Environmentalism has been a replacement for fading mainline Christian progressive faiths. The language is often blatantly religious- “saving” the earth from rape and pillage, building “cathedrals” in the wilderness; constructing a new “Noahs Ark” with laws such as the Endangered Species Act; taking steps to revert the earth to its “original nature’ and so on.
Most environmentalists argue that the environment should be preserved like a classic work of art. This is an example of a major problem within environmentalism—the denial of individual valuations of resources in accordance with individual goals. They suppose that individuals have identical tastes and preferences and do not come up with different plans. It is taken for granted that one would not think of using a painting on canvas for anything other than visual contemplation. And, indeed, most of us would never dream of using a painting to patch a hole in a roof or shield oneself from the scorching sun.
Nature is not so exclusively suited to the fulfillment of one purpose. Parts of nature have value to the individual according to how well each meets that individual's specific goals. Unlike a painting, where the highest valued use is (in most people's minds) its visual appearance, a tree serves multiple, mutually exclusive goals. In both cases, value is inseparable from the realization of individual goals. The same natural resource (an acre of land, for example) might be used to feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, clothe the naked, or simply viewed for its wonder.
Value is related to how much one is willing to sacrifice one thing in order to have one more unit of another thing. Attempting to have economic valuations without humans leaves us no way to ascertain these valuations.
Most efforts to “save” Africa’s environment have often served western interests and goals much more than the interests of ordinary Africans. In some cases, local populations have been displaced and impoverished in order to create national parks and to serve other conservation objectives. Under the banner of saving the African environment, Africans in the past few decades have been subject to a new form of “environmental colonialism.”
As Kenya celebrates the NGO Week, it is hoped that NGOs shall reconsider extricating themselves from entangling snares laid by environmental activists, trade protectionists, bureaucrats and corporate executives out to spread a lethal virus that can stop scientific and technological progress, drive competitors out of business, limit economic opportunities and serve as instruments of coercion and economic control.
This issue explores an atmosphere fitting for economic growth. All the authors concur that Africa shall never progress in an environment of legal and illegal plunder, vague laws, borrowed legs, lack of transparency in market information, gender bias and stifling technology.
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