Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act (nytimes.com)
165 points by Osiris30 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 99 comments

It makes me sad that topics like this are politicized when it should be looked at as a crime against the Earth.

The only voice animals on our earth have is their plummeting population numbers, if we can't even look at that as a sign of global crisis and act on it, I don't know what else we can do.

Calling it a 'crime against the Earth' is politicizing it. That's not being "a voice for animals." It's being vaguely abstract and appealing to emotion or a higher authority (nature in this case).

Define the problem: $animal is going extinct.

Define why it is a problem: Biodiversity is an indicator for healthy ecologies. The extinction of endangered animals threatens the stability of ecology $Y which humans rely on for food, health, and resources.

Define the solution: By spending $X on preserving $Y, we can insure our access to resource $Z is not threatened.

This gives people something to actually address. They may disagree with you about any points (which is political, but isn't necessarily "politicized"), which can help tease out specific issues of contention and find compromises (or outvote them, if necessary).

> Define why it is a problem: Biodiversity is an indicator for healthy ecologies. The extinction of endangered animals threatens the stability of ecology $Y which humans rely on for food, health, and resources

So all we have to do is quantify what making changes will do to a highly complex biological system that we don't fully understand or have even observed? And that's just building something in a single field, now multiply by all the possible construction sites in the US and then add in how they interact with each other once multiple sites are changed in an area or downstream or upstream or upwind or on the same aquifer or...

It's so simple, why didn't we just do this from the start? :)

I ran into this problem recently when I asked someone I know, who is in the coast guard, if they knew about alkaline hydrothermal vents. They said "Yes! But I just listen to the scientists, they draw a square on the ocean and say 'protect this' and we do it. Then I have to get a one-liner 'why should we spend money protecting this' from them and it's something like 'if there will be a breakthrough therapy for some disease then it might come from here'".

I was kind of unsatisfied by the justification "we might find medicine" for something as amazing as alkaline hydrothermal vents, but I couldn't think of a better one myself. There doesn't seem to be a concept that earth's creativity is intrinsically valuable. If there was, we could just say "there are highly complex geo-chemical formations in this square" and, along with a brief spec of the size, age, and properties of the formations, that would be justification enough to protect them.

We live in an era with a big problem: Regular people have an attention span that's way too short to ingest enough information to vote effectively for very large issues.

This leads to the politicization of everything as a means of persuading people using wit or by demonizing the other side, because those methods are effective.

Combine this with very interested parties spreading disinformation, and we are in big trouble.

> ‘...attention span that’s way to short to..vote effectively.’

I was thinking the removal of the law that evaluates a species’ protection without regard to ‘economic impact’ would lead to each impacted community now having a chance to vote on what’s more important to them, species protection or local economy. And I believe people will organize to vote for the money.

I actually found this https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-26/great-barrier-reef-va... very compelling as a logical person. I think it helps to quantify the issue to people who are dealing with their pressing issues (employment etc).

Let's say there's a verdant planet orbiting a distant star with a complex ecosystem but no sentient inhabitants. You can press a button to blow the planet up, and in exchange the US GDP will grow by 1 cent. Do you go through with it?

Me? No. It would violate my values and the planets worth would be an absurdly large multiple of the entire world’s GDP over the long run.

Someone else? Yes. They might not share my values and they may prefer short term gains or otherwise directly benefit from such an act.

That’s the point of trying to define the problem in a reasoned way. It helps you keep the politics of it focused and de-politicized. Don’t let the example blind you to the principle.

Is there such a thing as moral bankruptcy? Should we strive to curb the worst impulses of people or is everything a 'value judgement'? We treat things like murder as a binary proposition (barring self defense), even if the person being murdered represents a drain on society's resources. Do you personally believe that humans are the ultimate arbiters of the universe?

Go ahead and call those who disagree with you 'criminals', but don't expect the issue to then not be politicized; and don't be surprised if they're not willing to listen to your ideas. You've already decided that whatever they are doing is wrong and shown them you're not willing to work with them to achieve any acceptable compromise. You've also alienated potential allies who are probably looking at you wondering if they are next. And you've given your opponents plausible deniability while possibly damaging your own credibility.

> We treat things like murder as a binary proposition (barring self defense), even if the person being murdered represents a drain on society's resources.

Since when? Historically it was A-OK to kill people under all kinds of circumstances that today we would consider murder. Some societies had ritualized sacrifice. Plenty of people now (myself included) think the death penalty is not okay. Even today, murder is often used as a tool of statecraft for every government on Earth. It's tolerated in many, many instances; sometimes even praised.

