Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Yet More on Priorities and Proportionality

In my earlier posts Bad Government 101 and More on Risks and Priority Setting I detailed some of the important lessons we can learn from the US response to the threat of terrorism.

Today I read this interesting piece in the Guardian on the tragic consequences of biofuel policies. In many ways I think an important analogy can be made between the insights of my post on the war on terror and the threat of global warming. While I have a great amount of respect for Al Gore (as noted before and here), I believe there are some (disturbing) parallels between the alarmist message that he champions with respect to climate change and G.W. Bush's stance on the threat of terror.

And just as few were willing to speak up against policies like the USA Patriot Act in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, very few are willing to raise concerns against environmental policies for fear that they might be construed as "environmental skeptics". I am not such a sceptic. But I know that good intentions alone are not enough to make a positive, lasting improvement to humanity. And anyone who believes the answers are obvious or simple is not giving these issues enough attention. Good intentions alone can often result in bringing about the very tragic consequences one is trying desperately to avoid or mitigate-- like harming those already vulnerable and impoverished.

In the Guardian article Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, claims that rocketing food prices had set back the fight against poverty by seven years.

What are the costs of a 7 year set back in the war on poverty versus the likely gains to be had from biofuel policies? A failure to take these issues seriously will likely result in our doing more harm than good. What's more important-- *feeling* like we are actually doing good in the world, or actually doing good? I wish more people took the latter more seriously.