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The trouble with the environment as an issue is that its battles,
like those over abortion, are fought by people who start from such
different fundamental values that common ground between them has for a
long time been effectively impossible. Ecological activists consider the
preservation of the environment an overriding aesthetic and social good
that trumps all other considerations. Any argument involving something
as petty as money is simply evil, greed-based, beneath their contempt.
Those resisting environmentalist proposals for increased regulation
believe that, while nature is beautiful and beauty is a good, other
values (individual
liberties, free trade, property rights) are also goods that possess
significant moral status. Any measure that affronts values is an evil,
devolving the nation toward tyranny and totalitarianism.

The resulting impasse, wide as it is, has been breached in recent
years by a few thoughtful leaders who care for the health of the planet
and are concerned by the various processes they see as threatening it,
but who
begin with the idea that conservation must be practical if it is to be
effective. Economic forces are a reality. Therefore, solutions that make
economic sense may succeed, while those which fly in the face of
economics
are doomed to fail in the long run. Early attempts to design ecological
initiatives along these lines have included the
still-imperfectly-worked-out concepts of eco-tourism and nondestructive
harvesting. This week the Internet brings us to some of the places in
which constructive thought along these lines is moving forward.

Well-to-do First Worlders generally can afford to care more about
preserving biodiversity

in the Third World than its residents. R. David Simpson explores the
implications at Issues in Science and
Technology.
His argument for the local
promotion of individual property rights as one of the most effective
incentives toward conservation deserves to be heard.

Meanwhile, a recent Environmental News Network story concludes
unhappily that forest conservation may prove to resemble a kind of
global zero-sum
game.

A study on the future of the world timber market that appeared in
February’s quarterly American Journal of Agricultural
Economics

(click on “On-line Document
Search” to order its full text for a fee) predicts the loss of 2.5 acres
of forest in Asia, South America, Africa and the former Soviet Union for
every 50 acres set aside and protected in North America and Europe. Why?
“As supply decreases through increased conservation efforts in North
America, timber prices will rise, making it economically feasible to
harvest trees from areas where it was previously too expensive,” says
study co-author Brent Sohngen. He suggests adjusting that cost
differential by eliminating federal government subsidies to timber
companies, which currently soften or remove many of the expenses of
accessing and harvesting American forests.

Catherine M. Cooney examines the burgeoning environmental justice movement, which
protests what it considers the disparate impact of industrial waste and
contamination upon minority communities, for Environmental Science
and Technology.
Did
industry target poor neighborhoods in constructing its plants and
factories because they expected little protest from disempowered
residents? Or did the economically disadvantaged move to polluted areas
because they were cheap? What about the jobs and money brought into such
neighborhoods by the influx of factories? Cooney’s article, though
delicately slanted in favor of the activists, draws information,
history, and opinion from all sides into a coherent narrative and
provides crucial background on the economics underlying the issue.

Lost your head?

If you’re already bored with talk of all the hot summer flicks, cast
your thoughts forward to fall and Tim Burton’s horror project, “Sleepy
Hollow.”

Burton

(“Beetlejuice,”
“Batman”) reworks the classic Washington Irving short story (available
in its entirety
here
into an
X-Files-ish police thriller that’s set to be released this November 19.
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, and Miranda
Richardson, with the marvelous Michael Gambon (“The Cook, The Thief, His
Wife and Her Lover”) putting in an appearance as Baltus Van Tassel, the
film will feature a Danny Elfman
score.
A well-designed and impressively thorough unofficial site
gathers news,
information, links and resources pertaining to this much-anticipated
coming event. This is dark ‘n’ scary stuff, so visit the actual
town

of Sleepy Hollow in upstate
New York for a dose of sunshine.

Conyers’ anti-profiling project back in play

Read the House speech of Representative John Conyers, D-Mich,
introducing the
Traffic Stops Statistics Study Act of 1999, a bill he is sponsoring that
would require the federal government to begin tracking information on
the racial makeup of those who are stopped for traffic violations.

This isn’t a new project for Conyers. He sponsored a similar bill in
early January 1997 that passed the House in
1998

but seems to have gotten hung
up

shortly
thereafter. Conyers’ luck may be changing; the new atmosphere created by
recent high-profile police scandals involving minorities, notably the
Louima and Diallo episodes in New York City, may well enable the
legislation to succeed this time around. Interested law enforcement
officials (you need an ORI number to register) can log on to the
NJCops Online Forum
discussion of racial
profiling.

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