Skip to comments.Cracks in the core of sustainability
Posted on 04/16/2008 6:41:56 AM PDT by cartan
Is the non-principle of “sustainability” about to collapse under the weight of its own mushy contradictions? News this week from the seemingly unrelated areas of biofuels and health policy provide some hope.
Sustainability has been smuggled into the policy lexicon as an Orwellian dumber-down of debate. Who would promote unsustainability? It has become the weasel word and policy tic of our time. Corporate chieftains, politicians, consultants and public intellectuals all bow the knee before this founding concept of environmental Newspeak.
Its origins as a subversive political principle lay in the United Nations’ Brundtland report, which coined “sustainable development” as a counterattack against the resurgent forces of free-market capitalism in the late 1980s. Designed to induce a warm fuzzy feeling of stewardship of the planet, the poor and the future, its true meaning was hinted at by the fact that it was hatched by a bunch of self-confessed socialists, led by Gro Harlem Brundtland and Canada’s own Maurice Strong. Sustainability was the new “S” word, behind which lurked all the power lust and exploitation of economic ignorance that had given the old “S” word its power. Before, that is, the old “S” word had collapsed in a heap.
It was inevitable, however, that, just as the old socialism imploded because it simply didn’t work (except for its rulers and their hangers on) so the new socialism would also grind to a halt.
Although sustainability initiatives are piled on to the policy temple daily, mighty intellectual cracks are becoming ever more apparent. Perhaps the most obvious current example is the global biofuels fiasco. Government subsidies doled out in the name of concern for future generations have wound up exacerbating food supply problems and sending prices soaring; thus severely damaging those underrepresented poor people who happen to live on the earth right now.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (a former dyed-in-the-wool “old” radical socialist who believed that governments could run everything) this week wrote a letter to the chairman of the Group of Eight noting that: “We need urgently to examine the impact on food prices of different kinds and production methods of biofuels and ensure that their use is responsible and sustainable.” The President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, responded: “We are for sustainable fuels.”
So let’s see now, a sustainable government initiative has led to an unsustainable result. Sounds like we need a little more clear thinking here. Or perhaps just thinking.
Another, even more bizarre, indication of utter confusion about the concept of sustainability came this week when British Columbia declared that it was going to add sustainability as the sixth “pillar” of its medicare programme (the other five crumbling struts being universality, portability, accessibility, comprehensiveness and public administration). Insofar as this announcement means anything, however—beyond that variation of policy Tourette syndrome that requires the “S” word to be attached to any and every initiative—it seems to mean more reliance on markets, the very evil from which sustainability is meant to deliver us!
This refreshing possibility (and an inevitable one, since medicare in its present form is, well, unsustainable) was confirmed by the agitated reaction of the NDP and other leftist groups such as Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis declared, “I think this is really the agenda of the privatizers of medicare,” before retreating into the Alice in Wonderland world of sustainablespeak. Sustainable health care, she said, is apparently a “goal” of governments, but “it is not a fundamental principle of medicare and I think what the B.C. government is doing is dangerous and very, very troubling from the point of view of preserving a system that is one of the best in the world.”
We have to agree that the Canadian system beats the only other two regimes where private health care is criminalized: Cuba and North Korea.
Sustainability’s psychological roots lay in the counterintuitiveness of market economics and the urge to exploit that ignorance in pursuit of political power. There are undoubtedly “externalities” in industrial activity. That is why we have environmental laws, which have traditionally erred on the side of excessive cost. However, the new form of socialism claims that markets—that is, people—are so feckless of environmental costs that not merely laws are needed but a comprehensive reordering of prices by bureaucratic fiat, so that consumer/sheep might be led towards the heaven on earth that the old “S” word failed to deliver.
The old interventionism was all about government ownership and central planning. The new interventionism is all about carbon taxes and or cap-and-trade to set the “right” prices so that we might regulate not just the world economy but the weather too! Why do so few people recognize that this is not just utterly ridiculous but profoundly dangerous to our freedom and our future?
The alleged severity of the problem (which is grossly exaggerated because it provides a new rationale for an old and ineradicable urge) in no way validates the application of methods that have always and everywhere failed in the past. Instead, that problem is either simply assumed away, or treated as an issue of insufficient “will” or “commitment.”
As Mark Jaccard, one of the leading proponents of draconian carbon-restriction policies to save the world, put it in an article in yesterday’s Vancouver Sun, “Political trust is crucial if humanity is to avert a climate catastrophe.” So forget history. But then that’s what you have to do if, like Mr. Jaccard, you are fatally conceited enough to really think you can engineer a “sustainable global energy system.”
Monday, April 14, 2008
By Brit Hume
Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming causes hurricane activity to intensify is reversing his position. Hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel of MIT says in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society that hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise over the next two centuries.
His new method of simulating weather patterns as computer models shows that there will be in fact an overall drop in the number of hurricanes. During the intense 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Emanuel was one of the first to blame global warming and even said that active storm seasons will become the norm.
But now Emanuel is changing his mind saying, “The results surprised me. The take home message is that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Speak No Evil
One of the co-founders of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, says that the environmental organization is wrong for calling nuclear energy “evil.” He says, “We made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy in with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil.”
Moore, who left the organization in 1986 after 15 years of service, also lashed out at the movement he helped create saying, “That’s why I left Greenpeace: I could see that my fellow directors were taking the organization into what I call ‘pop environmentalism’ which uses sensationalism, misinformation, fear tactics to deal with people on an emotional level rather than an intellectual level.”
Just don't get into a situation where you need to rely on it, because you'll be in serious trouble then.
Mine would be up all the time in that case. It's all over my industry.
sustainability = Agenda 21
I like the article. However, he should have went further saying Socialism (Fairness in Lending Act) caused market manipulation and greed, devaluing our dollar and exporting inflation globally (to every nation that pegs to the dollar and that is most on earth). Then we have this new rounds of Socialism, bailing out the banks and now we are going to spend $300 B on more Socialism bailing out irresponsible builders, home speculators, home flippers and the stupid that don’t read contracts. We the Responsible People will all be receiving our tax bill for this reckless and selfish conduct over the next few short years. As our quality of life erodes and pain ensues, we will likely get back to electing leadership that uses common sense and cares about America. If that doesn’t occur by 2012, then I can speculate open revolt will occur. Perhaps that is why the 2nd Ammendment is being debated and rights eroded at the State and Local level.
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