"Free Market Environmentalism" by Terry L. Anderson and Donald R. Leal (2001)
"During the 1990s, free market environmentalism caught the fancy of a growing number of environmentalists, who have turned to market solutions to solve environmental problems. Realizing that political environmentalism subjects resource management and environmental quality to the fickle whims of legislators and voters, some have turned to free market environmentalism because of its ability to provide a long-lasting solution. When property rights are well defined and enforced, environmentalists can be satisfied knowing that protection of a wetland or bird sanctuary is secured by common law precedent and by the Constitution of the United States. As the Sand Country Foundation's president, Brent Haglund, put it when asked about the effectiveness of government programs in protecting wildlife habitat, 'You know what I like? A deed in the courthouse.' Others have turned to market solutions simply because nothing else has worked. 'It's very hard to make progress through lawsuits,' says Bill Heddon of Grand Canyon Trust."
In Free Market Environmentalism, economists Anderson and Leal argue for the power of market forces to protect our natural resources. This argument is predicated upon the value of these resources for human beings, and not upon some ill-defined environmental aesthetic that exalts "nature" above all other things. Their argument is carefully reasoned, and they are open about the limitations of handing control of resources back to communities, or imposing property rights in certain instances.
This book begins, as one would expect, with an introduction to general economic theory as it could be applied to the environment. From there it moves into discussions of land use in the continental US, failures within the National Park Service, energy use and exploitation of resources such as natural gas and petroleum, fishing in rivers and oceans, and the disposal of waste. It concludes with a model of how communities might better manage their natural resources, and an argument against what is often touted as "sustainability."
As reading material it's pretty dry stuff, but it makes a strong case for the power of markets to resolve many environmental issues. It's also a short book. After reading it, I came to question many of my own opinions on environmental regulation and the role of governments in protecting us from environmental ills. Many of the examples and counterexamples supplied by the authors are very surprising, and had me wondering what a freer market environmentalism might look like.
It's a good book and it's worth reading. Many environmentally-minded people might find it hard to approach due to an inborn hostility towards words like "economics" and "market forces," but I would encourage such people to view economics in its much wider sense - that of supply and demand - rather than the restricted, commercially-oriented sense that is often used.