Murder itself, in the US, is treated differently depending on intent. And murder is just a subset of killings, which include killing on the battlefield, manslaughter, self defense, accident, etc. There's nothing binary here.

> Do you personally believe that humans are the ultimate arbiters of the universe?

Does it matter what I personally believe to a person that wants to cut down a forest for profit? Does my belief somehow help achieve my goal? Does my belief do anything to convince anyone else?

> Define why it is a problem: Biodiversity is an indicator for healthy ecologies. The extinction of endangered animals threatens the stability of ecology $Y which humans rely on for food, health, and resources.

I take huge issue with this kind of utilitarian argument since time and again it has proven not to be effective or we wouldn't have been in this mess in the first place. Do polar bears have much impact on our "food, health, and resources"? It reminds me of this xkcd comic: https://xkcd.com/1338/

Realize that there would be no need to 'Spend X' if humans had not mucked it up to begin with. All of this is humanity's problem. Those in power are going the opposite direction because that is what is required to stay in power. Humans are inherently shortsighted and overconfident.



You cannot downvote replies to your own posts, so it was someone else's doing.

I was not aware of this, thank you. I'd still like an answer from any downvoters.

When you say politicized, do you just mean that there is not universal agreement on the subject?

Because anything where there isn't universal agreement is inherently political...

In the biological community, biodiversity is seen as the mark of a stable ecosystem. There is little debate whether it should be protected because lack of biodiversity is repeatedly being shown to reduce the fitness of the other species in that ecosystem. It's the same rationale for using a permaculture versus a monoculture in agriculture.

It's "politicized" almost entirely because of misinformation campaigns that have torn down the search for truth and the trust of science. Instead, government leaders (especially in the current whitehouse administration in the USA) are actively destroying scientific communities, running them out of non-partisan offices, destroying scientific research, defunding other research, and restricting access to publications.

It's not that there isn't a universal agreement, there actually is a bipartisan appreciation of the endangered species act (https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/8/12/20802132/en...) and it seems most people appreciate what it brings.

So yes, it's definitely being "politicized" as the objective science behind it is being destroyed.

There's plenty of people that (obviously) do not see any inherent value in ecosystems or biodiversity, just in the ends they serve.

Pretending that this is a result of misinformation campaigns won't address it (their values are the problem, not their lack of knowledge), and it means that protecting biodiversity will require political compromise.

According to [1] linked by uberman in another comment, that 'plenty' is only 20%. So not much compromise would be needed.

[1] https://www.hcn.org/articles/endangered-species-most-america...

It is politicized because a public good, the functional ecosystem, is coming into conflict with a private profit motive, resource extraction, land development, etc.

The real problem is that public goods don't have equal advocacy in the halls of power. Public goods don't pay campaign contributions. Public goods don't run PACs. Pubic goods have to be championed by a motivated and organized coalition of citizens; all the while capital continues to amass power.

Is there an issue with universal agreement in politics? If so, is it then political or merely logistical and practical concern?

I dont think our polarized times has to mean that all discord and disagreement is politics. For instance, we could disagree on the fundamentals of a topic yet agree on a solution and politically compromise to enact laws. For instance, how much regulation? Some say none, some say a lot, disagreement fundamentally, but politics is also about the subsequent agreement on compromise.

In short, I dont think we can redefine politics as disagreement. Politics is more about social and rhetorical maneuvering towards a desired end state. That maneuvering is necessary due to conflict and disagreement, but the part is not the whole.

it's natural selection, I guess... are all species worth saving? Also, if we save their DNA, we could possibly recreate them later....

This despite the fact that about 80% of Americans support the act as it was.


Thank goodness we live in a republic where majority opinion from non-specialists doesn't determine policy.

I'd wager that 95% of Americans are not qualified in any way to speak to conservationism and the myriad of inscrutable legal issues that come with it. Of course you'll get a load of positive replies when you ask a random person on the street if they support the "Endangered Species Act" or if they would prefer to see it "weakened".

Until you've seen a $150 million data center project abandoned because the FWS wanted a multi-year, multi-million dollar study on its effects on the local spotted boll-weevil population you don't fully understand how destructive and absurd the legislation has become.

There are two interesting (to me) things you talk about.

First, you claim that some $150MM data center project had to be abandoned to protect the "spotted boll weevil".

Really? I ask because weevils are typically considered pests and rather than protected they are actively eradicated:


Additionally, is there even such a thing as a "spotted boll weevil"? I ask because neither I nor Google seems to know about them (Other than some funny joke picture)


So, I'm guessing that there is in-fact no such project and that you just feel on principle that nothing should impede progress, certainly not the welfare of some random species. You are of course entitled to that opinion, it just places you in the overwhelming minority. On a tangential note, I think it does not help your argument to simply make up something that sounds plausible and present it as fact.

