Re: Polemics for environmentalism

Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 08:14:28 MST

In a message dated 1/23/00 1:06:50 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> wrote:
> > >
> > > BTW, I live in Hong Kong, where companies have much more freedom to
> pollute
> > > than in the US and take full advantage of it...
> >
> > Consider that it may have less to do with the level of government
> regulation
> > than it does with the quality of general civic consciousness in a
> particular
> > culture or region. Common expectations of civil behavior may have as
> to
> > do with how individuals AND institutions (governmental and business) act
> > toward both public and private goods than explicit law or regulation.
> No doubt, but we have little control over people's attitudes as a matter of
> public policy. Yes, the HK gov't has tried for years to convince people
> that
> keeping the city clean would be better for everyone, but...

This may be because those exhortations "fall on deaf ears" in the sense that
they don't call on basic values and memes in the majority culture.
> Also, I doubt that expectations of civic behavior significantly deter the
> really
> serious polluters (big oil companies?) when profits are at stake.

Actually, I think they do, but not in the way one might think. At a minimum,
such expectations cause the "serious polluters" to whom you refer to do so as
surreptitiously as possible, and to clothe their activity in "propaganda"
that calls on the mainstream culture's expectations of civic behavior. Thus
companies in the US invest a huge amount of money in "environmental PR" and
even REAL conservation efforts, while they may also at the same time be
engaging in environmentally harmful behavior behind the scenes, so to speak.
Furthermore, corporations ARE made up of people and there are internal
dynamics that oppose environmentally harmful activities, ranging from R&D
aimed at developing lower-impact technologies to "whistelblowers". Finally,
and crucially important in the Anglo-American world, pollution ultimately
runs up against the private rights of individuals which begin to exert a
reforming pressure through the tort system. The activities of polluters in
cultures that have a different conception of civic behavior aren't so
> I used to live in Tokyo, BTW, and while the streets *are* a lot cleaner
> there
> than in HK because of Japanese cultural attitudes towards hygiene, I
> understand
> that the industrial pollution was almost as bad as in south China today
> before
> the gov't started cleaning it up.

That's certainly right, as it was in the Euro-American-Antipodean world as
well. But perhaps the significant factor here is that the governments AND
nongovernmental efforts in the latter "memesphere" DID act to curb
environmental degradation - as a response to and expression of basic values
within the cultures out of which they arose.

FYI, my thinking along these lines is influenced by the recent work of
Francis Fukuyama, especially his most recent book, "Trust", which I highly

      Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
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        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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