Stop sorting your paper and plastic into recycling bins, urges economics professor Art Caden. Instead of trying to save the planet, we should be preparing for its inevitable demise, and building our own Battlestar.
If environmental stewardship obligates us to be mindful of future generations in making our day-to-day decisions, what should we do? Should we be recycling paper and preventing people from building parking lots to save trees? Or should we acknowledge that the planet will be destroyed sooner or later and try to find ways to build something like Battlestar Galactica so the species will be preserved?
At first glance, the goal of recycling more and conserving more seems appropriate, even desirable. As Landsburg's example shows, however, advocates of conservation do not have the information they need to make the right decision if property rights aren't clearly defined. Further, as Block's example shows, if we really are to care about future generations and sacrifice on their behalf by not discounting the future, the inevitable destruction of the Earth when the sun dies out suggests a radically different approach. If we are really as concerned about our multi-great grandchildren who will presumably inhabit the earth in several billion years, we shouldn't be worried about recycling paper. We should be worried about building Battlestar Galactica.