If We Want to Save Endangered Species, We Need More Capitalism and Freedom, Not Less


The left takes great pride in protecting endangered species.

It’s undoubtedly a noble cause — the creation before our eyes is a magnificent thing and we should work to maintain its beauty, livelihood, and function.

But going about it the way progressives favor, with policies that shackle the free market that makes economic development possible, will only further the biodiversity threats, not aid in the fight against them.

That’s the conclusion of scientist and journalist Matt Ridley, who has done a great deal of research on the correlation between free markets and the conservation of wildlife and forests.

The evidence is clear, Ridley wrote in an article published this month: Free-market prosperity makes nature thrive.

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“On the whole, what really diminishes biodiversity is a large but poor population trying to live off the land,” Ridley wrote. “As countries get richer and join the market economy, they generally reverse deforestation, slow species loss and reverse some species declines.

“Countries like Bangladesh are now rich enough to be reforesting, not deforesting, and this is happening all over the world. Most of this is natural forest, not plantations. As for wildlife, think of all the species that have returned to abundance in Britain: otters, ospreys, sea eagles, kites, cranes, beavers, deer and more. Why are wolves increasing all around the world, lions decreasing and tigers now holding steady? Basically, because wolves are in rich countries, lions in poor countries and tigers in middle income countries. Prosperity is the solution not the problem.

“Nothing would kill off nature faster than trying to live off it. When an African villager gets rich enough to buy food in a shop rather than seek bushmeat in the forest, that’s a win for wildlife. Ditto if he or she can afford gas for cooking rather than cutting wood. The more we can urbanise and the more we can increase our use of intensive farming and fossil fuels, the less we will need to clear forests for either food or fuel.”

Ridley also noted that the production of better farming equipment and pesticides — thanks to the innovations brought about by a capitalistic society — “spares” natural environments through increased efficiency of land.

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“It’s been calculated that if today’s population were to be fed using the mainly organic yields of 1960, we would have to farm 82% of the world’s land, whereas actually we farm about 38%,” Ridley wrote. “Thanks to fertilisers, tractors, genetics and pesticides, we now need 68% less land to produce a given quantity of food than we did in 1960.”

In contrast, socialism and communism have hurt — if not completely destroyed — a multitude of environments and ecosystems across the world.

After the Berlin Wall came down in East Germany, the revelations were simply shocking. Here’s a recounting of the environmental destruction by The Federalist:

“The statistics for East Germany alone tell a horrific tale: at the time of its reunification with West Germany an estimated 42 percent of moving water and 24 percent of still waters were so polluted that they could not be used to process drinking water, almost half of the country’s lakes were considered dead or dying and unable to sustain fish or other forms of life, and only one-third of industrial sewage along with half of domestic sewage received treatment.

“An estimated 44 percent of East German forests were damaged by acid rain… In some areas of East Germany the level of air pollution was between eight and twelve times greater than that found in West Germany, and 40 percent of East Germany’s population lived in conditions that would have justified a smog warning across the border. Only one power station in East Germany had the necessary equipment to clean sulphur from emissions.”

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And that’s only one communist country — the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were almost equally bad, according to the website Victims of Communism.

Moving on to endangered species specifically — the crown jewel of climate change activists — Ridley gave an eye-opening example of how the media and progressive talking heads have purposefully kept conservation progress hidden.

“The BBC used a humpback whale song to illustrate species under threat of extinction,” he wrote. “Humpback whales were down to a few thousand in the 1960s and listed as ‘endangered.’ In 1996 as the population grew, they were downgraded to ‘vulnerable.’”

“In 2008 as they became numerous, they were downgraded again to “least concern”. Today there are 80,000 of them, they are back to pre-exploitation densities in many parts of the world, and groups of up to 200 are sometimes seen feeding together, a success unimaginable when I was young,” Ridley continued. “The same is true of many previously exploited species such as fur seals, elephant seals, king penguins and more.”

“For some reason, environmental activists hate talking about the success stories of conservationists in saving species, recovering their populations and reintroducing them to the wild,” he said. “They prefer to dwell on the threats. This brings more publicity and donations, but it also spreads a counsel of despair, leaving many ordinary people feeling helpless, rather than engaged.”

Progressives must open their eyes and ears to the fact that capitalism has a positive impact like no other market system could on the face of this earth.

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Ryan Ledendecker is a former writer for The Western Journal.
Ryan Ledendecker is a former writer for The Western Journal.
St. Louis, Missouri
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