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People from all sides of the political spectrum are concerned about climate change and rightly so. There is an overwhelming abundance of evidence that the climate is changing in ways that will make it harder for the Earth to sustain its current population levels. There is also an abundance of evidence, contrary to what the Trump administration would like you to believe, that humans have played a role in accelerating climate change. 

downloadMany consider climate change an issue that libertarians cannot address without violating the non-aggression principle. Since it’s always more advantageous in the short term for a country to be using fossil fuel resources, every country will do so unless some coalition forces everyone not to. It’s the old tragedy of the commons example writ large. The tragedy of the commons is the observation that with commonly owned resources, some percentage of people will take actions that benefit them in the short term, but leave few or no resources for anyone else. Common examples are unsustainable fishing practices or dumping of toxic waste.

The situation is not as hopeless as it first seems, though. There are ways to save the environment that do not stray from deeply held libertarian principles. You just need to be a bit clever and audacious. One solution to the tragedy of the commons is to simply not have commons. If all land is privately owned, then someone is responsible for every single square mile of the earth. This extends to the oceans as well; one can easily imagine someone buying a section of the ocean to secure fishing rights or salt mining rights. There’s even a certain amount of gold and other precious metals suspended in the water column. Who’s to say they won’t be mined one day? (more…)

If you’re a game hunter frustrated by regulations and licensing, consider joining the Wildlife Services, a federal agency that specializes in killing wild animals. The government has grown so large that it is the perfect example of the old idiom, “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” Wildlife Services is a waste of tax payer money to the tune of over $100 million that often kills endangered animals protected by law and protected by other Federal organizations for even more tax payer money.

MissoulaIndependent

Wildlife Services shooting at predator from Helicopter (image from Missoula Independent)

Each year, Wildlife Services produces a report, documenting its kills. The running average being north of 2 million animals, including endangered species such as the Bald Eagle, 20 of whom were killed in 2015. One irresponsible practice in particular is the shooting of wildlife from various aircraft, which has resulted in several fatalities and injuries, largely due to crashes or self-inflicted damages by gunners shooting their own vehicle.

The Wildlife Services kills off animals in the name of defending livestock, though many of the animals killed or “destroyed” have little connection to livestock. As a mysterious and little-known service within the larger Kafkaesque landscape of federal agencies, departments, services, and offices, the Wildlife Services has been able to function with little criticism outside the Environmental movement.

Wildlife Services has been around for over a century, in one form or another, as it changed names and was passed between Federal Departments. In working to defend ranchers from the predations of wildlife both Wildlife Services and the various ranching lobbies that prop it up are working to push the cost of doing business on the public.

Alternatives to this enigmatic behemoth do exist. A mix of land-trusts, animal sanctuaries, and conservation groups, who report not to a bureaucrat but to their shareholders – the public.

Given that the Wildlife Services exist in the name of defending livestock, it is helpful to see how others are proposing to do the same, often more efficiently. Arguably the most libertarian view would be the adoption of predator insurance or the creation of a market that would compensate ranchers for loss by predation.

Members of the public learning about Grizzlies at Montana Grizzly Encounter (Picture from Montana Grizzly Encounter)

Members of the public learning about Grizzlies at Montana Grizzly Encounter (Picture from Montana Grizzly Encounter)

Alternatively, the growth of land trusts, organizations that preserve tracts of wilderness, can establish further barriers between federal and ranching lands. Organizations such as Jackson Hole Land Trust and the Mojave Desert Land Trust strategically acquire land to establish themselves as additional territories for predators to roam. Animal sanctuaries, are a third option. These organizations, particularly as they relate to predators, have become a vital source of not only preservation but also education for the general public such. One example of this is Montana Grizzly Encounter.

Some environmentalists and animal rights activists claim that despite these flaws, the government is still the best way to ensure preservation of both wilderness and wildlife. But they ignore the growing private sector focused on preservation. Simply put, if you maintain an active interest in the welfare of wildlife, the Wildlife Services is probably not for you.

This brutal approach to wildlife management is unacceptable but alternatives exist, particularly in the form of private sector innovation. Conservationist and preservationist groups, land trusts, and even insurance companies are drawing new paradigms towards saving our wildlife, starting with the end of the Wildlife Services.


This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page

The end of humanity is near!…or so hyperbolic media outlets VICE and Complex would like you to believe.  A recent report from Climate Central, an organization that monitors climate change, found that Earth’s atmospheric carbon level breached 400 PPM. This number gets cited as the threshold for major global warming trends even though its largely symbolic. The current carbon crisis should not be thought of as a harbinger of apocalypse but a challenge for innovators.

Economic analysis emphasizes substitution as a possible solution to change outcomes. The first step towards ameliorating our atmospheric carbon problem relies on the act of substitution. A classic example of substitution occurred with tinfoil, which was quietly replaced by aluminum when the cost of tin cut too heavily into profit margins and an alternative was needed.

