Posted by Ginny on July 27th, 2005 (All posts by Ginny)
No matter how much money we raise, we should still spend it wisely. If investing in cookers is more cost effective than windmills, we should do the cookers first. It really isn’t more complicated. Advocacy groups understandably want to focus on headline–grabbing issues, such as mercury, mangroves, and global warming. But when we emphasize some problems, we get less focus on others. It has been hard to get you to say what the world should not do first. Such a strategy is, naturally, less charming. But if we really want to do good in the long run, it is more honest to put those terms on paper.
You end by repeating your claim that we are cooking the environmental books. No. We know there are environmental problems. But we face other challenges, too. Let’s tackle the ones where we can do the most good first. The rich world is dealing with many of its environmental problems because it can afford to. If the poor world became wealthier, they would follow suit. Tackling pressing issues such as disease, hunger, and polluted water will do obvious good and give the poor the chance to improve the state of their world.
The good thing about Lomborg is that he makes us want to roll up our sleeves and do something. The contrasting appeals of Lomborg & Pope are instructive: Lomborg is pragmatic, Pope is an Old Testament prophet railing at his people; Lomborg narrows his focus to prioritize while Pope blurs distinctions and argues all must be done now; Lomborg points to where life has been and where it can be made better and Pope describes “scary stuff,” “anger at the chasm between better energy solutions and our scarcity of leadership,” and reaping “the whirlwind.” Pope argues Lomborg “cooks the books” and Lomborg repeatedly asks Pope to “prioritize.” Lomborg’s tone does become impatient: “Now you suggest funding windmills in China? I suggest first distrubuting efficient cookers to combat indoor air pollution, which would save more lives and money,” but he remains (relatively certainly) reasonable. He also doesn’t bring in the kind of references to Enron or fighter jets (ad populum that works with Pope’s backers but generally not with those with other assumptions).
By the way, Pope’s vision seems less convincing here on the ground than it might be elsewhere. We live around wells – they are in the middle of our little town, poking under the earth in the midst of metropolitan areas, grasshoppers in some people’s front yards. We don’t see them or the boom/bust economy that goes with them as unalloyed goods, but we also see them in the midst of bustling life or in the middle of a pasture with cows grazing beside the gentle rhythm of the pump. Sure, it isn’t the decorative accessory you might choose for your ranch, but calling it destruction seems hyperbolic.