Most proposed solutions for environmental problems focus on bureaucracies rather than on individuals. Yet when we look at the record of government, the results are disappointing. More often than not, government has proved to be the natural enemy of the environment, whereas individuals are often its protectors and defenders.
This task force report has taken a totally different approach. We have sought to understand how and why individual entrepreneurs have been successful in preserving and maintaining ecologically sensitive natural resources. We have discovered that individuals succeed provided there are institutions which make the achievement of environmental goals consistent with the pursuit of self-interest.
The institutions that have worked so well for us in other areas of economic life include private property, free markets, a price system and methods of punishing people who trample on the rights of others. Until recently, most people assumed that these institutions could never be used to solve environmental problems. Yet when we look carefully around the world,we find that they are already being used to achieve worthy environmental goals by different people in diverse places. Moreover, new technological developments promise to allow us to extend market-based institutions into new frontiers – the air, the ocean, ground water and endangered fish and wildlife.
This report has sought to create a framework for taking advantage of new insights and new technologies – empowering people to achieve environmental goals that were previously thought to be unachievable. That framework, however, requires a new vision of the relationship between man and nature. The name we have chosen for this vision, appropriately, is "progressive environmentalism."
Note: Nothing contained in this report necessarily represents the views of the institutions represented on the task force. No recommendations made should be construed as an attempt to influence legislation before Congress or any state legislature.