Friday, 14 September 2007

Environmental compromise

Most people understand that environmentalism reduces standard of living. Airfares and car journeys become harder to afford if carbon taxes are added to the price of fuel; garbage is collected less often and costs more to dispose of if everyone has to use recycling bins as well as one for general rubbish; "energy efficiency" drives house builders to design ugly boxes with thick walls, low ceilings and small windows.

Fewer people realise that this is a life-or-death issue. After all, those who think government should impose 'green' taxes don't advocate killing anyone: they just want to take a little bit of life away from everyone. Like petty insurance cheats, they think their victims can afford to lose the small amount that's stolen from them. But there's no place to draw the line, morally or materially, for either theft or a forced reduction in standard of living.

The connection between standard of living and life itself is not obvious in western society. No one in the west starves, dies of exposure for want of warm clothing, or is worn out at forty by manual labour. The widows of Kensington may live ten years longer than those of Clydeside, but all of them can expect to reach their mid-seventies. The connection is clearer when you compare our society to those of the third world: there aren't many old people in Mozambique or Haiti. So, here's a question for environmentalists: just how much life is it OK to take?

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