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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12331/contra-watermelons/

Contra Watermelons

March 30, 2010 by

There are two schools of thought on the environment and its challenges. For want of better nomenclature, I shall characterize them as the watermelons and the free-market environmentalists. FULL ARTICLE by Walter Block


Gil March 30, 2010 at 10:06 am

Walter Block must have the smugness of “well to quite frank the ‘environment’ can’t be homesteaded because it represents ‘the wild’, ‘the untamed’, ‘untouched by man’, etc., which is to say the ‘environment’ represents the pre-homesteaded”. Since homesteading means that unowned area must be changed and put into productive use this eliminates the ability to for ‘environmentalist’ to homestead the ‘environment’ as the ‘environmentalist’ wants the area unchanged. The ‘environmentalist’ contends that a true forest isn’t a tree plantation or a parkland let alone a garden but a synthesis of various interdependent flora and fauna thus they would not like the idea of only saving the ‘garden worthy’ plants and trees and ‘harmless to humans’ animals. But perhaps the best argument against an ‘environmentalist’ owning a forest is when diseases and their carriers that cause dangers to human, esp. malarial mosquitos, leave his forest sanctuary and infect others – the ‘environmentalist’ will get sued for damages and ought to be required to remove the threats in their entirety, i.e. drain swamps and spray DDT to kill the disease carriers which, in turn, defeats the purpose of the ‘environmentalist’ to secure the forest in the first place.

On the other hand, W. Block apparently tries to throw a plastic olive branch to ‘environmentalist’ by overstating the liabilities of those who dump in the commons. After all, if a polluter is the first person to change a portion of the commons by using it as a dumping ground then he has in essence homesteaded the land and ought to own it thus anyone who comes along later has abide by the waste and quite frankly could even be considered trespassers.

newson March 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm

fencing off the pristine land would suffice. internal transformation of the fenced environment doesn’t seem a necessary part of original appropriation. green philanthropists have already embraced this model, buying land in chile (argentina, if memory serves me correctly) for no other reason than to preserve existing ecosystem.

most people dump on land that they deliberately do not want to own. dogs don’t shit in their own back yard. why would someone dump on their own land? or claim the despoiled land as theirs? doesn’t make sense.

Art Thomas March 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Where I live in Virginia prior to county dumps and recycling people made dumps on their own land and the residual is there for the new owners to see. A farmer down the road from me sets aside one of his fields as an above ground grave yard for old farm tractors and equipment. If you think about it, it made a lot of sense. But now that the private market for high tech recycling of almost anything is coming into its own there’s an attractive alternative to dumping on your property.

PirateRothbard March 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Very neat article, but i don’t like the concept of homesteading noise rights. “Noise rights” are not property in my view.

If you want to build an airport in the wild, homestead all of the adjacent land too, and then sell it with a “get over the fact that I have a noisy airport” clause. If you forget to do this, then you need negotiate with those who build houses in the adjacent fields.

Ken March 30, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Negotiating might be the neighborly thing to do (and might be worth pursuing for that reason alone), but what would the incoming property owners do if there were a mountain west of but not on their property that interfered with their enjoyment of spectacular sunsets? The airport is sort of that mountain in that it is already there, is not subject to the ownership control of the incomers, and is doing what lies in its (constructed in this case, to be sure) nature. Along the lines of “you knew what the job was when you took it,” I think that “You knew this was an airport when you decided to buy next door” might apply here. However, I’m open to talking about it some more, and as I said, negotiating probably would be the neighborly thing to do, so long as the incomer doesn’t try to take undue advantage (if the incomer wants more than the airport owner is willing to give, fall back to “You knew this was an airport, right?”).

darjen March 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm
Lemmywinks March 31, 2010 at 10:39 am

Once we get a benevolent dictator to control every country on the planet…..I’m sure their first priority will be climate change.

As for the original article though, it doesn’t really say much. The watermelon metaphor is just a creative way to say “environmentalists are actually communists!”, without actually illuminating the issue any further. The only real proposal is in the last few sentences.

How do you homestead the atmosphere? The airport example falls flat, because the noise from the planes will only travel so far, and people moving to the area will be quite aware that they are living right next to an airport. I can’t homestead a part of the atmosphere to not be polluted. This just seems like a lame attempt to say that we shouldn’t even care about any sort of greenhouse gas emissions, because whoever is doing the polluting will immediately be given homesteading rights.

ABR March 31, 2010 at 2:35 pm

The airport example does not fall flat. If it did, then those who moved next to the airport could sue its owners for making too much noise.

As to pollution (the real stuff), the same principle applies. If you move beside a factory spewing noxious fumes, where the factory was first in, then it has homesteaded the right to pollute within a radius, and you have to live with that or make a deal.

PirateRothbard would have the owners of the airport and the factory mix their labour with the surrounding radius. Sounds like a waste of time to me.

KaL March 31, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Thank you, Walter. This was a well-timed essay, as I compile greenhouse gas emissions inventories and try to reconcile my conflicting interests. I am coming to the conclusion that I can personally justify the “inventory” of waste products emitted to the public domain. Data- as in factual, empirical, quantifiable observations. Not projections or modeling.

My discomfiture comes mainly from having already heard the proposed uses of this data; a) because as stated in this article, judgment has already been passed (paraphrasing Michael Crichton- that’s not science, it’s politics), and b) the proposed uses for this data include the establishment of a new currency in the form of “carbon credits”.

Carbon credits will most likely be created and traded and “banked” in a manner very similar to the treatment of the US$ in the 1990′s and 2000′s. Except in this case, “making money out of thin air” is no longer a figure of speech. The international overseers of this scheme don’t seem to have really decided yet, so I’m still hoping for the best.

Lemmywinks March 31, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I said the airport example falls flat because it doesn’t include most of the complexities involving homesteading the atmosphere of the entire planet.

Airport noise only goes so far, and the people who have to put up with it have, more or less, made their decision by choosing to live there. Also, there will always be the opportunity for people to not live next to airports, (even in the most extreme example, you could buy a large amount of land, thus controlling enough air space to avoid noise pollution from your neighbors.)

CO2 or Methane produced by a factory in Texas is just as likely to affect a farmer in India as it is someone right next to the factory (I’m sure allot of people on this site will say that the likelihood is 0, but the article atleast entertains the idea that there may be negative effects of greenhouse .gases, and this argument does as well).

If the atmosphere can be homesteaded, then it is entirely at the disposal of the biggest polluters, and there’s absolutely nothing someone can do to avoid the undesirable effects (outside of leaving the planet).

Shane Cunningham April 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

Thanks to Jeffery A.Tucker for posting this essay… per a request.
excellent read.

Guard April 5, 2010 at 9:10 am

I continue to see references to homesteading on this site. This may have been useful in 10,000 BC. Today, and increasingly, everything is already claimed by somebody. New people continue to be born, and they will not have the homestead choice. Our choices appear to be either kill others and take their (previously homesteaded) property, or move on. The statist environmentalist solution is the former choice. The latter would mean moving to the planets, then to neighboring stars, etc. The universe may very well be infinite, but if not, there are at least plenty of homesteads for now.
We are approaching, I think, a unique crisis. Staying here is a form of suicide. We must move out or die.
I envision moving to the planets and letting the earth revert largely to wilderness and maintain it as a planetary park. This is big non-suicidal thinking, and only freedom will get us there.

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