Today is Earth Day, a day raising awareness about environmental and climate issues around the globe. It is also a day that those of a liberal persuasion rail against capitalism and big business, arguing that they are the culprits of our dwindling and decaying natural resources. Now, it is true that both today and throughout history, big business has developed a track record for spurning responsible practices. The purpose of this article is not to argue in favor of eliminating all environmental regulations. And it is by no means a defense or endorsement of the President’s proposed cuts to environmental oversight programs. It serves to point out the true – and unmitigated fact – that the very institution of capitalism is actually the most eco-friendly institution available.
The overarching mantra today will undoubtedly be that companies need to be more tightly regulated and policed. If left unfettered, they will continue to extinguish what sustainable resources we have left on earth. This is a fundamentally flawed argument. It posits that the government is the institution best able to safeguard our natural resources. But the role of government as overseer and enforcer is an ineffective use of its time. Think about it like this: most people want to help the environment. Rather than focusing their efforts on punishing those who do not, imagine how groundbreaking it would be if the government instead celebrated those who did. If eco-friendly incentives were offered to private companies, and the regulatory climate was more conducive to their formation, it would enhance the innate desires of those who run them to protect our natural resources.
The reality is: the government already carefully policies companies nationwide, and pollution still occurs. And it tried getting into the eco-friendly business itself and failed quite miserably. Remember Solyndra? It was a political and financial failure.
Contrast that with a company like Harvest Power in Waltham, Massachusetts. They convert residential waste into energy and fertilizer. Voted among The 50 Most Innovative New Renewable Energy Companies of 2016 by Altenergymag, it “…uses anaerobic digestion to turn table scraps and lawn debris into energy as well as fertilizers, mulches, and soils. They developed three of the continent’s largest commercial anaerobic digestions facilities.” Its founder, Paul Sellew, endeavored to tackle our country’s trash debacle, stating, “We can process waste materials for a lower cost than they’re being put in landfills for or incinerated now.”
What if rather than policing, the government instead stepped back, and unleashed the power of capitalism? Eco-conscious products are clearly the way of the future. The public demand exists; the market is already calling for them. But they are also costly and somewhat unproven. Encouraging private sector innovation will allow companies like Harvest Power to flourish. Having private companies competing for their market share will also foster innovation and efficiency on a much wider scale than if the government had a more direct role. Celebrating biodiverse businesses will also inspire future generations of scientists and entrepreneurs, ensuring decades of eco-conscious achievements.
Republicans often get a bad rap for being eco-unfriendly. Desiring the same solution as their more liberal colleagues, they simply support a different answer to the same looming problem. For example, U.S. Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is a co-chair and founder of the Climate Solution Caucus. He is leading an effort to encourage his Republican peers in the House to take an active interest in the environment. He helped spearhead a resolution last month that implored them to use “…American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism…” and foster the “…conservative principle to protect, conserve, and be good stewards of our environment…” by backing “…economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.” In a short span of time, he got more than a dozen Republicans to join him.
The truth is, conservatives seek to conserve more than just money and liberty. Those things mean nothing without our planet. But by working together we can solve it. We can do so by empowering our greatest natural resource: us. If we channel our American spirit, our ingenuity, to this problem, we will experience unparalleled success.