Secondly, on the topic of 95% of Americans not being qualified to speak as experts on conservationism, I totally agree but...

I hope you agree that they are entitled to an opinion about conservationism. I also feel quite confidently that those who are in fact experts on conservationism will be the strongest advocates against weakening the endangered species act.

I think that last thing people who want to weaken environmental laws want is for their representatives to listen to actual experts.

I can't speak to any of this data center or weevil stuff, but I do take two issues with your post.

First is that, of course, the endangered species act has provably impeded progress. Required environmental impact assessments have added literal years and millions of dollars to public works projects and adversely impacted thousands of private projects. It's impact is across the nation, on nearly every job I've worked on. On the Bay Bridge there were restrictions on how often pile striking could occur in order to not adversely impact the fish. TxDOT has suffered numerous setbacks on their MoPac project around Austin due to endangered salamanders. Another tunnel job I worked north of Austin had provisions within the contract for nearly a year of stoppages for underground crickets.

Second is to point out that, of course, experts on conservationism would be the strongest advocates against weakening the federal law that gives them the majority of their business. Similar to how the American Society of Civil Engineers fails the country's infrastructure every year in my industry.

I think it’s completely reasonable that if you’re going to build a data center in a habitat for a protected species then you’re going to have to make sure the species remains protected. It sounds like said data center took their business elsewhere, which is also completely reasonable and leaves the spotted boll-weevil unscathed.

The other 20% have come into contact with the ridiculous kabuki of environmental reviews.

I'll accept that this sort of thing could be reworked...

After you implement tangible solutions to the ridiculous kabuki of trying to litigate against a business that has damaged the environment.

When there is no meaningful recourse to environmental damage done after the fact, excessive effort in prevention is the only solution that actually works.

These animals/plants do not have a choice in the matter. They have no say whenever we destroy their homes or their food sources. How do people honestly think it is their right to destroy and take all for their mighty money? Why do we let corporate greed take over so many things that should be simple?

I own a big chunk of land in upstate NY, where we've got a little cabin. As part of our stewardship of the land, we periodically harvest timber, using the advice of a professional forester.

This forester was conducting a survey for us one year, and showed us that we have a specimen of a tree species that's expected to go onto the endangered list in the future. With a wink, he warned us that if we've got that tree there when it goes on the list, we'll be forbidden from doing much of anything with our land in the future - the implication being that we should dispose of it while we've still got the chance.

The ESA can impose significant costs even on us little folk. And the way the Act is constructed provides perverse incentives, giving us motivation to do the opposite of what's intended.

(we left the tree, but others may not have the same flexibility to make that sacrifice)

a cabin on a big chunk of land where you can harvest timber using the advice of a professional forester?

I must be missing something but I am having hard time fitting this into my definition of the "little folk".

You're missing the part where it's in the middle of nowhere and the land was dirt cheap. Also the part where the cabin doesn't even have plumbing, we have an outhouse and bathe with water I carry in buckets from the creek.

I am glad that they do not discriminate on how much they charge: significant costs should be imposed on anyone wanting to further remove endangered species. I get what you are saying, you may want the tree removed but if everyone got their "just this one tree" removed, then it would speed up the extinction of that tree. Does that tree seriously need to be removed? Does it have life threatening consequences to you or the surrounding area? I seriously doubt it.

My understanding was around the forced loss of freedom without recompense as the contention here. The GP appears to be OK with this, but the nudge from the forester implies that many people wouldn't want the headache and loss of freedom around that kind of thing.

I don't know the details of the law, but I would expect that most people might choose "harvest a few trees and skip headaches" over "tolerate headaches for an abstract good feeling."

Because capitalism is an optimization function for making money. It doesn't care about anything else.

Will we develop practices that preserve what we like about free markets without capitalism being the economic function?

No. Humans will be extinct long before we can overcome our greed and fear. We live in a world of abundance and the only thing holding us back is the concentration of power and wealth.

No we don't live in a world of abundance. This is a common tagline touted by communist and socialist societies, and has been proven false time and time and time again.

That's where regulation comes in. For example we have outlawed practices like killing others for profit and the markets still work. We can outlaw other things too. Markets will adapt. That's what they do best.

Markets != capitalism, markets predate capitalism, and the end of capitalism does not necessarily mean the end of markets.

The current Interior Secretary is, of course, a former oil industry lobbyist.

“a new regulation announced Tuesday will require all organisms facing extinction to actively search for a new habitat in order to receive funding for their protection”


What good is a legislature when so many of our rules can be changed without approval from the legislature?

