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Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's not easy being green

I have often argued, though not with a lot of statistics at hand, that many activities that are supposed to be environmentally friendly have environmental costs that may make them perhaps neutral at best, and perhaps even environmentally more damaging than what they seek to correct. The Times reports on a new contribution to this discussion. A European Union report argues that greenhouse gas emissions increase and climate change worsens with the higher use of biofuels (see link). This report comes just ahead of the EU's decision to announce its plans for a Renewables Directive.

Another Times article in a similar vein reports that an environmental campaigner, Chris Goodall (who is a UK Green Party parliamentary candidate), has calculated that walking to the shops causes more environmental damage than driving there by car (see link). The argument is the following:

"Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby."

Like all real issues, we will find arguments on both sides and the trick is to know what is really right. Most issues are not black and white and dealing with the grey area, which can be very large, can be complicated. However, the current set of environmental debates have "feel good" elements that are being shown to be less good feeling.

Economists are supposed to help people make decisions by being able to weigh the costs and benefits. However, it's not just economists who can do this and I am glad to see that the debate on the environment is beginning to put the arguments down more clearly for the various options.

1 comment:

ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID said...

Yes,indeed,going green or being green is not easy.There are many paradoxes and myths associated with being green,and many of them are being -- or will -- inverted on their heads or dispelled over time with science,economics,and hopefully other disciplines.An instructive and informative post.RESPECT!!