December 31, 2003

Johan Norberg Interview

More good stuff gleaned from my browsing at; this Reason Online interview with Johan Norberg, the young Swedish pro-globalization author/activist. In this excerpt, he talks about environmentalist opposition to globalization:

I think that there are two basic reasons that lead environmentalists to oppose globalization and the industrial development that goes along with it. The first is a real concern about the environment. Many environmentalists care about green forests, clean air, clean water, and so on. What they don’t appreciate is that attitude is itself a result of industrial development. In our countries, people didn’t care about these things 100 years ago. Preferences shift when you can feed your children and give them an education. That’s when you begin to care about these sorts of things. Environmentalists in this camp merely project a contemporary sense of these issues onto developing countries that are at the place where the West was a century ago. It’s an intellectually honest mistake, one that new information and data can change. So can talking with people in developing countries.

But there’s another motivation at work among some environmentalists. I don’t think this viewpoint represents the majority, but it often includes the intellectual leaders of environmental groups. These are people who are bothered not by environmental degradation per se. Rather, they reject the modern project altogether. They are skeptical of the lifestyles and societies that we have created. They think we are alienated from nature compared to the past and that it is wrong to see nature as a tool that human beings can use for their own convenience and benefit. It’s a fundamentally aesthetic understanding of the world that is reminiscent of early 19th century German romanticism. It paints a very distorted view of the pre-industrial world as a utopia. In reality, that world was a place in which starvation was the rule and not the exception.

Read it all.

Posted by dan at December 31, 2003 2:17 PM