25 January 2008

Miles Better?

I am constantly struck by the fact that the more you ponder certain things, the more complex they get. One area where that's particularly true is sustainability: trying to balance the pros and cons or actions can lead to serious headaches.

Take the issue of organic food, for example. This is clearly good, since it uses less pesticides, does less damage blah-blah-blah. Ah, but now we find that much of that organic food is being produced in Africa, and then air-freighted to the West. So clearly that is bad, since the damage caused by carbon emissions must outweigh the good derived from the organic nature of the farming. Or maybe not:

Global warming is a universal concern (with a strong African dimension too), and carbon emissions merit growing vigilance. But a global problem demands global solutions. Trade policy can be used to set the right incentives for sustainable development. But focusing too narrowly on long-distance transportation of organic produce is false economy: bad for the environment and bad for development.

One thing is for sure: more information may make things harder to parse, but it is also the only hope we have for arriving at the right decision. Keep on pondering.

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