In the world today, there are about 150 governments and five billion people. The
environmental movement has increasingly looked to the 150 governments to solve
problems, while ignoring the role of the five billion people. Yet the record of
government has been disappointing:
The U.S. Forest Service uses taxpayer money to build roads (nationally, eight times the total mileage of the U.S. Interstate Highway System) into ecologically fragile areas in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska, so that loggers can cut down trees.
The Bureau of Land Management has subsidized the destruction of three million acres of wildlife habitat by using huge chains, which uproot everything in their path; in order to create more grazing land for livestock.
The Bureau of Reclamation's water projects have transformed the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge from a fish and wildlife sanctuary into an environmental disaster — where the pollution has killed largemouth and striped bass, catfish and carp, and has caused newly hatched birds to develop crippling deformities.
In countries where government has complete control of the environment, the results are even worse. Per dollar of gross national product (GNP), socialist economies (the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) use three times as much energy as market economies and produce from three to six times as much air pollution.
Although government has often proved to be an enemy of the environment, individual people are frequently its protectors and defenders.
At a time when state governments awarded bounties for killing birds of prey, a concerned citizen helped found the private Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania to prevent the slaughter of thousands of hawks, falcons, ospreys, eagles, owls and other endangered birds.
At a time when state governments awarded bounties for killing seals and sea lions, a for-profit corporation protected the only mainland breeding area for the endangered Steller sea lion.
At a time when the federal government was encouraging environmental destruction on the Barrier Islands, the commercial interests at Hilton Head Island discovered that conservation was good business.
While the federal government owns only 4.7 million acres of wetlands and has encouraged the destruction of private wetlands, about 11,000 private duck clubs have managed to protect from five to seven million acres of wetlands from destruction.
While the federal government has subsidized environmental destruction in our national forests. companies such as International Paper have discovered that good conservation pays on private forestland.