Lab c2: Environment and Conservation

Environment and Conservation

While some regions are cleaner than others, the overall situation on OboxPlanet is incomparably better than on earth. The reason for the difference is simple. On OboxPlanet, pollution has always been considered a violation of somebody’s private property right and has never been allowed to persist. On earth and since the industrial revolution, the states have sets most standards of how much pollution people have to put up with.

To say that pollution is a violation of your property right of course raises the question of how you define property and what is an inacceptable violation. If I throw trash into your garden, that’s usually considered pollution and inacceptable. But if I light a scent candle and you don’t like the smell when the wind blows your way, can I stop you from lighting it? Or from playing your flute in the garden?

Whenever people disagree on OboxPlanet, they consult an arbitration person or agency, see chapter conflict resolution. These persons or agencies are in the business of finding the best possible compromise. As time passes, these rulings are used as the standards of what is acceptable, These standards may be different for different communities or societies and history has shown that as people get richer, they become stricter because people are less willing to put up with pollution. In other words: as long as you are hungry, you have little interest in environmental perfection.

Up to the industrial revolution, there was little difference between the earth and OboxPlanet. The common law practice on earth came up with similar rules as the arbiters on OboxPlanet. Then, on earth, nation states started competing for dominance. They put such overriding goals as “industrialization” or “national strategic interests” higher than people’s desire for clean air, soil and water. And for all conservationists, history has one clear warning: do not put your trust in the state. The greatest environmental disasters were produced in the former communist countries, Russia, China and their allies.

In the introductory section, we talked about environmental pollution. Now, let’s discuss the protection of natural resources and landscapes on the Obox planet.

On the Obox planet, there is both private property owned by individuals and property owned by groups like cooperatives or companies. In all cases, there’s a strong economic interest in optimizing both short-term use and long-term conservation of the value of the property. Overusing natural resources in the short term is economically costly and happens much less often than on Earth, where abuses often occur when the state grants temporary permits for resource use.

In summary, on the Obox planet, economic reasons drive more sustainable use of resources compared to Earth.

Another topic is protecting the natural environment, including animal reserves. This is a relatively recent concept on Earth because people who are struggling for basic needs are less concerned about preserving nature for aesthetic reasons. This concern becomes more relevant with affluence. On Earth, eco-movements gained popularity since the 1970s, mostly in wealthy industrialized countries. On the Obox planet, this movement is older and more widespread, given their longer history of wealth.

On the Obox planet, there are more and larger “protected” landscapes, often designed to provide beneficial experiences for people. One significant difference from Earth is in water bodies, especially the sea. Most marine areas along the coasts are privately owned, with farming, conservation, and pollution control. In other words, coastal water areas are managed as carefully as the land on the mainland.

What experiences on Earth, past and present, help us understand life on the OboxPlanet?

This topic fills libraries with examples that illustrate a prevailing theme: the more state involvement, the less direct responsibility, the more detrimental for the environment.

Taking a broader perspective, economies under state control in former Communist countries demonstrated widespread disregard for environmental concerns. Production quotas took precedence over environmental preservation, resulting in catastrophic pollution of the air, rivers and even landscapes all over the Eastern Bloc. 

As an illustration, the most popular Eastern German car, the Trabi, in the 1980’s emitted an estimated 15 to 30 times more of the poisonous carbon monoxide than a contemporary western car.

Another example is the manmade ecological disaster of the infamous “four pests campaign” in China. Sparrows were a target because chairman Mao believed that they ate grain, depriving people of the fruit of their work. People were called upon to shoot sparrows, destroy their nests and bang pots and pans until the birds died of exhaustion. Millions of sparrows, perhaps even hundreds of millions, were killed, producing all kinds of unintended consequences like plant-eating insects and locusts. This in turn contributed to the “great famine” with millions of people starving. 

In the United States, the greatest state enterprise, the military, is at the same time the greatest polluter, while many major environmental disasters have been attributed to state regulations, corruption, and mismanagement. The Love Canal incident may serve as a small-scale illustration.

The underlying reason for this pattern is relatively straightforward. State managers do not personally own the resources they oversee, so their incentives do not align with sustainable practices. Their pay and future well-being are not directly tied to the value or condition of the resources they manage. They give generous log cutting permits or water use privileges even if they are damaging or inefficient. In contrast, private owners have a vested interest in maximizing the current income from their properties while preserving their long-term value. This intrinsic motivation for sustainable practices is inherent in the logic of private property ownership.

In sum, when we examine regions on Earth facing significant environmental challenges, we often find that even where privately owned enterprises are accused, there is usually government ownership or oversight involved.

The solution to address environmental issues is therefore simple: privatize resources and properties and hold them liable for damages to humans and other properties. Various suggestions and studies have explored the possibilities of privatizing diverse areas, including parts of the sea for fishing rights, nature parks, and other environmental assets.On

Now it’s your turn. Where do you see room for improving the environment and how could you imagine privatization could solve it?

Things we could learn and implement from the OboxPlanet:

Privatize everything. The egotistic, selfish interest of private property owners will lead them to balance current income from exploiting the resource, and the preservation of the capital value.