I'm a big fan of George Will. He's easily one of the most entertaining and articulate pundits on ABC's This Week and he's a damn fine writer. Besides, my Dad loved the guy. Which is why it was so disappointing to read Will's column on the polar bear listing in today's Washington Post.
It's not just that Will recycles the same old tired arguments against listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, it's that he obviously has made no serious effort to engage the scientific evidence supporting polar bear protection. Instead, recalling that in the 1970's scientists were predicting another ice age, he falls back on some very poor logic: predictions about the climate were wrong thirty years ago so they must be wrong today. This despite what I would think is a pretty obvious point--our ability to use computers to perform complex modeling has increased quite a bit since the 1970s.
Then Will pivots, citing conservationists supposed "hostility to markets" and concludes:
Today's "green left" is the old "red left" revised. Marx, a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist, prophesied deepening class conflict but thought that history's violent dialectic would culminate in a revolution that would usher in material abundance and such spontaneous cooperation that the state would wither away.
The green left preaches pessimism: Ineluctable scarcities (of energy, food, animal habitat, humans' living space) will require a perpetual regime of comprehensive rationing. The green left understands that the direct route to government control of almost everything is to stigmatize, as a planetary menace, something involved in almost everything -- carbon.
This is an old and ugly smear that, much like Will's logic about global warming, seems frozen in time. If it ever was, today's environmental movement is certainly not hostile to all markets. Indeed, when it comes to global warming most conservation groups support a market-based trading system for carbon. NRDC recently founded a Center for Market Innovation because we recognize the important role that markets have in solving our environmental problems. The truth is that the environmental movement is much more pragmatic than Will gives it credit for. Conservationists don't want control, we just want to solve problems. It's too bad that Will hasn't bothered to update his thinking recently.