Response to Week 5, Prompt 4

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The arguments against environmentalism on an economic basis have not been convincing. Although there has been a general push for deregulation in many areas of the economy recently, it has yet to be shown that this is the best direction in which the country should go. Environmental concern and regulation probably has less damage to deal to economic productivity as a whole than to certain wealthy and empowered economic institutions which heavily influence energy policy in the US. If you’ll agree that first and foremost, environmentalism is concerned with energy policy – renewables over fossil fuels – then it isn’t much of a stretch to see how biased these arguments against environmentalism are. The Ayn Rand piece stands out as pure propaganda, but the real arguments from Republicans, Democrats, and oil companies alike can be seen as institutions looking out for their own self-interest. It is as unsurprising as it is infuriating.

Often it seems that environmental concern cannot be combined with the strive for infinitely increasing profit. But the EU, specifically Germany, provides a great counterexample – one where businesses and politicians argue for the benefit of environmentalism. In Germany, Solar power and other renewable energy has been heavily subsidized by the federal government since the passing of the Renewable Energy Act in 2000. As a result, solar power has become economically viable, even in a place as cloudy and rainy as Germany. Compared with the potential of the vast, calm, and sunny deserts of the US southwest, Germany’s solar potential is laughable. If this overcast country can make renewable energy economically viable in the span of a decade, it begs the question about the US’s ability to do the same or better. It also gives strength to the argument that anti-environmentalism in the US is heavily influenced by the economic interests of the fossil fuel industry.

Businesses in Germany and the EU are even beginning to call for self-regulation and to point out that perhaps not only governments, but businesses themselves should take on the responsibility of looking after their environmental impact. Those that believe in the ability of the private sector to innovate see an even greater potential for environmentalism in businesses themselves. If this perspective can exist in economies just as strong, if not stronger, than the US, then how can it be that environmentalism must have adverse economic impacts? More and more, the argument from US politicians that environmental regulation would adversely impact the economy seems dishonest and self-interested. At best it is a misguided and narrow perspective, but at worst it is willful advocation of environmental destruction for profit.

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