Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Skeptical Environmentalist

I saw Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist in DIT this evening. He was a really good speaker - much younger and more dynamic than I imagined - read the book a few years ago and enjoyed it a lot.
Won't go into his stats (he loves his "sexy graphs") but an interesting point was raised in the questions and answers session that followed his presentation.
The main thrust of his argument is that environmental meltdown is increasingly unlikely (and even if we run out of oil we will have long come up with an alternative and with better agriculture we'll always have lots of food to feed people) and that these decisions come down to a values choice - people or the environment? It's not even that simple a decision, considering that 1 years spend on Kyoto (which will only delay global warming by 6 years) could provide clean water to the 1 billion people worldwide who need it. One lady in the audience couldn't understand this, saying that no one chooses between people and the environment (I got the sense from her that she would have rathered biodiversity instead of people) but simple utilitarian economics dictates that with what little money that is left over from running our countries we must make decisions which do the most good. Bjorn Lomberg favours spending money on such things as HIV/AIDS, starvation, malaria and clean water as they will ultimately do much more good for humans than "saving" the environment, given that the environment isn't really in that bad a shape.
I hope I've done justice to his arguments - it's interesting how one's view of the human person influences everything - if you believe that people are worth something, that they've an unique dignity and the right to something better, saving the 0.07% of species that go extinct every year isn't quite the same priority as fighting HIV/AIDS. Lomberg is a very balanced individual - a vegetarian who would love to do loads of good things for the environment but recognises that our financial resources to change things are limited and wants to do the most good with what's available.
The changes in public policy needed to reflect his common sense attitude will take years and years to come about, given the widespread culture of fear that the various environmentalists work so hard on creating.


Anonymous Fence said...

I wouldn't balance people against saving the species that go extinct. I mean they are all part of the same problem really, that, as a species, people tend to think in the short term and in their own interest.

But I do think that by improving the standard of living everywhere we will also help environmental problems.

June 21, 2005 2:58 p.m.  

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