Archive for Environment

Endangered Species Saves Itself

Dave Killion — July 21, 2014

From CBS, comes the happy news “American Wood Stork taken off endangered list” –

The tall, bald wading birds that nest in swamps and coastal marshes from Florida to the Carolinas are now a “threatened” species, a step up that indicates the wood stork is no longer considered at risk of extinction, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced during a visit to Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, home to a large wood stork colony on the Georgia coast.”

The article cites habitat loss as largely responsible for the initial collapse of the Wood Stork population, despite a concurrent boom in the population of zebra finches, turkeys, budgies, and chickens. Worse yet, credit for the save is being given to the Obama administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Endangered Species Act, when in fact, the birds took matters into their own hands –

Researchers say the species has made a remarkable resurgence by expanding its territory from southern Florida – where 70 percent of the population once lived – to establish nesting colonies in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. After nesting season, wood storks also can be found in parts of Alabama and Mississippi.”

Were it not for the initiative shown by these determined creatures, the government would very likely have seen them shot, shoveled, and shut-upped into extinction rather than doing the right thing .

Oil Spills Indicate A Need For New Pipelines

Dave Killion — May 11, 2013

The Christian Science Monitor reports that foes of the Keystone Pipeline claim that a recent oil spill bolsters their opposition –

“The rupture of an ExxonMobil pipeline that sent a gooey black stream of heavy Canadian crude oozing across lawns and driveways in suburban Mayflower, Ark., (on March 29) has been seized upon by opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline as proof that the controversial project should be halted.

The break in the more-than-60-year-old Pegasus pipeline, environmentalists and homeowners say, illustrates the inability of oil pipeline companies to prevent spills that can wreak havoc on local environments, including important water aquifers along the 1,700 mile Keystone XL’s projected route. An Obama administration ruling on the pipeline is expected sometime this summer.”

If someone protests the construction of new oil pipelines, and insists that oil companies rely on pipelines that are getting older and older, which would you say that that person wants: fewer spills or more spills? And regardless what that person wants, what do you think they’ll get?

This Month’s Donation

Dave Killion — May 8, 2013

In keeping with my New Year’s resolutions, I have been making a $50 contribution to a worthy group every month. Because I am particularly upset this month over the recent rhino slaughter in Mozambique, I have selected the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) to be the recipient of my largesse. PERC gets the nod thanks to their recent hire of Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes as a Research Fellow –

“Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes is an environmental economist with a focus on the role of markets for biodiversity conservation. He has been active in various private conservation initiatives for 25 years, starting as a financial manager of a private game reserve in South Africa and later conducting research on the role of private markets for wildlife conservation in Africa.”

My first encounter with the work of Mr. ‘t Sas-Rolfes was his website Rhino Economics. He is a great addition to the PERC team, and I am happy to help them out.

 

Another Country Without Rhinos

Dave Killion — May 5, 2013

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,                                                 That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!(275)   “Julius Caesar

It is possible, I suppose, to be a libertarian and yet not think rhinos are awesome, but you wouldn’t be the kind of libertarian I could be friends with. But if you love rhinos ( as all good libertarians do), you will be broken- hearted to hear that the last known rhinos in Mozambique have been killed by poachers

“The 15 threatened animals were shot dead for their horns last month in the Mozambican part of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also covers South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They were thought to be the last of an estimated 300 that roamed through the special conservation area when it was established as “the world’s greatest animal kingdom” in a treaty signed by the three countries’ then presidents in 2002.”

And now they’re all gone. Had those rhinos been privately owned, one of them could have been sold to a trophy hunter, and the money used by self-interested businessmen to protect and breed the remainder. Mozambique could have had more rhinos, but instead, they have none. The prohibitionists had their way, and 15 rhinos have been slaughtered to the benefit of poachers, who will likely spend a fair bit on prostitutes, booze, and drugs, and nothing on conservation. Such a waste.

The State Testifies Against Itself

Dave Killion — March 25, 2013

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This photo comes from an article concerning a seizure of ivory from some poachers in Kenya. I imagine that the authorities like to promote pictures like this because they think it demonstrates that the government is effective in catching and punishing poachers. But it doesn’t. I have seen variations on this photo for decades. Piles of horns, piles of tusks, piles of hides. So many, in fact, that I am always surprised when I see another. It is as if traditional conservationists and their government enablers don’t see that these images no longer suggest the state is winning its battle against poaching and smuggling, but rather, have become evidence of the continued failure and devastating consequences of command-and-control wildlife management. The time is long past to place these vulnerable creatures into the hands of entrepreneurs, under whose care they will flourish, as do dogs, cats, horses, and all other animals in which private property can be held.

Random Thought

Dave Killion — December 17, 2012

Intellectually responsible people have been pointing out for some time that the environmental benefits attributed to electric vehicles are overstated, given that the lack of pollutants resulting from running the vehicle are offset by the pollution produced by the coal-fired power plants that generate the electricity to begin with. However, after posting about the astonishing decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that has occurred in the U.S. (due, in large part, to fracking), I recall that much of the decrease is the result of coal-fired electrical plants being converted to run on natural gas. I think it’s quite likely that some recalculations will soon show that although electric cars are still not quite so benign as boosters claim, they are significantly better than they used to be.

Good News That You Aren’t Hearing About

Dave Killion — December 12, 2012

If you follow the libertarian news media, you have probably already heard about this

 “In a welcome development almost no one saw coming, America’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to 1992 levels and are expected to continue to decline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA)”…. “In addition to a sluggish economy and more fuel efficient cars, “fracking” has been a big driver of this trend. “Fracking” is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock. The EIA projects U.S. greenhouse emissions will fall below 2005 levels by 2040″….”The boom in domestic natural gas production has really been the biggest macro economic development of 2012 — even if the election, the fiscal cliff and various other concerns have overshadowed it.”