With the senate filibuster, most Congressional legislation is just appointments and removing rules anyway. New legislation feels impossible to enact.

Words cannot express the depth of sadness these actions make me feel. We are lost.

We Americans are not lost because power is taken away from the Federal government. The states (or even more local authorities) should be in charge of this. Ask someone from sparsely populated northern Minnesota what they think when their cattle are slaughtered by wolves that are over-populated because people in the big cities dictate law.

The power to make law regarding wolves already belongs to the state, as grey wolves lost federal protection earlier this year.

Independent of that, ranchers are compensated for killed, wounded, and spooked cattle under the pay-for-presence program and similar. The rates are favorable to the point of being a cash grab, and there have been numerous cases of fraud where ranchers claimed kills that simply didn't happen.

Independent of that, the federal government has poured subsidies into ranching for decades, to the tune of about $30,000 per rancher per year. Even if they weren't compensated for lost livestock, on balance ranchers are far better off with the feds than they would be on their own.

But you don't hear about that because, frankly, the ranchers are spoiled rotten. When something benefits them they accept it without thought, and when it doesn't, well, they either howl in protest on the internet or outright take up arms against the federal government in one of the most poetic examples of "biting the hand that feeds you" which I can name.

I'm from northern Minnesota. I'm dead-set against wolf hunting and trapping and so are my friends from the area. The idea that wolves are "over-populated" up north is a laughable fiction.

Since we're on the topic of environmental issues in northern MN, one thing that has upset almost everyone in the area is Trump allowing foreign companies to start mining in the Boundary Waters, an area that is near-univerally cherished by Minnesotans for its undisturbed nature (including its wolf packs!).

If you're not a Minnesotan, don't try to speak for us. If you are a Minnesotan, I contend that your perspective reflects only a relatively small minority of us, even among rural northern Minnesotans (like my family and friends!)

If you don’t like this you need to write to your representatives or call their office. Literally send an email or pick up the phone right now and call them to tell them you disapprove of this action. If you can’t even just a single minute for a phone call... I’m just disappointed.

I was born and raised in Idaho and have seen almost no movement on environmental issues here in my lifetime. For those of you in coastal states, big cities and predominantly democratic (blue) states, you may not realize that most republican (red) states like mine are still controlled by the "good old boy" network.

Which means that the pretty much the ONLY way to hold a public office here, especially a federal office like US senator or representative, is with the approval of one of the timber, mining or grazing families like Simplot (which supplies the potatoes for fast food chains and beef for the northwest).

So although I write my elected officials often, I have only seen concern from Mike Simpson and a handful of others. Crapo, Risch and Fulcher are firmly pro-industry and for the most part ignore all environmental concerns.

So it's really up to you in your state to write to your officials, even though Nevada, Utah and Idaho have the most public land in the lower 48 (and many endangered species).

I realize that big cities have their own problems with corruption from democrats, for example with unions or boondoggle construction projects (although I'm not personally familiar with them). But make no mistake that environmental degradation is almost purely a republican problem, and it happens almost entirely at the behest of red states.

And the citizens of red states are almost powerless to do anything about it once the demographics reach about 60/40 red. We have to go to great lengths via groups like the Sierra Club to prevent clearcuts and mass killings of wildlife, and the battle never ends.

Even if you are a conservative living in a blue state, it's up to you to contact your elected officials if you feel any concern at all for the environment.

Very politicized headline IMHO. Legislation gets "traded" all the time. Not every liberal proposition is good or bad. Nor is every conservative proposition. Nor libertarian, etc. The congress-people trading votes for other votes, and block voting to pass or block legislation is the crux of the problem. Each item should stand on its merit, rather than be a beachball batted about a concert venue. I watch local enviro-lobbys, some whom I support, engage in the politics more than the environmental stewardship people typically picture them as. And we don't need a law for everything.

Conservatives once stood for "conserv"ation. The word literally means "aiming to preserve". In fact they used to be at the forefront of governmental intervention for environmental causes. (see: Teddy Roosevelt)

But that all started to change in the 1980s. And now the scale has completely flipped upside down. I very much appreciate their work from the turn of the 20th century beyond WWII. It saddens me what the current party is doing.

Teddy Roosevelt was a big game trophy hunter, who set aside swaths of unspoiled north American soil for appreciation by many.

I think conservative didn't imply conserving nature as much as conserving social norms and policies.

> I think conservative didn't imply conserving nature as much as conserving social norms and policies.

I think a conservative then and now is someone intent on preserving the structures that enable their revenue stream.

Social issues merely correlate with conservatism (purity concerns mostly), but are side issues to the monetary concerns.

