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Hard Green, a conservative manifesto, by Peter Huber

Review by Jim Ludwig

Environmentalism – July 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists – A Conservative Manifesto
by Peter Huber.
Published 1999 by Basic Books
ISBN 0-465-03112-9

UNDERSTANDING that the editors of Colorado Central consider me to be the token Conservative of their circle of friends, I feel obliged to play the part with a review of this decidedly anti-environmentalist book.

I expected a bit more from Peter Huber. His credentials as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, as an engineer from MIT, and as holder of a precious law degree from Harvard, would seem to predict a solid and sound analysis of the state of the environmentalist movement. I had always enjoyed his short, concise, and controversial columns in Forbes Magazine. But his book comes up short.

A “Conservative Manifesto” it is not, at least for this conservative. His basic argument is that much of the environmentalist creed is based on the false premise of long-range computer simulation, with each simulation becoming more complex until a predetermined result is obtained. At that point, it no longer passes the reasonable-man test, or the giggle test, whichever you prefer to call it.

In this intellectual environment, solid statistical analysis quickly becomes a three-word slogan which does not express the results of the analysis. Yet the analysis is used as proof of the slogan, since few will question the statement or understand the analysis. Pseudo-science, reduced to third-grade level, is proof enough for most people.

Unfortunately, third-grade knowledge cannot conceive the growth of trees, for instance, making that mind ripe for “save the forests” campaigns, which can ruin the forest.

To cap his argument, Huber points out how environmentalists have taken their success in obfuscation and applied it to many areas, which have nothing to do with the environment. Then as always, when the economic reason cannot be overcome by rational means, environmentalists turn to government to enforce the change toward their unprovable truths.

His conclusion is that the continuing success of an inadequately informed movement is based on the ability to be successful in the political arena, not on the scientific reasoning behind its positions. This in turn, is a danger to all of us and to mankind.

I believe he is essentially correct. Unfortunately, he has fallen into the same trap the environmentalists did. He expects us to believe him because he said so. Readers will soon recognize this as a political tome, and skip to the back of the book for his conclusions of opinion. Thinking environmentalists will have to wait for another “manifesto” to convince them.

The reason this is not my manifesto has little to do with all the heavy thought. Huber advocates a return to the policies of Teddy Roosevelt for guidelines on creating open space. I am not a big-game hunter, nor am I an opponent of it. But I did think Teddy’s efforts to provide a hunting preserve were a bit out of line. Public land should be held only until it can be assimilated into the private economy. Communists the world over have proven that when the government owns it all, we will own nothing, and only the corrupt will benefit.

All in all, if you are looking for some reasons to invoke during an argument with environmentalists, Huber may help a little, but not that much.

— Jim Ludwig