Wednesday, August 07, 2002

More from the New Republic.

Having read Greg Easterbrook's A Moment On The Earth, I can say that he is one of the most persuasive, rational writers on the environment I have ever read. The shame of it is that he didn't get the recognition that went to Lomborg, even though he was ahead of Lomborg by about five years.

In The New Republic, Easterbrook makes a good case for foreign aid.
The realistic benchmark is whether international assistance has made the world better than it would otherwise have been. And by that standard, foreign aid has not only been a success; it has been a triumph.

There is more optimism: a doubling since 1974 of the number of people living in multiparty democracies; doubling since 1975 of the number of people living in reasonable conditions; global literacy at 73 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 1970.

Easterbrook also makes some useful comparisons between the Third World and the rest, to give some perspective on the pace and spread of development.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years; today it is 66 years--for the world.

It took about 150 years, from 1800 to 1950, for typical European life expectancy to advance from four decades to six. In most of the developing world, it has taken just 40 years, from 1930 to 1970. Helping most of the world achieve, in 40 years, the life-span improvement that took Europe 150 years is a spectacular achievement--partly attributable to the advent of antibiotics and partly to international aid.

He goes on to express his disgust at the way in which:
Anti-globalizers romanticize farming with animal-drawn plows as "appropriate," but most wouldn't last a day at the dehumanizing toil this form of existence imposes and rewards only with meager survival.

Easterbrook has maintained his anger about antiglobalisers who block projects in the developing world that fail to meet
the left's shaky definition of "sustainability," which more or less translates as no fossil fuels, no built structures, and no packaging. Indeed, foisting this standard on the developing world is a formula for keeping living standards low

I agree with his amazement that the broad left will support the banning of hydro-electric dams, not only for electricity and the wealth it brings.
Not only do nearly all developing nations need more electricity generation to improve living standards--India currently has 6 percent as much electric power per capita as the United States--but to improve human health. The number of children in developing nations who die each year from respiratory diseases caused by indoor air pollution, mainly from indoor fires for cooking and heating, exceeds the number of Americans of all ages who die of all causes. Anti-globalizers oppose the dams, power plants, water reservoirs, and other big aid-backed projects that could change that, and their views have gained surprising influence among the Western donor institutions that now live in terror of PC criticism.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the crunch for the green left will come when they are seen around the world preventing the export of GM crops to developing countries, for no reason other than scare ones (we don't know everything, so do nothing). Without a proven, or even quantifiable risk, they will show themselves as more interested in holding political positions, than delivering real benefits now.

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