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.
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.