The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to change how it analyzes problems and makes decisions, in a way that would give it vastly expanded power to regulate businesses, communities and ecosystems in the name of “sustainable development,” the centerpiece of a global United Nations conference slated for Rio de Janeiro next June.
Russell is spinning his conspiracy theory from a National Academies of Science report entitled Sustainability and the U.S. EPA, which is “intended to help the agency better assess the social, environmental, and economic impacts of various options as it makes decisions.”
This exclusively inane rant was promoted by the Drudge Report and echoed among the right-wing conspiracy blogosphere. “The idea is to reduce economic activity now so that future generations can also share in the scarcity,” cries the PJ Tattler’s Rick Moran. “They believe that a ‘sustainable’ world population is about 900 million,” says Moran in an even more breathless screed at American Thinker. “Be afraid, be very, very afraid,” says Weasel Zippers, without apparent irony.
So why is the EPA interested in considering the “economic impacts” of its decisions?
Since the founding of the EPA, right-wing polluter-friendly critics have bludgeoned the agency for putting “nature over man” and “environment over economy,” not considering the costs to businesses of protecting environmental and public health. The critics conveniently fail to mention that the EPA is expressly forbidden from conducting cost-benefit analyses of much of its work by law, since lawmakers in the Nixon era believed that the value of human life, clean water, and clean air transcends dollars and cents.
Environmental policy has shifted in the last 40 years to incorporate explicit economic analyses of the costs and benefits of restricting the amount of deadly, toxic, and dangerous pollution that is produced. There is an increasing understanding of how environmental policy can correct market failures, building freer markets by reducing externalities that distort economic incentives. The drive toward sustainable development has been non-partisan and relatively non-ideological in the past. The Bush administration promoted government-business partnerships by which corporations would voluntarily adopt more sustainable business practices instead of setting mandatory regulations. With advances in environmental monitoring, economic science, and globalization, corporations have integrated sustainability into their bottom lines — often realizing short-term, private profit because of the focus on efficiency and long-term viability.
But the reality of “sustainable development” is immaterial to the propagandists of the right, who put partisanship and polluter profits above the American people. So everything the EPA does — even if it helps businesses and people thrive, if it strengthens free markets, health, and liberty — is an internationalist socialist plot.