Precautionary Principle History
The Precautionary Principle
Problems with The Precautionary Principle
Sustainable Development
In The News
Introduction: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.-Milton Friedman

The fundamental goal of environmentalism is not clean air and clean water; rather, it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization. Environmentalism's goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather, it is a subhuman world where "nature" is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.1

The expressed goal of environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. Intrusion is necessary for human survival. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man control his life and project long-range goals. Intrusion improves the environment, if by "environment" one means the surroundings of man--the external material conditions of human life. Intrusion is a requirement of human nature. For environmentalism, the "natural" world is a world without man. Man has no legitimate needs, but trees, ponds, and bacteria somehow do. 2

Perhaps Ayn Rand said it best:
"[O]bserve that in all the propaganda of the ecologists—amidst all their appeals to nature and pleas for "harmony with nature"—there is no discussion of man's needs and the requirements of his survival. Man is treated as if he were an unnatural phenomenon. Man cannot survive in the kind of state of nature that the ecologists envision—i.e., on the level of sea urchins or polar bears. . . .

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals. From the most primitive cultures to the most advanced civilizations, man has had to manufacture things; his well-being depends on his success at production. The lowest human tribe cannot survive without that alleged source of pollution: fire. It is not merely symbolic that fire was the property of the gods which Prometheus brought to man. The ecologists are the new vultures swarming to extinguish that fire."

-Ayn Rand (1971), "The Anti-Industrial Revolution," Return of the Primitive, 277. 3

There are differing schools of thought regarding when concern for the environment started. Below are a few examples of this.

Some environmental activists speculate that one of the first scholars to touch on the subject of sustainable development was Thomas Malthus. In his book An Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus postulated that the dangers of population growth would preclude the inevitable progress towards a utopian society. He stated “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”.


Another scholar that is credited in early development of sustainable development as a concept was Arthur Pigou. In his book Wealth and Welfare, he originated the idea that governments can, via a mixture of taxes and subsidies, correct perceived market failures or “internalized externalities”. Pigovian Taxes, taxes used to correct negative externalities, are named after him. A “pollution tax” would be an example of a Pigovian Tax.


Publication of Rachel Carlson’s Silent Spring was a watershed moment in the environmental movement in the United States. The primary purpose of the book was to instill fear into the population regarding pesticide, especially dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT, and other synthetic chemicals using claims based upon selectively presented suspect scientific evidence about harm to wildlife. Silent Spring was the first modern example of environmental alarmism, with an impact that resulted in one of the first new acts for the newly-formed EPA to ban DDT in 1972. The United Nations Stockholm Convention also banned DDT. In its early years, EPA had little scientific capability or understanding-indeed, now the familiar scientific disciplines relied on to inform regulations were in their infancies. DDT is a very effective and inexpensive means of controlling the mosquito population that spreads the disease malaria. Improved understanding of how DDT works have shown that, were it not banned, it effectively controls mosquitoes when applied at much lower concentrations that were used to deleterious effect in the post-war period. Since the ban, millions of lives have been lost because alternative products are less effective and more expensive to manufacture, a concern when most countries that have a high prevalence of malaria are very poor. The DDT ban is perhaps the earliest instance of environmental regulation based on the Precautionary Principle.


Rachel’s Carlson’s Genocide

Applying the Precautionary Principle to DDT" Indur Goklany,National Center for Policy Analysis

“Free the Fight Against Malaria”, Richard Nchabi Kamwi-Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2010.

It is difficult to discuss the concepts of the Precautionary Principle (PP) and Sustainable Development (SD) as separate ideas since the two concepts are interconnected.

There are two broad classes of definitions of the Precautionary Principle: first the strong version of PP which basically states take no action unless you are certain that it will do no harm; the second weaker version of PP which states that lack of full certainty is not a justification for preventing an action that might be harmful. 4

A common definition of Sustainable Development comes from the a report of the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) which states that Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 5

The definitions of Precautionary Principle and Sustainable Development and much of the rhetoric associated with both concepts, there are serious inherent inconsistencies that result in flawed regulatory applications that have damaging consequences. In the case of the DDT ban, the consequences included millions of preventable deaths in poverty stricken nations.

This website is dedicated to understanding the history, definitions, ideologies, successes and problems of the Precautionary Principle and Sustainability Development from philosophical constructs into real world regulation.

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