The Environment and Libertarianism

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・English ・APA ・2 Sources

The libertarian philosophy promotes the principle that in the world, each person has a sovereign right to their own acts and lives, and that no one should be compelled to sacrifice their beliefs and activities as long as they do not conflict with the interests and lives of other people. With that sense in mind, we recognize that mankind lives in a general world in which we are only divided by boundaries. Therefore, by looking at the bigger picture, it becomes quite clear that while the libertarian ideology can a useful tool to promoting robust conservation of the environment, there are other issues that present themselves, meaning that the libertarian ideology can be incompatible with environmental protection and integrity.

With the worsening conditions on the planet, such as global warming and increased desertification, it became a collective responsibility for the world to ensure that factors which contribute to the degradation of the environment are controlled or limited. On a small scale, the libertarian ideology has been useful in driving forward some nationalistic agendas which encourage conservation of the environment. One of the major causes of environmental degradation has been pollution mostly by industrial companies. This has been a major challenge in many countries. As much as the libertarian ideology supports free will, the outcomes of one's actions should not interfere with the lives of other individuals (Boynton, 2015). It has, therefore, encouraged people to raise their voices as well freely engage in actions aimed at conserving the environment. Governments have therefore been able to intervene by means of regulations and policies which help protect the environment, proving that on a national scale the libertarian ideology would prove to be successful.

On the international scale is where environmental conservation faces major hurdles. Pacts by countries such as the Paris accord is an example of the steps taken to ensure the environment is protected (Dickens, 2004). This is one way in which the libertarian ideology has been useful in the conservation of the environment. Environmental conservation pacts are not mandatory, countries are free to join them as per their own will and contribute towards the conservation of the environment. Because global warming is a global problem, the libertarian ideology makes it possible for countries to freely contribute towards such efforts. The issue of personal interests has however been a major challenge. Efforts to conserve the environment have been hampered by countries which are unwilling to cooperate.

The emission of carbon dioxide, for instance, has been on the increase, meaning if not controlled, we would get to alarming levels. Cutting carbon emissions means that some countries have to restrict their industrial activities. The libertarian ideology, however, supports the fact that countries are free to do whatever they like because they are sovereign. Because of the need to maintain industrial monopoly, controlling pollution on a global scale has been met by challenges from countries who put their own interests first, before others. Libertarianism also becomes incompatible with environmental integrity due to the fact that, even with pacts such as the Paris accord, the leading pollutants such as China are allowed to do so at the expense of other countries. On an international scale, the ideology becomes inapplicable.

To conclude, the libertarian ideology can be both beneficial and at the same time inapplicable when it comes to environmental conservation. The major difference is determined by whether it is a national or global a scale as well as the interests aligned with the conservation measures. For the ideology to be applicable on a global scale, the whole world needs to adopt a nationalistic view where borders are non-existent and our interests are aligned as one, rather than as a country.


Boynton, A. J. (2015). Confronting the Environmental Crisis: Anti-Environmentalism and the Transformation of Conservative Thought in the 1970s (Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas).

Dickens, P. (2004). Society and nature: Changing our environment, changing ourselves. Cambridge: Polity.

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