In this Economist article, species conservation is compared with deciding what to save from a burning house. The comparison has some virtues of explanation, insofar as it strikes at the need to prioritize in the face of urgency. What the article fails to adequately consider is the way in which the ‘burning house’ analogy is deeply troubling. If we are really ‘burning down the house’ of the global biosphere, why are we making the ongoing credit crunch the major topic of issue after issue?
As a long-time and devoted reader, I have the sense that there is an unusual amount of turbulence about environmental questions within the staff of The Economist. While no articles are attributed to specific authors, one can nevertheless distinguish between different tones and voices, at least a few of which mock environmental concern as some hysterical distraction from the business of economic growth and technological development.
The possibility of serious global environmental collapse is only beginning to percolate into the thinking of even the most serious classical liberal and conservative thinkers. The fact that, in a world with ever more billions, it will not remain some shiny side-issue for the soft-hearted has yet to really be accepted. It is only when that begins to change that we will see how new vulnerability and old ideologies will bump along during the next few decades.