Image from Iran Daily

Carbon intensive energy consumption is gradually being phased out. Environmentalists may argue that it’s not fast enough but regulation and cronyism are further slowing that transition. Alternative energy sources like wind and water do exist and are continuing to grow their market share as technological advances make greater energy production viable.

Substitution is already in process in many countries as a means to reduce our carbon footprint. The next step is to look toward innovation, not just in reducing our footprint, but in cutting existing pollution levels. Enter a multitude of private firms whose futuristic technologies read like a page out of an old science fiction novel.

According to the Guardian, documents show technologies harvesting atmospheric carbon from the air to reuse in everything from soda to new energy sources. Other technologies include a new kind of concrete that sequesters, or captures, carbon which would completely revolutionize one of our most environmentally damaging and polluting industries: construction.

Across many industries, there are constant new innovations and discoveries being rolled out to reduce the negative impact of humanity on the environment. Too many people underestimate innovation, leading to undue faith in political agendas. An entrenched pessimism within the environmental movement has been betting on human failure for well over a century. Ever since 1798, with Malthusianism (the idea that humanity will outstrip its resources and perish), these ideas get continually proven wrong as humanity continues to prosper.

Throughout the 1990s, many environmentalists warned of impending doom because of the hole in the o-zone layer. However, a National Geographic article reported that innovation, shifts in technology, and public pressure to stop producing CFC’s contributed to healing.  There are many environmental problems but, to date, innovations have helped us out of many of the most severe.

Some may argue that innovation is not enough and that what is needed is state regulation and intervention to solve this perceived crisis. So far, however, these policies have been failures. Consider Beijing’s largely ignored driving ban, or the US foisting “Clean Coal” during Obama’s first bid for president,which was built on cronyism and political donations from the coal industry.

Yes, without a doubt, our climate is changing. But the fear behind it is not always warranted. The distinctly human capacity for innovation reduced hunger and poverty and greatly expanded our life expectancies greatly since the Industrial Revolution.  Many industries may have contributed to the problem of atmospheric carbon, but a new industry will be what solves it.


This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page

On the heels of private security attacking peaceful protestors, the Dakota Access Pipeline project, a 1,172 mile pipeline set to carry crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in southern Illinois, has become a major source of political controversy. The protests surrounding the construction reflect a wide range of interests opposed to the pipeline, but the really crude thing about the Dakota Access project is the disregard for property rights.

The largest group of protestors is comprised of Native American tribes coalescing around injustices against their ancestral lands, which includes representatives of more than 200 other tribes. The Sioux of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, among the other tribes, have identified the negative side effects of the pipeline construction to be both cultural and environmental, in the contested area near the reservation, but still under the jurisdiction of the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE). Nonetheless, the USACE acknowledged that no easement had been granted to Dakota Access, the company overseeing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, at the time construction began.

The pipeline is also slated to run through land owned by Midwestern farmers, many of which accepted the Dakota Access agreement. But, as Jack Healy points out, “In Iowa, one of the four states that the pipeline would traverse, some farmers have gone to court to keep it off their land. They say that Iowa regulators were wrong to grant the pipeline company the power of eminent domain to force its way through their farms.” Equipped with this government granted power to use force, it is no wonder that most property owners ended up signing easements.

Dakota Access and sProtestors at Dakota Access Pipelineome of the beneficiaries of the pipeline argue for the construction on the grounds of its economic benefits. Among the benefits the company lists are, “an estimated $156 million in state and local revenues”, “8,000-12,000 construction jobs” which would be temporary, and “up to 40 permanent operating jobs.” However, the costs of the pipeline, depending on the size of a potential accident, are unknown. With the severe environmental costs to negligence and government mismanagement over natural resources in Flint, Michigan still fresh for many Americans, the Sioux protests are understandable. (more…)

davies1Let me tell you something you already know about basic economics: Resources are scarce. Understanding that our resources are limited is a vital part of what I believe to be a fundamental personal and business value: conservation. Conservation is the “planned management of natural resources to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.” As someone who values economic freedom, I pride myself on the fact that free markets (or capitalism) provide the best standard of living for the largest amount of people, and data does support this. But understanding that an individual lives a relatively short time compared to the longevity of natural resources, how do we maintain the use of resources for today’s population, as well as tomorrow’s population?

Often private enterprise is attributed to environmentally reckless and unsustainable business methods (what about the government’s role in dirty subsidies that result in over consumption?). It is evident that some businesses operate only with short-term profits in mind and utilize resources poorly. But on the flipside, there are also businesses that utilize their resources responsibly to guarantee further utilization, thus ensuring long-term profits. Regardless of how you believe the economy should run, you likely want a prosperous future for your offspring, so how can advocates of the free market economics address this concern? Well here are three significant aspects of the free market that can provide some confidence:

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