The U.S. was the only advanced nation not to  sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, and yet while other nations (such as Canada) have either dropped out of the Protocol or admitted that they will not meet its objectives, the U.S. will match those targets without having resorted to destructive taxes or cap-and-trade schemes.

This is a remarkable achievement, yet the media have been largely silent on the matter. There is no doubt in my mind that if the U.S. was a Kyoto Protocol signatory, and emissions were at the levels they are now, politicians (and their journalist lackeys) would be bringing the topic up at every opportunity.

Double Standard

Dave Killion — December 4, 2012

Don’t worry… it breaks down naturally!

Governments in general, and their militaries in particular, are the greatest polluters and most environmentally destructive institutions that exist. However, environmentalists, voters, and the media seldom hold the state to account for its ecologically unsound practices. Witness the government road network, from which has spewed countless tons of toxic gases and minerals. Were this network in private hands, is there any doubt the public would be baying for protection and restitution? Sadly, the outrage of those aforementioned groups (manipulated by politicians to their own benefit) is reserved entirely for private entities.

For a more current example, recall the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The howling of the media and the professional environmentalists was deafening, and predictably accompanied by the stern assurances of the U.S. administration that B.P. would not only pay, but pay and pay and pay and pay….

Contrast that to the numerous accounts of raw sewage flooding east coast waterways during and after Hurricane Sandy. Although the media was able to rouse itself to report some of the spills, its tone was very temperate, even compared to the non-response of environmental groups. The very fact that sewage is treated  prior to disposal is sufficient evidence that it, like oil, must be extremely detrimental to both human health and the environment, particularly when contamination occurs on a large scale. But has the government condemned its own irresponsibility with the same vigour it exercised over the Gulf Oil spill? Not on your life –

“Officials say there are no cleanup plans because raw sewage breaks down and gets diluted in large bodies of water. But they advise people to stay away from flood waters and assume they’re contaminated. (Connecticut) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy quipped that people should avoid eating clams and oysters from Long Island Sound.”

Thanks for the tip! Of course, it was pointed out that oil in the Gulf would also break down and dilute in that large body of water, but no one found that response particularly satisfying. Luckily for Governor Malloy and his peers, accountability appears not to be something politicians need worry about.

 

Fish In The Desert

Dave Killion — October 28, 2012

In the United Arab Emirates, over 150 miles inland of the Persian Sea, something miraculous has been born in the desert: a freshwater lake

“Drive through the desert in the United Arab Emirates, and all you see mile after mile are red, rolling dunes. Maybe some occasional trees or shrubs, but otherwise a dry, red sandscape. And then, suddenly, a bright blue spot comes into view. It must be a mirage, you think. But it’s not. The water’s edge comes right up to the sand, the wet and the dry, kissing. The wind whips across the blue water’s surface, pushing it into a light chop. And wispy reeds in the center of the lake flutter in the breeze.”

The lake appeared only a few years ago, and has risen 35 feet in the past year alone. An increasing variety of birds are found annually, and thanks to heron that have  unknowingly transported eggs on their bodies from other lakes, even fish have begun to populate the lake. The lake is man-made… but not by design –

A desalination plant right on the coast pulls in saltwater from the Persian Gulf and makes that water drinkable and usable. The water is then pumped 150 miles inland to the city of Al Ain. The residents there drink it up, bathe with it and then flush it down their drains.

“It goes to the sewage treatment plant, and they treat it, and they bring it back into town. And they water the parks and the gardens and things like that, and that percolates down into the groundwater,” (U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist DavidClark says.

And then it ends up in the desert, a short distance from Al Ain, by percolating back up from the ground.”

The new bio-system naturally comes at the expense of a portion of the existing system, but there is little of the former and a great deal of the latter, so the benefits of increasing local bio-diversity appear to have come at a low cost. And perhaps in time the lake will grow to such a size that it can replace some (or all) of the water provided by the desalinization plant. This would be a tremendous energy savings. This lake, and others like it, are a testimonial to the creative role humanity plays in the environment.

Subsidies And Responsibility

Dave Killion — August 13, 2012

This level of confinement is probably excessive.

I have never been a cat person, mostly because all the dogs I have known could have weighed three hundred pounds and never been anything but the sweet-natured companions they were, while any cat that weighed three hundred pounds would certainly have tortured me to death just for sport. Well, it turns out that people who subsidize these little killing machines by providing food, shelter, and health care, all without confinement, are accountable for a great deal of butchery

“That mouse carcass Kitty presents you with is just the tip of a very bloody iceberg. When researchers attached kittycams to house cats, they found a secret world of slaughter…

…The carnage cuts across species. Lizards, snakes and frogs made up 41% of the animals killed, Loyd and fellow researcher Sonia Hernandez found. Mammals such as chipmunks and voles were 25%, insects and worms 20% and birds 12%. “

The camera footage indicates that for every one animal a cat brings home, three to four are either eaten or left to rot. Equally disconcerting is the danger to which these beloved pets are exposed. They are equally menacing and menaced. The cats, of course, are hardly to blame for this. It is only their nature that drives their behaviour. But this is as true with human beings as it is with felines. Once you elect to subsidize someone’s education, employment, upkeep, or lifestyle, you must be very careful to consider the consequences of that subsidy. To do otherwise is to cultivate behaviour that is either harmful to the individual, harmful to society, or perhaps even both.