A lot of things we take for granted about the modern liberal/conservative divide originally came from the early days of post-revolutionary France. Even the terms "right" and "left" came from which side of the aisle French politicians sat on. The conservatives were trying to preserve the power of the aristocracy and as much of the pre-revolutionary social and economic order as they could. The liberals had a bunch of different factions, many with very different ideas for what a modern pluralistic secular state based on the notion of fundamental human rights and democracy should look like. Some of those ideas would make sense to us even today, and some of those ideas were utterly batshit crazy (like turning Notre Dame into a temple to actually worship a made-up god of Reason, or executing people who had slightly different ideas about things).

But anyway, that's a long winded way of saying you are correct. The term "conservative" refers to conserving the norms, values, economics, and power structures that already exist, and resisting changes that would challenge them in any way, or at least being naturally skeptical of anyone proposing big sweeping changes, both to protect the old order and out of a fear of unintended consequences going forward. It doesn't refer to conserving nature in any way, even though Teddy Roosevelt was a champion of conservation and Nixon created the EPA.

However, in the US at least, "conservative" now seems to mean whatever the GOP wants it to mean. When things like decades-long commitments to free trade or international security or even domestic security can fall by the wayside seemingly on the whim of a human random number generator, you know Edmund Burke's hands are completely off the wheel and have been for a long time.

To add to this, the EPA was established by Nixon in 1970.

I do wonder how being environmentally conscious became a liberal value rather than a conservative one. Environmental causes seem to be more in-line with the perceived stereotype of an American conservative than an American liberal.

Liberals tend to live in cities, where there is very little nature. Conservatives tend to live in rural areas. They are more often farmers and hunters and fishermen. They're more likely to drink unpurified and non-treated water. Surely keeping nature as pristine as we can make it should mean more?

If we poison the groundwater, my well becomes useless. If we poison the lakes, I can't fish. If we cut down the forests, I can't hunt.

Even though I live in the city now, I grew up on a farm and I consider myself to be a conservationist, and I can't for the life of me figure out how any rural American could feel otherwise. Destruction of natural environments impacts rural America far more than anyone living in a city.

There are a couple pieces here, I think.

1) Environmental regulations and property rights are frequently viewed as in conflict by the rural population, examples of government reach onto the property owner's perceived absolute rights upon their own land.

2) The view that the wilderness exists to be made use of- which, really, is a view that's quite in line with what the rural population is generally living out. Farms can look beautiful and green from the outside, but they're generally intensely managed little plots of nature, where every year is a fight against Nature's encroachment.

3) A feeling that life is hard enough in those areas and those lifestyles without further restrictions on what you can and can't do, or more work that has to happen just to keep doing the same thing that you've been doing for generations. These are generally not the people who feel like they are (or actually are!) really getting ahead in life, and anything that makes it feel like they've got to run faster on that treadmill isn't going to go over well.

I think a lot of city-dwellers idolize the wilderness, it being something that is not at all part of their daily life, to a much greater extent than the rural dwellers who can walk out into acres of forest with no one around practically whenever they feel like it.

I'm city to rural transplant who's very much conservation-minded, but it's important to acknowledge where people are coming from, too. These are certainly not the only reasons, nor are they reasons that every rural citizen is going to agree with, but they're certainly some of the reasons that I've encountered.

Good points. Like I said, I grew up on a farm so I certainly understand that rural life is hard and a lot of anti-regulation sentiment comes from that. But lack of regulation often makes life even harder for rural populations.

As an example: when I was a teenager a water bottling plant went in a few miles from our farm. Almost immediately our well stopped producing water. We had to get a drilling service to come out and drive our well deeper. There's no regulation in the area on how much water any one property owner can consume which is great for farmers who are just keeping their crops alive but catastrophic when someone comes in to pump that water out of the ground for the sheer purpose of pumping as much water as they can.

Logging was big in the area back then too. Very little regulation about logging on your own property, which is great when you need to clear a bit more farmland or keep the wood stove running. But when the property is bought for the specific purpose of clear-cutting, now area farmers have to worry about the wind blowing topsoil away. That's exactly what happened in the Dust Bowl, and it's happening again now. The only reason we haven't had a farming collapse is our fertilizers are so much better now. But fertilizer is expensive, and it's just one more thing farmers have to buy.

And when all those trees are cut down, the deer population moves away. So now hunters have fewer chances to harvest during the hunting season. I know a lot of people back home have given up on hunting. I haven't harvested a deer in over five years, and we used to fill multiple licenses per season.

Anti-regulation is supposed to make rural life easier. But in effect it really only makes life easier for out-of-town businesses who want to destroy a rural area and leave it decimated for the population who lives there.

