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Not easy being green but we'll prosper

26, August 2006

IF you have been a frequent reader of this column [Saturday Herald-Sun], you would know that I have a problem with the green lobby.

Like the majority of Victorians, I am a passionate environmentalist. That is I want to preserve, enhance, enjoy and understand the natural environment in its many dimensions.

I am also strongly in favour of prosperity and believe that with human ingenuity and the right institutions, we can have prosperity and improve the environment.

The green lobby, or rather its dominant voices, do not share my outlook. They see growth, markets, technology, and people as at odds with the natural environment.

Accordingly they seek to restrict markets, undermine property rights, ban technology, and eliminate the hand of man from the land.

Their motto is lock it away from man and give them -- the greens -- the key.

Many of the established groups emerged from the protest movement of the 1960s and '70s. Back then they had a worthwhile message as environmental values were undervalued.

World moving, however, has moved on. Environmental values have being incorporated into the mainstream and large gains have been made. However too many of these groups remain mired in a negative past and in denial of gains.

If they are just groups of ageing hippies living in Nimbin, there would be no worries, but they are not.

The green lobby has demanded and been given the mantle of environmental guardians and as a result have become rich and influential beyond their due.

My beef is not with the money or power, but what they do with it and the narrowness of their views.

While the green lobby frequently demands openness and democracy of others, it is very much a closed shop dominated by a few pessimistic professionals.

There is a degree of uniformity in views and approach that is unwarranted and downright destructive of the very thing that the sector alleges to do: protect the environment.

There is now an alternative. Two years ago a group of frustrated environmentalists got together in Ballarat and gave birth to the Australian Environmental Foundation.

Having fended the threat of legal action from a wealthy green group, the AEF is now active and making a difference. Many of its members are pro-biotechnology, pro-nuclear power, pro-modern farming, pro-economic growth, pro-business and pro-environment.

It is open to all and driven by its membership rather than its staff.

Importantly it recognises that we live in a complex world where results count.

by Mike Nahan


Dr Nahan is an economist with a Ph.D. from the Australian National University. He has worked as an academic, public servant and consultant in Australia, the US and in the Asia-Pacific region and was awarded the Centenary Medal for his contribution to public policy.

Published in Herald-Sun

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