In "Piece Of Crap," Neil Young sings,
Tried to save the trees
Bought a plastic bag
The bottom fell out
It was a piece of crap
Does buying a plastic bag, even one that is not a piece of crap, to use over and over again while shopping save the trees? No. The trees do not need saving because corporations that use tree products understand that if they do not plant new trees, they will suffer a scarcity. Trees are not in danger of disappearing precisely because humans find them useful.
It's the same thing with cows. Why is the cow not an endangered species? Because people eat them.
We live in a time when recycling is pushed on us by the government as moral and necessary. Children are taught throughout their government schooling to recycle. It is assumed that good people sort out their garbage, saving various scraps and containers to be reused.
In California, where I live, government propaganda for recycling says something like, "Recycling. It's good for the bottle. It's good for the can." Apparently, some people find this argument sound or at least clever. Me, I wonder how anything can be good for inanimate objects. It strikes me as very sloppy thinking.
The whole recycling movement is worse than sloppy thinking; it is nonsense. It not only does NOT conserve resources, it wastes them!
In fact, if the environmentalists and the government completely ignored resources and left everyone alone to pursue his own self-interest, then resources would be conserved more efficiently than when bureaucrats tell everyone what to do.
How can that be? If people just consume and consume like pigs, then we'll run out of everything, won't we?
No, we won't. What saves resources is the pricing system in a free market. It works like this. When a resource becomes more scarce, its price goes up. This price rise has two effects: 1) consumers buy less, which helps to conserve the resource; and 2) producers seek ways to produce more in order to cash in on the higher price, which helps to create more of the resource.
In a free market there is never a permanent scarcity of something humans value.
So why do environmentalists and our government spend billions of dollars (of money taken from taxpayers) on campaigns that urge people to waste their precious time recycling? If efficient conservation of resources were their goal, they would shut their programs down, go back to their desks and twiddle their thumbs as they let the market work. Conservation is not their goal.
The purpose of recycling is to make free individuals sacrifice for the collective.
The New Left project is ambitious: they want to transform America from a capitalist nation to a socialist one. In order to do this they must first change the way people think. Americans are accustomed from their 18th and 19th century heritage of individualism and freedom to living for themselves in a free market. This way of thinking must go, and recycling is a way to get people used to sacrificing for the collective. If you could find an honest environmentalist, I suspect he would use the word "conditioning" to describe the process.
With recycling they establish the premise that moral action lies not in acting for one's self-interest, but in sacrificing for the collective. The rest of the welfare state depends on taxation, which is forcibly taken from individuals. Recycling, however, depends on individuals taking action on their own volition for the collective. As such, this program is tremendously important to collectivists -- far more important than conserving trash. Recycling is a revolutionary assault on the American spirit of individualism.
The campaign against global warming -- or climate change or global cooling or whatever it's called now -- is another campaign to get individuals to sacrifice for the collective. Environmentalists hector people to turn down their thermostats, use certain light bulbs, on and on.
These programs can be thought of as "softening" people, getting them used to the idea that they must not be selfish, that they must live their lives for "the planet." It accustoms individuals to follow well-meaning, benevolent leaders such as Al Gore in service to the state because selfish action leads to destroying "the planet."
Recycling is an assault on the virtues of productiveness and independence. But more, I think it is aimed at destroying the virtue of pride. Proud individuals do not waste time sorting out their trash to make politicians happy. They do not endure make work in order to get the moral approval of the collective. Recycling is a way to get individuals to humble themselves for "the greater good."
Once people accept the premise that morality lies in sacrificing for the collective -- and when they live by that premise in their actions -- then statists can proceed to expand the state, increase the weight of our chains and eventually create a dictatorship. It's the old story about the frog: throw him in boiling water and he jumps out, but put him in cool water and turn up the temperature one degree at a time and pretty soon that frog is cooked. Recycling and the campaign against global warming are ways of turning up the heat.