These should be conservative talking points. This should resonate with rural populations. "Lack of environmental concern from big business is making your already-difficult life even harder." But that message is considered "liberal" and I just don't understand it.

I mean I have an answer which helps me understand but it is not a particularly “satisfying” answer… the answer basically boils down to this being a mathematical theorem.

So you have an election cycle. Each election is a function Polity → Polity, the people who performed the election look at the election issues and they vote and they look at the results and they are changed by that process. A cycle of these will chain a bunch of these together; the time delay between them is a sort of diffusion process in the middle of them. That diffusion is kind of the only way to escape the basic theorem. So there’s a broad set of theorems about these x → x functions called fixed point theorems; under very general conditions repeating one indefinitely causes it to converge to some value which is equal to its input, x = f(x).

So the mathematical theorem says that whatever your election process is, your nation will fall into a state where those elections do not change the polity much, except to eliminate any diffusion.

It seems then that the fixed point of the “divide the country into seats and run first-past-the-post elections on each seat” looks like this:

1. There are two spineless political parties. By spineless, I mean that they are not actually associated with real deep-held convictions; over long time-scales you will see seismic shifts, such as a “party of Lincoln, freed the slaves” becoming a “definitely favored by white supremacists” shift or so.

2. Each party maintains approximately 50% of the popular vote, and probably 50% of the control of the government. Note that this happens both with gerrymandering (the House) and without (the Senate).

3. Typical people do not belong to one party or the other. People think they are relatively independent and they disagree with “their” parties in many many ways. What makes that party “theirs” is not their identification with that cause, but their abject terror at the policies of the opposite party.

Presumably these three trends continue to polarize the nation until an inevitable civil war. One can also predict that, since the casus belli of the civil war was chosen by spineless political parties, after the situation is resolved one way or the other there will be some sort of movement from the losers to forget that casus belli and recast their motives into new lights as the political climate changes—so in a post-slavery America the US Civil War is understood as not being about “slavery” but about “states’ rights to self-determination,” which is not really about white-washing history (the Republicans after all won the US Civil War and would not mind reminding people of it if that were politically expedient) so much as re-stoking the same demonization of the Other that keeps the system going (“those Democrats are part of a dangerous Northerner lineage that dates back to the Civil War and wants to take away all of your rights in the name of improving your life, whereas we in the South prize individual liberties and would never do such barbaric things”).

These are great insights, and I thought of a 4th one, at the intersection of your 1) and 3): when a rural land-owner wants to develop their property or small or large business wants to start a new venture locally, the environmental regulations can be seen as blocking their ability to get ahead like everyone else. It doesn't help that urban areas have essentially stamped our their own sensitive environmental areas in prior generations, so they have the ability to develop and enrich themselves. Rural owners see this, including all the electronics and toys, but don't have the ability to match it.

The sibling comment by freehunter makes a good point too. But the bottling plant went in because someone was able to sell or develop their land, and because of the demand in the urban areas. You can bet if environmental regulations had blocked it, there would have been lots of local grumbling against the EPA--and of course no mention of how the threat to their wells had been identified and avoided.

Another reason I've heard from some conservatives is that God created the earth and animals for mankind to use as he sees fit. If animals go extinct, so be it. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

I know it goes back at least to Ronald Reagan, and likely has a lot to do with the Reagan Republicans' association of environmental policy with burdensome government over-regulation that interferes with business and personal liberty. That may also have been part of an attempt to repudiate the legacy of Jimmy Carter and the Democrats by polarizing the base against Carter's environmentalism, gaining a power base with business interests interested in deregulation.

I might even speculate there is some residual association with the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Also, the mockery that Al Gore got from Republicans for his environmental activism more or less cemented anything associated with environmentalism and "climate change" as a "leftist fraud" in the minds of many Americans.

Devil's advocate: maybe they have the same conservationist attitude you do, but they've seen how bureaucracies operated by non-locals and legislated by corrupt politicians don't result in better conservation? People in cities can look at legislation that seems to make sense to them, and feel like they're protecting the earth. But people in nature see the actual consequences.

I lived in the Sierra Nevadas where we have to do absurd things like destroy unauthorized dams that have existed for 150 years[1]. We have to adhere to solar installation regulations, despite getting hundreds of inches of snow that require 400# per square foot of roof strength tolerance, and are covered by snow six months out of the year. We have to live in constant fear of a massive forest fire blowing through our community thanks to our government's approach to fire containment.

I admit that Big Oil has seized on this skepticism to push their own environmentally harmful agenda, but not wanting the government to sink its tentacles into rural life is more than just the hypocrisy that you are implying countryfolk have. There are real consequences to past legistaltion they are reacting to.

