More than 40 supporters joined the Mackinac Center for its “Making Waves” sunset dinner cruise aboard the Princess Wenonah charter boat on July 18.
As guests traveled along the Saginaw River through Bay City, they saw riverfront areas used for everything from retail stories, parks and homes to marinas, industry and the floating museum USS Edson, a retired naval destroyer permanently docked in Bay City.
The varied scenery matched the evening presentation by Jason Hayes, Mackinac Center director of environmental policy, who spoke to guests about conflicting viewpoints over the use of land and natural resources.
As just one example, he said, ranchers, park rangers, tourists and some environmentalists will have different opinions on reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers might see it as a threat to livestock, while rangers see it a draw for tourists, and environmentalists see it as preserving a natural species.
Science can inform these disputes by explaining how the natural world functions, Hayes said, but it cannot resolve them.
“While science tells us what is and what can be, it can’t tell us what should be,” Hayes said. “That is the realm of politics and policy.”
The Mackinac Center works to advance free-market environmentalism, Hayes said. The key principles of this approach are that prosperity helps, incentives matter, and local decision-making and cooperation are better than government regulation.
Free markets lead to prosperity, and prosperity helps with environmental protection, Hayes said. People who prosper have the means to protect natural resources, while those living in poverty are less likely to worry about how their actions might affect the environment.
Incentives matter, too, he added. People who own private property have a strong incentive to protect it and care for it.
In contrast, government managers have different incentives, and turning over land or resources to a government agency is often not the best solution for the environment, Hayes said. Government officials may be under pressure from special interests, or want to grow their department budget or be worried about reelection.
Government managers also are often distant from the problem at hand, Hayes said. Trying to regulate land or resources from afar is often much more inefficient than allowing local citizens and organizations to develop solutions.
Following dinner and Hayes’ presentation, many guests spent the last few miles of the three-hour trip watching the sun set from the upper deck of the boat.
“This was our first Mackinac Center dinner cruise, but many guests asked us to make it an annual event,” Sandra Darland, event manager, said. “We certainly are considering it.”
For more information about Mackinac Center activities, please visit our website at mackinac.org/events. We hope to see you at a Mackinac Center event soon.