull Lake school district recently closed a fine little elementary school in Bedford — the one my youngest son attended.    Now kids have to be transported a much greater distance to a centralized school.   Given that research has shown that smaller community schools usually provide better education, the school district isn’t going to have much credibility the next time it appeals for more money.

Of course, teachers and administrators are -not- going to advocate decentralization.  Doing so would give parents a greater say in their children’s education, which is anathema to the modern educational establishment.  Environmental issues are OK up to a point, and that is one of those points.