P. Edronkin

Toying With Revolvers And Nuclear Bombs



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While today we are discussing a lot about economic activities versus our environment two things may happen: those that support an economy-oriented point of view prevail, or those who are environmentalists do so in the debate. In both cases supporters of these postures tend to act based on ego, ideology, hard facts and evidence, beliefs and also, some degree of lack of common sense as well.

Going to extremes, the people supporting these apparently opposite ideas seem to desire to see their interlopers abandoning completely their stances in favour of what they see as right, subordinating any further idea to the interests and aegis of the winners. So, environmentalists may think that we could stop all activities that may be causing environmental harm just like pulling a plug from a socket, and economy-oriented folks think that greens, ecologists and evironmentalists should let the market decide and somehow, that would change the laws of science and convince nature in investing in the stock market instead of sending us tsunamis and typhoons for what we do.

The global economy is very intricate and has its own sinnergy; whatever some people do in some place, affects us all. An oil refinery suddenly blows up, oil prices surge, and you, wherever you are, suddenly are left with less money at the end of the month; it is not easy to produce changes within the economic structure of the world without causing some sort of disruption, and that has to be managed in a proper way.

So it is a little bit nave to think that companies, governments and societies at large should make immediate changes; even if they prove willing to do so such processes will take time. For example, we know that internal combustion or reciprocating engines are inefficient and do pollute our atmosphere; so we should change them, but we cannot just outlaw vehicles carrying them today and hope for the best tomorrow.

There are new technologies indeed and new vehicles carrying hydrogen cell engines, electric motors and so on are appearing on the market; however, replacement is slow and all those technologies still need some tinkering in order to make them more reliable and reduce the costs per unit. Only in such a way will people replace their cars, trucks and motorbikes over time.

But our environment is even more intricate than our economy; in fact, nature is far more complex and sinnergistic than anything we have created so far, including our fancy economy; thus, to think that just because it makes economic sense to postpone environmentally-oriented legislation and changes the problem will somehow go away is a reckless proposition. But there is a difference between these two forms of ignorance, for being naive environmentalists passing laws that may affect the economy can produce - at most - a recession, the destruction of some riches, the loss of jobs and investments; all these things can be recovered afterwards, or as people say 'money comes, and money goes' Because all our business activities respond ultimately to the laws of the market.

However, the environment responds to the laws of nature: the extinction of species is a one way ticket and epidemics are not something to be 'managed' as one advisor of President Bush Senior once said while he was trying to explain why one could continue unabated with our present economy, considering the effects of the environment as a calculated risk. Changes in our environment are to a large extent irreversible: a physicists or a chemist can talk to you for days about entropy and irreversible reactions such as those caused by our contaminating activities. There are substances that once created by pollution agents cannot be recycled, reversed or even destroyed.

So in both cases people may act irresponsibly; we can be nave regarding our environment or the global economy but it is not the same to toy with a revolver than with an atomic bomb.




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