Humans are the enemy! A new study published in Ecology and Society claims that longer life expectancy for us is bad news for the planet. From the study by Aaron Lotz and Craig R. Allen:
We found a positive relationship between life expectancy and the percentage of endangered and invasive species in a country…The overall trend in high-income countries with improvements to the Human Development Index, which includes human life expectancy as one of its variables, is toward a disproportionately larger negative impact on a country’s ecological footprint. However, some lower-income countries have a high level of development without a high impact on ecosystem services (Moran et al. 2008).Bad humans! Bad, bad humans.
Increased life expectancy means that people live longer and affect the planet longer; each year is another year of carbon footprint, ecological footprint, use of natural resources, etc. The magnitude of this impact is increased as more people live longer.
The answer is supposedly–it’s becoming a cliché–that we see ourselves as just part of nature:
Fischer et al. (2012) propose a “transformation strategy” that assumes that direct links between people and nature are better than indirect links. This paradigm shift would recouple the social-ecological system.Wrong. We are the exceptional species. The environment benefits most when we see that it is our duty to manage the environment responsibly because we are human. If we redefine ourselves as just another animal in the forest, that’s just how we will act. The authors don’t say whether we should try and live shorter lives. But that certainly seems an implication.
As incomes rise, so does life expectancy, and so does environmental protection:
The good news...is that the twin goals of environmental protection and increased prosperity are not as contradictory as many environmentalists would have the public believe. A recent study by Princeton University economists Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger found that "economic growth brings an initial phase of deterioration followed by a subsequent phase of improvement." They found, for instance, that light particulates, a pervasive form of air pollution, tend to increase until a country reaches per capita income levels of around $9,000. After that air pollution declines as countries become wealthier. According to Grossman and Krueger "contrary to the alarmist cries of some environmental groups, we find no evidence that economic growth does unavoidable harm to the natural habitat." This relationship between economic growth and environmental quality, which resembles an inverted-U, has been found for many other environmental indices such as water quality and waste disposal.
Property rights and free markets are good for the environment.