Restore to what?

Published: 
Saturday, December 31, 2011
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I'm in rainy Seattle to give a speech on the Green Tea Party at an environmental conference. Ads for the hotel boast that it has double shower heads, which had me pondering the following:

We pass laws forcing people to install restricted flow shower heads. The hotel responds by installing a double shower head and posts a sign saying "restore our world" by turning off one of the heads to save water, our "precious resource." We use time and money -- precious resources -- to pass the laws; we use capital -- a precious resource -- to install double shower heads that deliver more water; and we print signs -- using precious resources -- to restore our world without asking the obvious question: Restore to what? And all of this is to save water which falls from the heavens, runs into lakes and streams, is diverted into pipes delivering water to the shower heads, cleans our bodies, runs down the drain, and returns to the watershed. To be sure, the shower heads, the water purification systems, the delivery systems, and so on use precious resource which might be saved, but how can we save water?

Terry Anderson is the William A. Dunn Distinguished Senior Fellow and former President of PERC as well as the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He believes that market approaches can be both economically sound and environmentally sensitive. His research helped launch the idea of free market...
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