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Environmental Action

In today’s NY Times, Kathleen Rogers, President of the Earth Day Network, applauds Starbucks’ effort on this year’s Earth Day to reach

millions of people through coffee sleeves with environmental messages, including one urging people to register to vote.

I certainly don’t oppose efforts get people to the polls, but it’s interesting that “urging people to register to vote” is classified as an environmental message.

One assumption is that a majority of voters vote for more environmental regulation. Is this assumption correct? Perhaps. But I’ll bet that if, say, more coal miners in West Virginia and Ohio go to the polls (refreshed with grande latte) they’ll oppose candidates whose environmental messages threaten to raise the costs of operating coal mines.

Furthermore, what I find distressing about this classification of voting as a green action are its implicit premises that environmental action is done principally by the state — and that the state’s efforts are truly effective in making the environment cleaner and safer than it would otherwise be. Neither of these premises is correct.

PERC documents the many ways that private, non-politicized actions take place to protect the environment. And a good deal of evidence exists showing that command-and-control methods of regulating for the environment sometimes (frequently?) cause the environment to be less-clean and less-safe than it likely would have been without these statutory methods. See, for example, the nice collection of essays in this book edited by Roger Meiners and Andrew Morriss