Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Will Wilkinson was on MarketPlace and provided the following commentary (HT: Division of Labour)
A tomato raised in a heated greenhouse next door can be more carbon-intensive than one shipped halfway across the globe.
Doesn't it just have to be more earth friendly to not have to waste all that energy shipping food half way around the globe?


Wilkinson goes on to say something even more important:
But one thing is clear enough: the farmers in Mexico, China, and Brazil, who produce a lot of the imported food Americans eat, are poorer than the farmers here in Iowa. A lot poorer. The corollary of "eat local" is "don't eat Mexican," so to speak. But the way poor people get less poor is to do business with people who have a lot of money, like us. If the local stuff is mouthwatering, you might as well pony up. But if your salad is made with Mexican lettuce, savor your righteousness.
Yep. That's right. The market makes poor people wealthy. And in the effort to strive for even more non-market fixes to environmental concerns, remember two things:
  1. Non-market solutions almost always subvert the thing they're intended to do. E.g. forcing people to buy local on the premise that it's good for the environment is actually worse for the environment, and

  2. Non-market solutions come with a cost: they will like make someone else poorer, and frequently those someones are the people who are already desperately poor.

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