Saturday 19 August 2006

Mixing oil with water

Yesterday afternoon we went to hear talks given by Fred Pearce (author of When the Rivers Run Dry) and Jeremy Leggett.

Mr Pearce addressed us for around thirty minutes without even hinting at the only solution that will stop the rivers running dry, namely property rights. I'll give him his due though: he didn't mention Palestine until he had spoken for seventeen minutes. Surely some mistake.

During his presentation Pearce had a little dig at someone who had made a sensible remark at a conference he'd attended. "Even an economist agreed with me," Pearce told us. Inevitably, this raised a chortle from the assembled ranks of the Guardian-reading classes.

I was unable to ask a question during the meeting but approached Pearce afterwards. "Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources. Why didn't you mention property rights? It's only through the correct application of economics that environmental problems can be solved." I went on to point out that California's Central Valley was the fruit basket of America only because vote-seeking politicians had subsidised water in this desert area at way below cost. I was astounded when Pearce agreed with everything I said. He acknowledged that ownership was the key. He favoured the privatisation of fisheries and agreed that India would be far better off if farmers owned the water on their land instead of it being appropriated by the state.

The question is this: if some environmentalists actually do understand the economic facts of life, why do they never speak out accordingly?

I wasn't too impressed by Leggett. He made the de rigueur anti-Bush comment of course (in probably less than seventeen minutes) but what amused me was this: "We can't leave any of this to the free market, not that we have a free market, of course." Now if we don't actually have a free market, which we don't, is Mr Leggett really sure that it won't work? Has he actually studied economics? You know, the study of the use of scarce resources? There was certainly no evidence on show yesterday. If people like Mr Leggett are in charge we certainly will have a resource problem.

It was a relief to go on to hear Paul Johnston talk about his Greek novels followed by Gianrico Carofiglio, whose novels are set in southern Italy where he works as an anti-Mafia judge.

Incidentally, during this hour the noise on the roof of the marquee demonstrated that there is absolutely no danger of Scotland running out of water.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Andrew may not be right about the English pinching our water. If the national grid for water is anything like the national grid for electricity, there will be an additional charge for water coming from rivers that are far from the London. Scottish rivers will then be declared uneconomic and we will have to have our water delivered from England.
22 August 2006, 17:45:38 GMT+01:00 – Like – Reply

Andrew Duffin
There is no danger of Scotland running out of water - unless the English find a way to pinch it, such as a "national" grid for water, which has been proposed.

Could bring a whole new meaning the the phrase "gardez l'eau"

21 August 2006, 12:23:44 GMT+01:00