The Skeptical Environmentalist

My recent post about the environment got me to go back and review The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg has generously made the entire first chapter available in PDF format. If you read it, I’m sure you’ll
understand why I like this book so much.

Lomborg is scrupulously reasonable!

He is not anti-environment. He is, as most of us are, strongly in favor of having a healthy environment that can support our needs for the foreseeable future. But he’s not only interested in joining the choir and bonding with others based on alarmist zeal.

He’s interested in the truth.

He wants to know what the facts that have been reported actually mean, and which issues warrant what uses of our limited wealth to address.

It seems to me that this is the approach that everybody who genuinely cares about the environment should take; but it seems to only enrage most who claim to care.

The Environment

I was amused by Ron Bailey’s recent trashing of Paul Ehrlich’s new book.

It amazes me how many people like Ehrlich there are. They see the doom and gloom everywhere, and blame humanity for all of it. To them, resources are static and rising populations and technology only make matters worse.

I’m more in the camp of these guys. I think that most environmental problems have been exaggerated, and that things are getting better all the time.

It seems to me that if one view represents that of starry-eyed ideologues, it’s that of a static world with limited resources being destroyed by technology and population growth. A cold, rational, empirical view if the last few hundred years shows the opposite: resources are being created, problems are being solved by more, creative, people; standards of living are improving.

It’s good, of course, to look for genuine problems and to point them out early. But, too many people assume that the problems must be addressed by widespread, severe, restrictions on human behavior; rather than by the creativity of free people.

Will Bush Reinstate The Draft?

I’ve been hearing more and more references to a secret plan of George W. Bush to reinstate military conscription after he gets re-elected. Many of his opponents are using the issue to try to encourage opponents of the draft to vote against Bush. I see that there’s even a web site devoted to this purpose.

I suspect that this is false, and if that’s the case I think it would be in Bush’s interest to come out with a strong and clear policy statement against reinstating military conscription.

Why leave the opposition with a weapon when you can take it from them?

Blogger Changes


It looks like Blogger has made some substantial changes to their UI, and has added new features too (like supporting comments at

I think I like the changes, so far, but it will take a while to be sure. If I switch to their commenting system (seems like a good idea right now), I’ll want to figure out if I can import the old comments into the new system somehow. That would be the best. It’s kind of a pain to have multiple commenting systems to keep old comments available.

If anybody knows the answer to the commenting import question, please let me know.

Update: Blogger Support says that they don’t have a way to import comments. I’ve tried to set up the comments now (as “New Comments”), starting with this post. I’m not really happy with them.

Let me know what you think.

Bush Pauses to Comfort Teen

I’ve got plenty of criticisms of George W. Bush’s policies, but I don’t doubt that he’s a sincere, decent man. Take a look at this article.

He changed from being the leader of the free world to being a father, a husband, and a man.

Upon hearing that she lost her mother in the World Trade Center on 9/11, his first instinct was to comfort the girl and try to help her feel loved and protected.

I wonder if John Kerry would have done that without consulting France, Germany and Russia first.


I like Donald Rumsfeld.

I think he’s a very smart guy who has been doing a great job as Defense Secretary. I like the direction he’s taking the american military (towards being more agile, and exploiting our technological superiority to maximum advantage). I think he really gets the War on Terror.

I’m pleased that Bush seems to be standingby him in spite of all of the calls for Rumsfeld to go because of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The only thing that Rumsfeld might have done wrong was to fail to apprise Bush of the situation if he knew of the photos (which were likely to cause a political situation if released). On the other hand, I’m sure that there are many things that Rumsfeld knows that Bush doesn’t want to know about the war, but might want to have known tomorrow if things go badly. So, it’s not always a trivial call. Otherwise, Rumsfeld and the entire military establishment seem to have responded to this problem very well.

The people I hear calling for Rumsfeld’s dismissal or resignation are people who wanted him gone anyway and are using this issue for their own political motives. They hate Paul Wolfowitz too, and I’m hearing many say that Rumsfeld and his deputies must go. They’re trying to kill two birds with one stone.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are the best things about this administration, and I really hope they survive this episode.

For all of our sakes.

Perspective on a Very Foul Affair

I’ve been wanting to write about the recent revelations about the abuse of Iraqi detainees by coalition forces. I’ve been reluctant because I was finding it hard to indicate that there were important differences between this abuse and the abuse that was common in pre-liberation Iraq
(and much of the rest of the Middle East) without being misinterpreted as understating the severity of the coalition behavior.

Fortunately, Michael Young has written an editorial that says what I wanted to say. Please read it.

There is no perfect governmental system. All of them will be abused. The best we can hope for is a system that will get things right most of the time, and can correct its errors and improve over time. These abuses have been identified and are being addressed. That’s what should be learned from this.

People who use this episode as confirmation that America came to abuse Iraqis, rather than to liberate them, are drawing the wrong conclusion and are missing the point.

Childish Mistakes

Steven Den Beste has a good post about the all-too-common mistake of trying to assert independence by opposing the position of authorities, whatever that position may be.

What I didn’t like about it was the tone set by his first sentence:

It’s a pretty standard failing of the young to assume that disagreement is a demonstration of independence.

We hear this kind of thing a lot. It seems to be commonly-held notion that young people suffer from some kind of natural stupidity that leads to many errors that they eventually grow out of.

While it’s true that young people make a lot of mistakes, it’s not because of stupidity, or hormones, or anything like that. It’s because they are thinking. They’re playing with new ideas and often getting them wrong before they figure out how to improve (or reject) them.

Is it fair to say: “It’s a pretty standard failing of the young to fall off of bicycles.”? Of course they fall off bicycles more than adults do. But, it’s because they’re more likely to be learning how to ride, not because they suffer from poor coordination!

If I had to make a generalization about the thinking of young people vs. older people, I’d have to say that I think young people do it better. For example, I suggest that it’s more likely that a fifteen-year-old will correct the error that Den Beste describes than that a thirty-year-old who makes that mistake will correct it.

I’m not claiming that Den Beste thinks that young people are stupid. His post just reminded me that many people do.

And that they’re wrong.