Planet vs. People: A Green Dilemma

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Welcome, dear readers, to the court of the law of unintended consequences.

Britain is mulling tougher labeling standards to make it more difficult for imported food to carry an “organic” label. The idea is to make it less appealing to air-freight in fruits and veggies from Africa, with their aircraft emissions, in order to save the developing world from the ravages of global warming somewhere down the road. But one group may come out the loser much sooner: poor farmers in the developing world.

From today’s London Times: “So how do we save Africa from a possible future disaster? Apparently, by creating a real disaster in the here and now: making poor Africans even poorer. That sounds like madness – or plain badness – to me.”

The merits of curbing ?food miles? have come under scrutiny lately, as have other personal virtues like buying carbon ?offsets? to make long-haul vacations more palatable.

But when Times columnist Mick Hume, a self-proclaimed ?old man of the Left? and ?libertarian Marxist,? starts edging closer to the Copenhagen Consensus camp, it shows the debate over the best way to tackle climate change is in reality far from settled.

The crux of the argument: Does the world put its money in tackling an environmental problem whose most serious human consequences won?t be evident for decades, if they emerge? Or does the world focus on solving immediate problems today?

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Source: The Wall Street Journal - Environmental Capital (link opens in a new window)