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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Live Blogging Jonah
I'm sitting in a room in the Comp Sci Building here at the University of Minnesota, listening to Jonah Goldberg! How sweet is that? I ran into him in the bathroom and actually got to tell him my urinal story!

Jonah is talking about the conservative view of environmentalism, and I'm taking notes. Here they are:

He starts off by talking about identity politics, and how the left tends to question motives instead of facts. He doesn't know any conservatives that want a bad environment. Unless you agree with NOW, then you are pro-woman, and if you disagree, then you are anti-woman. Women who dont' agree with NOW aren't authentic women. Same with those who disagree with Greenpeace or Sierra Club. If you do, then you must be anti-environment. You must agree on the means, not the ends.

What we really disagree about is the means of how to have a good environment. The notion of free-market solutions for environmental problems is viewed on the left as wanting to turn a cathedral into a strip club.

Getting rich is the key. If you are rich enough, you can clean your environment. Rich societies are cleaner than poor societies. Societies that are rich have the luxury of having environmentalist movements. Poor people don't care about trees and panda bears when they are hungry.

(BTW, Jonah looks like my brother-in-law Andrew, almost eerily so)

The leftists have more of a religious view of environmentalism. For instance, recycling is like that. Recycling is "important", even if it isn't an economically sound thing to do. Organic food is the same way. Organic food is less efficient, might very well be bad for you, and doesn't even taste better. Environmentalism even has an apocalyptic myth and Paul Ehrlich is its profit. All these doomsday predictions fail to come to pass.   

ANWR has become the Shangri-la of environmentalism. Jonah has been there, and it is beautiful, but the place where the oil will be drilled isn't really. ANWR is as big as South California. Alaska is huge. You can fit 7 1/2 Minnesota's in it. The portion that they need to drill in amounts to 2000 acres, about the size of Dulles Airport. The actual location where they want to do the drilling is "butt ugly, godforsaken, and abysmal." It is pristine, but pristine doesn't mean "beautiful". In addition, the state of oil drilling technology has changed so much that it is completely different from what it was years ago. It's not nearly as disruptive as people claim. It would be done in the dead of winter, pitch black for months on end. The drilling would be little islands of development in vast seas of swampland. (Refer to They want to believe in the "idea" of ANWR, and the reality doesn't matter.

You must continue to bring up inconvenient facts to the environmentalists. We can't compete on the religious level. The benefits of drilling there outweigh the costs. Leftists don't like hearing this, but that's the way to win.

America is much cleaner, has more forest land than 50 or 100 years ago. Wetlands are expanding.

Bjorn Lomberg was a heretic because he stuck to the data.

Why don't we spend all of our global warming money on getting people clean water? Getting people clean drinking water would save millions of lives.

Question time:

Q. People don't understand economics. How can we make an economic argument?
Jonah: We are economically illiterate, yes. But it's a good idea to have stupid people test new technology for us, like Hybrid cars.

Q: How do we move conservatives from simply opposing environmentalism to being more positive and pro-active.
Jonah: Find common cause. Farm subsidies are terrible in lots of ways for the third world. Perhaps some common ground could be found there, to remove the subsidies to form a coalition. Talk up guys like Bjorn Lomborg.

Q: PBS is running some show by National Geographic that says the environmentalists are right on everything. Will this hurt NG?
Jonah: No.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about nuclear energy?
Jonah: Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases. If used properly, it creates giant green lizards that destroy Tokyo. Very much safer today than it was during Three Mile Island. The waste problem is serious, but Yucca Mountain appears to be very safe and very remote. Nothing bad will happen for 10,000 years, so who cares? The current technology lets us be cleaner and more efficient than in the past.

Q: How do you have the economic argument with people who don't like or don't care about more money?
A: Make fun of them. Mockery is very important - seriously. You will be rejected a lot, yes. But making the argument does have an effect. And guilt, too -- "Why do you want to spend all this money on global warming, when that money could bring clean drinking water to millions of people." or "Why do you want to kill little brown children by banning DDT?"

Q: Oil pretty much is in ugly places. What happens when the cost/benefit analysis enters into the equation?
A: Well, of course, you do the cost benefit analysis as always, and beautiful places are more valuable. It changes the equation, but doesn't change the need for the equation. Frequently, remember, the cost/benefit analysis might say not to cut down forests and that fixing of the environment is a good for the marketplace. Think of clean water and wetlands. They might be a more efficient way to purify water than the water treatment plant that you would have to build if you built an industrial park on the wetland.

Overall, Jonah was interesting, smart, funny, gracious, and excellent. I really enjoyed my time listening to him.

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