Walter Russell Mead: Environmentalism That Can Work
There is bad news and good news from the latest comprehensive survey of world fisheries. As reported by the Financial Times, a recent study carried out by the University of California at Santa Barbara looked at the consequences of intensive fishing around the world, and found a situation that is both worse and better than expected.
It’s worse because past studies have missed a lot of the damage to smaller, less closely examined fisheries that mostly supply food to low income developing countries. It turns out that these vital food resources are much more severely depleted than the more effectively monitored and protected species and regions where the fishing industry supplies the rich world. So we are in more trouble than we thought, and to avoid sharp declines in the availability of an important protein source for poor countries around the world, something needs to be done.
The good news is that the fishery scientists haven’t embraced the Malthusian claptrap that so frequently turns green analysis and policy recommendations into useless garbage. Policing these resources more effectively and managing fish stocks more intelligently won’t mean that people have to eat less fish. Indeed, better management of this resource will lead to sharply increased—and sustainable—annual catches.
We hope that policy makers and NGOs and foundations concerned about the well being of people in developing countries and the preservation of the natural wealth with which our planet has been so abundantly blessed will take a look at this study and get to work supporting the development of smarter fishery management policies.
And we also hope that environmentalists everywhere will take note: when greens find ways to enhance human well being while also protecting natural resources, good things happen for everyone. There are many serious environmental problems in our urbanizing and industrializing world, and managing the impact of human activity on the environment is something we need to do. But the planet’s resources ultimately need to be managed from a humanity-centric position: when environmentalists default to the position that human beings are a blight on the planet whose depredations must be halted they stop being part of the solution.