On the surface, environmentalism looks and sounds beautiful. Pristine forests, open spaces in the neighbourhood, organic food, solar energy, herbal medicine, electric and hydro fuel cars.
With a few exceptions, the environmentalists seem to be yearning for life as it was in the Garden of Eden. Anything else is viewed with contempt; coal and nuclear power stations, fertilisers, large scale dams, skyscrapers, DDT to fight malaria, GM seeds, mining, oil companies, 4x4s, airliners, whaling and commercial fishing, firewood, hunting, cattle ranching, cold storage, commercial banks, guns and the military.
I have deliberately provided a long list of economically beneficial activities that are generally derided by the environmental lobby.
I do so because while they do this, environmental lobbyists insist on the other hand that their core mission is to protect the poor, save the environment, and promote micro businesses. Now in Botswana, environmentalism has burrowed its way into parliament, precipitating a plethora of regulations that hamper development and stifle innovation, in the process.
Needless to say, we will suffer the consequences if the trend is not reversed. And when that happens, the very people that environmentalists claim to care most about - the poor - will suffer enormously. The list of areas in which the poor, farmers and micro businesses will be affected is long. However, I will just use town planning to demonstrate the harm that environmentalism visits on economic development.
Owing to the influence of the environmental lobby, large tracts of land in urban centres remain unused because of planning dogma, which posits that towns must "breathe".
In the meantime, many people - mainly low-income earners - are forced to seek residential plots on the outskirts of cities, adding to transport costs and pushing them further away from social amenities. A couple of years ago, howls of indignation erupted in the media when the government carved out a piece of land from the woodlot at the Village suburb to make way for a fuel station.
Now if you profess deep commitment to programmess aimed at the identification and exploitation of economic opportunities, you should support the development of a filling station. The Village woodlot, on the other hand, represents the worst form of dead capital, as it stands. As a result, no one makes a living out of it.
The economic value of the acres of this prime land can be unlocked if we ignore the tree huggers and begin to allocate plots for residential or commercial use. A number of temporary and permanent jobs would be generated. Efforts to stem the tide of environmentalism and pre-empt its adverse effects on economic opportunity will have to be bold and resolute.
Environmentalists have already altered the business landscape by convincing Government to enact sweeping and ill-advised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations. And as we all know, new regulations for business are like taxation. They stifle innovation and raise the costs of doing business.
Putting aside the fact that environmentalists care little about the consequences of their actions on economic development, they shout down those who dissent from their dogma.
They like to project environmentalism as a science, but turn around to demand consensus with those who hold dissenting views. That cannot be science because science is not like running a democracy. It therefore does not advance by consensus but relies on empirical data to prove hypotheses.