[1] https://mynevadacounty.com/2444/Lake-Van-Norden-Spillway

I don't understand why you're being downvoted. This is a reasonable comment and a good question to ask.

Cities are far more environmentally friendly.

Just in terms of energy consumption, people in cities save vast amounts of CO_2 by:

- having shorter commutes

- driving smaller cars, or even...

- ...using public transport

- using less real estate (lower heating/cooling costs)

- living in large, shared houses with better space-to-surface ratios

They also protect the environment in the classical, i. e. by not building houses with manicured but dead lawns in it.

Because to be a US Conservative is now more about greed that a "conservative value". It is more about self-interest than selflessness. To be environmentally conscious means someone cannot exploit that environment to profit. The consequences matter for someone else. The lakes are poisioned because it was cheaper to discharge into them than to keep your poisionous runoff.

The US Conservatives are currently attacking the clean water act, the clean air act, and the endangered species act only because they interfere with profit and greed.

Never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by greed.

If this offends you (and you're an American), you can express your feelings through voting.

I mean I can also scream into a pillow with similar results.

This is pretty laughable for me.

Many Americans are underserved by their assigned politicians. Gerrymandering based on political gain merely makes it worse. The most representative folks they have to vote for generally have little power to change things because of the local nature. Not saying not to vote - in fact, I encourage it - but this seriously also isn't as easy as simply voting.

It gets even trickier if you are American and live overseas. You still have to file taxes even if you've not lived on american soil for years. If you are in a low-tax nation, you might have to pay the American government taxes. You still theoretically can vote in at least federal elections based on where you lived before you moved, but... seriously, the voting forms ask if I'll be living in the US again and when. I have absolutely no confidence in being heard by any politician and truly don't feel that my vote counts. This is especially true where I'm from - Indiana - and have never really had a politician reflect my views nor have I gotten much more than a form letter in response to a letter.

I have more representation where I live and I'm not a citizen. I can vote in local elections here in Norway, so have some representation at least.

It's perfectly reasonable to consider cost - which is what this move entails - when deciding whether or not to protect a species. We already employ this calculus, in that we are not spending our entire national budget on protecting some endangered subspecies of river fish in Arkansas. Anyone suggesting we do such a thing would be laughed at, because it's not worth it to spend all that money protecting fish.

The protection of obscure species concerns a small portion of activists very much, and they are very loud in their activism, but there are other large portions of the population that don't care nearly as much and would prioritize economic growth over protecting endangered species. The activists' personal convictions are not more important or more valuable than those of people who don't care as much for endangered species. They're just different, and the activists tend to be louder and more passionate in voicing them.

Seems to me an activist loud enough to get legislation passed could also be loud enough to organize an effective boycott or at least a pretty effective PR campaign against companies (or even individuals) that are threatening species.

People like animals. I'd certainly be willing to buy Coke rather than Pepsi if I thought it was going to save an owl or a possum or something. I also don't think Coke would be above putting an owl on some of their packaging to remind people that buying Coke will save owls.

I'd much prefer this approach to legislation.

Your approach requires that the market makes knowledge about endangered-species-killing-companies available.

I can't think of a single company off the top of my head that is a 'known endangered species killer' so I'd suspect the mechanism you suggest does not actually function.

A good rule of thumb is that if something is good, the market will support it. The "information asymmetry" argument is typically a red herring.

No legislation will stop species extermination if information about the extermination is unattainable. If it's not available to activists and competitors, it's not available to regulators.

If the information is attainable, then the aforementioned activists and competing companies are both incentivized, morally and financially, to find it.

That libertarian fantasy is unworkable from start to finish: How do you even know who's behaving badly, if one of the major changes is that environmental impact studies are no longer required for many projects?

And, assuming you somehow can get that information (which you can't), how you would you boycott some oil exploration contractor eight levels removed from the consumer? How do you boycott Monsanto/Bayer, which sell to farmers who sell to wholesalers who sell to every mill in the country who sell to every single bakery?

How do you boycott Monsanto/Bayer, which sell to farmers

You organize the farmers to boycott.

If you can raise $1mm from various environmental activist communities to lobby congress, you could just as easily raise the same million and organize a boycott that directly targets the revenue source of the bad actor.

How does raising $1mm - which is nothing spread out across any number of farmers going to affect the revenue stream?

Don't get lost in the weeds here. The main thing to understand is that if something has value, there is a market-based approach to get that value.

I don't need to argue that the environment and endangered species have value. They clearly do. I'm arguing that activists should act more like entrepreneurs and find a way to use market forces to extract that value - in this case, protecting species and their environments.

