Tags
Recent Comments
Receive "The World According to Tom Barnett" Brief
Where I Work
Where I write
Buy Tom's Books
  • Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 1): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
  • The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
Search the Site
Subscribe to Blog
Monthly Archives
Powered by Squarespace

Entries in resources (2)

12:02AM

Getting seriously efficient on water use

USA Today story on San Antonio: exhibit A for those that assume we cannot do better on efficient use of resources.

In mid 1990s, city was slapped with restriction of use of aquifier due to endangered species (rare blind salamander).  Instead of looking for new sources, the city went big on cutting use (recycling, more efficient toilets pushed throughout city, etc.).

City now uses the same amount of water it used in 1984, even though population is two-thirds larger. Citizens average about 2/3rd the national average water use.

All of this is crucial given Texas' long and harsh drought - a harbinger of things to come with climate change.

Mayor: "We practice [conservation] religiously.  It's part and parcel of being a San Antonian."

Impressive.

12:05AM

Collier on how to think about natural resources--very Lomborgian

pic here

Collier op-ed in FT.

The text recalls Bjorn Lomborg's notion that we need to give future generations all the tools and technologies and thus possibilities for an improved standard of living but that we shouldn't think--in a rote fashion--about preserving resources for future generations

Collier's piece worries about the Arctic being somewhat ungoverned and thus subject to plunder, but he emphasizes that the "preservation" model of Western environmentalists is flawed:

The Stern report on climate change is an important example. If transferring a dollar from you to someone in the 23rd century helps them more than it hurts you, then away it should go irrespective of the fact that you worked for it and they did not. While this may describe the ethics of an anthill, it bears little resemblance to any human society.

Both romantics and modellers demand that we be saints. Condemned to fall short of these standards, people retreat into a shrug: God make me good, but not yet. Such costly inertia is avoidable: a more practical common ethics of nature, around which majorities could mobilise, is latent in most societies. It has been crowded out by the noisy battle between the saints and the ostriches.

The valid moral insight in environmentalism is that natural assets are special: we did not create them, yet we are depleting them. But the romantic wing of the movement then wrongly infers that the exploitation of nature intrinsically infringes the rights of the future. Economists should be bringing the insight that natural assets matter not because of their intrinsic purity, but because they are valuable. Our obligation to the future is not to preserve purity but to pass on equivalent value for the natural assets we deplete. If, by converting natural assets into more productive assets, a poor society can escape poverty, then it should do so.

The ethical test is the thought experiment of putting ourselves in the position of some future generation. In an impoverished society, the future will prefer to inherit schools and cities rather than to remain in impoverished purity. This simple ethical test of whether we are infringing the rights of the future is much closer to how we see our obligations than either utilitarianism or romantic environmentalism. Respecting the rights of the future is manifestly more compelling than basing decisions on the esoteric sanctity of the infinite-horizon utilitarian calculus. Recognising that the future may want us to use nature rather than preserve it distinguishes humane environmentalists from romantics: we are the custodians of value, not the curators of artefacts.

The same judgment has to be made regarding natural liabilities such as carbon, where plunder means running up the bill that the future must face. But in a rich society the same ethical test is likely to yield the opposite result. If we spew out carbon we are obliged not to infringe the rights of the future. We would therefore have to bequeath sufficient man-made assets that it feels fully compensated. But since the future will be awash with man-made assets, the cost of compensation would be exorbitant: better in this case to preserve nature.

This, in a nutshell, is my take on development in general.  It ain't about preserving the "sanctity" of impoverished cultures but about enriching and empowering individuals, who can and will change that culture pervasively--if given the chance.

So the question isn't, "What happens when the X runs out?" Rather, it's "What have we created as a result of exploiting that opportunity?"

Tradition is just a snapshot of now; it is always subject to review--and should be.