Earth Day Special: Private Property Protects the Environment

This Sunday marks the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day. Over the years, the day has become more focused on political activism and less on personal decisions that individuals can make to help the environment. Hundreds of thousands of self-identified environmentally-conscious people travel to Washington, DC to demand that the federal government act to “protect” the environment.

Most of these activists want the government to impose more environmental regulations on businesses. But many of them fail to realize that big businesses are also lobbying for regulations to reduce CO2 emissions. Big businesses often pretend to be environmentally-friendly but their underhanded motives aren’t as pure. They know full well that strict environmental regulations will close down many small businesses which will result in less competition in the market place. Big businesses despise competition from the little guys.

Major corporations are not the worst polluter on the planet. The title goes to the U.S. Federal Government. According to blogger W.E. Messamore,

The federal government is the single largest consumer of energy with 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles. In 2009 alone, the government’s bill for utilities and fuel totaled $24 billion, so it’s no surprise that the government’s carbon footprint is 123.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year.

123.2 million metric tons! How could anyone trust the largest polluter on the face of the Earth to protect the environment?

Please. There is no denying that the environment isn’t in the best shape. Pollution, trash, and air smog are major environmental problems. Regardless of political affiliation, we all want clean air and clear water. But the government is not the solution to achieve these ends.

The key to protecting the environment is private property rights. People tend to take better care of their land when they own it. They have an incentive to conserve and improve their resources over time.

Government owned land is a different story. The same incentives do not exist for “public” land. Most public parks are covered with trash and debris. Nearly all rivers and bays owned by the government are extremely polluted. This is because no one has a vested interest in taking care of the land.

True environmentalists should advocate for private property rights, not more government intervention.