I've thrown out hypothetical examples, but I'm not an environmental activist, I don't pretend to understand the market. But I know the market is there, because this thread is dedicated to discussing the market opportunity.

The market-based approach is to lobby - it's the fastest and most efficient way, and America's brand of capitalism has figured it out. Ironically to go with the more common market, you'd need anti-lobby legislation.

This is true, but it's a matter of abstract ideals vs concrete benefits. Who are we to tell people in a poor community that certain economic development cannot take place because it will harm certain animals or plants?

This is a very real problem for communities in Africa and the Amazon basin; they are unable to build the infrastructure necessary for further development because privileged Western animal rights activists are more concerned with protecting animals than other humans.

You mean like the abstract ideal of capitalism vs the concrete benefit of healthy ecosystems?

Those activists you seem so annoyed with are trying to promote the survival of the entire ecosystem by making sure that indicator species survive. All our food for 7 billion+ people comes from the soil and the sea. The productivity of both are supported by a complex web of life. Each species that goes extinct snips at a thread of that web. If one of those webs were to collapse, most of us would starve. Mars is a dead world. We have just this one living world. Money is just a social construct, you can't eat it.

The extinction of a species is permanent, it won't exist tomorrow, and it won't exist in a thousand years. Contrasting that with transitory economic interests of the current electorate is short sighted.

There's a very good reason to be extremely conservative in extinguishing a species, with the benefit of hindsight it won't be worth it. The extinction of the mammoths and dodos also increased economic growth for someone at the time.

This is an odd account - three days old, explicitly labled as a throwaway, and it's post history consists entirely of FUD about internet privacy, corporate regulations, and authoritarian regimes. Is it some sort of performance art?

The law was not sensible to begin with and has helped kill many species.


An opinion article with absolutely nothing to do with the Endangered Species Act is hardly a serious citation for such a claim.

"Hunting bans don't stop poaching. In fact, bans create more crime," If we go by that line of reasoning, then we should eliminate murder laws, since they don't completely stop murders and we could reduce crime since murders would no longer be illegal.

"Abortion laws don't stop abortion, they just make it unsafe."

Allowing that line of reasoning seems to flip teams a lot.

(I don't condone either side's usage)

"Increasing success by lowering expectations."

Hypothetical question: Suppose in the past hundred years a new species of gnat evolved to live in asbestos insulation. As asbestos is phased out, this species faces an extinction crises. Should humans intervene to preserve the species?

Daily reminder: extinction and speciation go hand-in-hand. It's not like there's a finite number of species and we're going to run out of them.

"So profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world, or invent laws on the duration of the forms of life!" ~Charles Darwin

We're the only species that can make those decisions and the only species that can consider the consequence of those actions. We've grown beyond just letting things run their course and watching what happens - it's become increasingly obvious we work against our own self interest in how we run around destroying things. I don't find the ecological equivalent of "boys will be boys" in any way satisfying.

So in that hypothetical example, what are the dire consequences of letting the asbestos-gnat go extinct? Bear in mind that if we ever suddenly need to do studies on asbestos-gnats for some reason, we can just re-create the environment they evolved in and let them re-evolve.

That's entirely flawed though - we can't for certain replicate the exact conditions, and if it's proven to be valuable, we can't know that recreating it will have the effect we require it to have.

Well then we're guilty by omission for all the trillions of species that could have evolved if we had done something different in the past. For example, maybe if we had used higher amounts of chlorine in our swimming pools all along, then that would have caused some new bacteria to evolve. Are we guilty because we never gave that poor, innocent, helpless bacteria a chance at life? (Queue images of bacterias crying into their handkerchiefs with tiny little violins playing in the background)

No, we aren't. Like I just said - you can't anticipate what's to come, but you can look at your actions right now, and if it's causing species to become extinct because of our interference, we can knock that out.

Daily Reminder:


It's not like there are just a few 'gnats' here and there going extinct. This is an ongoing ecological collapse we are the cause of, and in the middle of.


Would you like to provide a source for "the continued existence of all species presently on Earth at this very moment has become some sort of moral imperative in the minds of activists"? Because it's certainly not generally true.

The goal is to limit species loss due to human impact on the natural environment. Generally, no one's even suggesting that we stop impacting that environment; merely that we stop ourselves when our impact becomes great enough to threaten biodiversity loss.

Extinction does not drive evolution, reproduction does, and if a species' food goes extinct, they reproduce less, not more.

Secondly, these animals aren't abandoning their niches, they're losing them due to human activities. There is no room for another species to adapt to it, because there is nothing there to adapt to anymore.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact