Lester Brown and the irresponsible economy


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This blog interviewed Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, author of the book entitled "Plan B 3.0" and winner of numerous environmental protection awards. The Washington Post has called him "one of the most influential opinion makers in the world ".
In terms of our Italy and its nuclear power stations, regasification terminals, incinerators, toxic waste disposal dumps, withdrawal of incentives in favour of alternative energy sources and backtracking on its Kyoto commitments, his words seem to be coming from a complete other world. Yet it is the same world in which we live. We only have one world and that has been sacrificed at the altar of consumerism and profit. The psycho(dwarf)peddler of consumerism and second hand television programmes exercises control over all the information media. This planet, however, couldn’t give a damn about the information media.
Download Plan B 3.0

"The most important thing that Governments have to do is to force the markets to tell the truth. The market is very good at doing certain things. One thing, however, that it does not do very well is to factor in the indirect costs (into the products - Ed). For example, when we buy a litre of fuel, we pay the cost incurred in extracting the crude oil, the transportation to the refinery, the refining of the crude oil to produce the fuel and the cost of transporting the fuel to the pump. We do not contribute anything towards the cost of treating the respiratory tract infections caused by breathing in polluted air, just as we don’t contribute to paying the cost of all the damage caused by acid rain and certainly not the cost of climate change.
When the British Government asked the former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, to estimate the cost of the consequences of climate change, he highlighted the fact that climate change was the result of a monumental failure of the market. What he meant was that, having failed to factor the cost of climate change into the fuel price or the coal price, the next generation finds itself having to cope with the enormous costs of climate change, such as the melting of the world’s glaciers, the rising sea levels, the increasingly violent storms and so forth. What we have to do is to force the market to tell the truth. We must factor in the indirect costs. We now know what these are.
We must do this by reducing income tax and increasing the tax on CO2 emissions. This needs to be done progressively, say over a period of 10-12 years, so that the people will know what to expect and will plan their choices accordingly. Others prefer the carbon dioxide market approach, which sets a ceiling on emissions and make the right to pollute something that is negotiable.
That is precisely what Europe has attempted to do, but this approach has not proved to be particularly effective. Most economists prefer the route of tax rate re-organisation. This is the most effective way of overhauling the economy and forcing the market to tell the truth regarding environmental issues. In my travels around the world, I am often asked the question: what can I do, what must I do? I think people expect me to say: recycle your newspaper, or replace you light globes with more energy efficient ones.
These are certainly important actions, however, what we have to address is the need to overhaul the entire economic system. We need to force the market to tell the truth regarding environmental issues, and this involves becoming politically active.
For decades now, we environmentalists have been talking about saving the planet. Now we must talk about saving civilisation itself.
The reason for this is that the increasing burden of peaking petroleum production, the increase in crude oil prices, scarcity of food, scarcity of water and all of the problems linked to climate change are leading an increasing number of failing governments becoming fearful, thereby driving the world towards a situation where the world itself could become uncontrollable. Saving civilisation is not a spectator sport. We cannot afford to simply sit back and wait for someone else to do something on our behalf. We all have our own interests on the line. We all have children and grandchildren and, therefore, we must think about what we need to do and how quickly we need to do it in order to save our civilisation.
For a long time now we have been talking about sustainable development. The only alternative to sustainable development is unsustainable development, in other words economic decline and failure. If we take the time to look back at earlier civilisations, we can identify all of the environmental problems that they were unable to resolve. For the Sumerians, the main problem was the increase in the salinity of the soil. They attempted to overcome the problem by switching from the planting of wheat to the planting of barley. However, the level of salinity continued to increase, resulting in the disappearance of the barley fields and subsequently in the disappearance of the civilisation itself. In the case of the Mayans, the problem was the soil erosion resulting from deforestation and excessive agricultural activity. Together with the decline of the food production system came the decline in the Mayan civilisation. Now the entire area has reverted to jungle. The lands occupied by the Sumerians have since become deserts. We know from experience that if any civilisation is unable to manage their environmental problems, these problems will eventually result in the decline of the civilisation itself.
Beppe, I would like to thank you for your interest and your support on environmental issues. I would like to remind you about the time, in early 2006 when Plan B 2.0 was released, when we posted an extract from the book on your blog, amounting to a few hundred words. That posting led to so many hits on our site that our server gave up the ghost and we were obliged to replace it with another server that was ten times as powerful. It was absolutely extraordinary to note that all of this began with a simple posting on a single blog outside of the United States. Subsequently we began to do some research and discovered that your blog is one of the most powerful blogs anywhere in the world. The very idea that one individual can compete with the major-league media companies such as the BBC and CNN is way beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. I think that your efforts to fully utilise this extraordinary information medium are admirable and we are pleased to be able to work with you.
I believe that together we could truly turn things around. But we don’t have much time. We must act quickly and get everyone involved!
Congratulations on what you are doing. Thank you very much!" Lester Brown, author of Plan B 3.0

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 04:28 PM in | Comments (5)
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To Francis Stone, regarding our zero king atterances I have cxome to the conclusion that whoever zero king is he must be out to lunch. This guy must be plain insane. i think most people have realized this and simply ignore him in fact I have noticed that his garbage is routinely removed from the blog.

Posted by: Maurizio Odello | December 8, 2008 11:28 AM

Hi, I am visiting from NYC. But this is my first time. Good to be here!

Posted by: Alex Conic | December 7, 2008 02:55 PM


Posted by: Massimo GIANNINI - M.G. | December 7, 2008 02:22 PM

Unconvenient truths of some economists at http://mgiannini.blogspot.com/2008/12/unconvenient-truths-of-some-economists.html

Posted by: Massimo GIANNINI - M.G. | December 7, 2008 02:15 PM

zero king I wish I understood a tenth of what you write, but I guess madness is the price of knowledge.

When I was at high school, there were jokes that one day there would be a tax on the air we breath.
Now the institution are finding a way to convince us that this is the right thing to do.

Higher temperatures, some degrees, will speed increase plancton production of oxigen. Trees are just a little oxigen percentage compared to plancton. Sea is 70% of surface, but probably 90% of the volume of biosphere.

Deforestation is no good, but carbon tax is just money stolen. Goverments and corporations are no good to save the environment, they are the bigger obstacle.

Viva la revolucion

Posted by: Sir Francis Stones | December 7, 2008 05:45 AM

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