February 1, 2024
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The argument that we have to choose between saving nature and strengthening the economy is a false dichotomy
One of the most damaging logical fallacies is the “fallacy of the excluded middle,” also known as the fallacy of the excluded middle. false dichotomy or false binary: the ploy of presenting a problem as one or the other with no other options and no middle ground. It is often used to make people give up something they want, persuading them that they can’t have it unless they give up something they want even more. An example is the supposed balance between employment and the environment.
Since 1984, the Gallup polling group has been asking people next question: “Which of these statements about the environment and the economy do you most agree with? Environmental protection should be prioritized, even at the risk of slowing economic growth (or) economic growth should be prioritized, even if the environment suffers to some extent?” Anti-environmental forces exploit this dichotomy. For For example, while campaigning during the United Auto Workers strike last fall, Donald Trump saying, “You can be loyal to American workers or you can be loyal to environmental nuts, but you can’t really be loyal to both. It’s one or the other.”
Most Americans aren’t crazy, but they care a lot about the environment, and there is obvious public interest in fresh air, clean water, and beautiful places to walk and rest. So anti-environmental politicians and polluting industries rely on a dichotomous framework to claim that by gutting environmental protection, they are protecting something more valuable: jobs.
In fact, numerous studies show that protecting the environment is No bad for the economy. In the 1980s, shortly after landmark federal statutes like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were passed, some studies suggested that the economic slowdown of that decade was caused by environmental legislation.
But better, larger, longer-term studies since then have refuted that claim. For example, one study found that productivity at tightly regulated oil refineries in the tightly controlled Los Angeles air basin increased over the study period (1987 to 1992), while refinery productivity declined in other regions. A recent review of the peer-reviewed literature concluded that “environmental regulations have had very little effect on employment in the regulated industry.” In other words, Environmental protection does not end with employment..
What’s more, many environmentally destructive jobs are notoriously short-lived. It is well known that mineral extraction is associated with boom and bust economies (think “gold rush”) and several studies have shown that the fracking “boom” of the early 2000s has already failed. In his 2021 book, Up to heaven and down to hell: fracking, freedom and community in an American town, Colin Jerolmack reports that the actual number of jobs created by the industry was often much smaller than claimed, and many of them proved short-lived. He Multi-State Shale Research Collaboration found that “companies with an economic interest in drilling expansion” and their allies systematically exaggerated its impact on employment.
For example, in 2012 the US Chamber of Commerce stated that fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia had created more than 300,000 new jobs. But the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry counted only about 18,000 in core industries and about 5,600 in ancillary industries, and according to the nonprofit Ohio River Valley Institute, little of the income they generated stayed in local communities. Unlike, Environmental restoration creates jobs. In projects that typically employ local workers, they use primarily local materials and, because they support tourism and recreation, often produce lasting benefits.
Protecting the environment is also good for public health, which in turn is good for the economy, because sick people usually cannot work well or sometimes cannot work at all. A study published in the journal Science Last November it was estimated that nearly half a million deaths in the United States could be attributed to fine particulate air pollutants from coal-fired power plants between 1999 and 2020.
It’s not just that being exposed to toxic chemicals and polluted air and water is bad (something we’ve known for centuries), but also that spending time in nature is good. Although the details may be difficult to pin down, several studies and reviews have documented the positive effects of a clean, green environment, particularly on mental health, cognition, and blood pressure.
One of the unintended negative consequences of the COVID-19 lockdowns for some people could have been the adverse effect of being stuck indoors. TO review study published in 2022 found that exposure to nature during the COVID pandemic was associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress and with greater happiness and life satisfaction.
Exposure to nature was also “correlated with less physical inactivity and fewer sleep disturbances.” During lockdowns, many people spent more time outdoors than usual. Recovery and resilience in future public health crises, the authors of this review concluded, “could be improved with nature-based infrastructure, interventions, designs and governance.”
So the next time you hear someone claim it’s the economy or the environment, don’t believe it. And let’s hope the good people at Gallup realize it’s time to get rid of this harmful, false dichotomy.
This is an article of opinion and analysis, and the opinions expressed by the author(s) are not necessarily those of American scientist.