If you were asked to name the most immoral thing going on in the world today, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better candidate than the campaign to keep the world's poor in poverty. This campaign usually goes under the banner of "saving the planet" or "sustainability" or something similar. There are times when it feels very lonely out here in the small group pointing out the deep immorality of this campaign. For example, one such time was last April, when some hundreds of thousands of spoiled, wealthy Americans conducted what they called the "March for Science," demanding that cheap and reliable energy be restricted and that the price of energy be increased to a level to make sure that the poor could never afford it. The entire progressive press and media cheered these people on.
In the camp of people calling out the "sustainability" campaigners for their immorality, I particularly favor the ones who don't mince their words. These campaigners need to be harshly condemned. So today I'll give a shout out to a couple of voices that aren't afraid to say the obvious on this subject.
First, Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in the UK participated in a debate at Cambridge University on October 26, where the question before the house was "This House would rather cool the planet than warm the economy." Cambridge, like all elite universities these days, has become a center for advocacy of de-carbonization, of de-industrialization, and of making sure that poor countries cannot get energy that is cheap and reliable and that works. Benny's full presentation can be found at the link. Here are a few excerpts:
[T]he fact that stopping economic development is even being advocated by some of the world’s most privileged students in Cambridge reveals how far removed this green bubble is from the harsh reality of billions of people who are desperately trying to escape poverty. Let’s not beat about the bush: If today’s motion would ever be implemented by some radical green government, it would lead to the death of millions of poor people in the developing world, astronomical mass unemployment and economic collapse. That’s because poor nations without economic growth have no future and are unable to raise living standards for impoverished populations. . . .
Climate and green energy policies have lead to is the biggest wealth transfer in the history of modern Europe — from the poor to the rich. . . . The proponents of today’s motion argue that economic growth should be sacrificed or at least curtailed in order to cut global CO2 emissions. Denying the world’s poor the very basis on which Britain and much of Europe became wealthy — largely due to cheap coal, oil and gas — amounts to an inhumane and atrocious attempt by green activists to sacrifice the needs of the world’s poor on the altar of climate alarmism.
"Inhumane" and "atrocious." I could have come up with even more such words, but that's a pretty good start. Good job, Benny!
And here is another one, this time from reader Mikko Paunio, who sent me a link to his recent (October 30) article discussing why restricting fossil fuels and requiring expensive and intermittent renewables threatens public health in poor countries. The title is "Sustainability Threatens Public Health In The Developing World."
Paunio points out that good public health requires large amounts of clean water, which in turn requires reliable and affordable power.
We take sanitary practices for granted in wealthier countries but hygienic practices require water in quantity and uninterrupted power to supply that water and related sewage systems.
And it's not just clean drinking water that is at issue. Good hygiene and sanitation require water not only for drinking, but also for things like laundry, dishes, toilets and sewers.
Painstaking research has shown that the provision of clean drinking water brings down children’s diarrhoea risk by [only] around 20-25 per cent in a developing country setting (31,32). This is partly because purified water is a harsh environment for those enteric pathogenic microbes that would otherwise enter the system. However more importantly, it is because so many water washable diseases remain transmissible under unhygienic conditions. . . . [H]ygienic practices include personal hygiene, household hygiene i.e. linen and other laundry, kitchen hygiene (utensils and food), cleanliness of suitable surface materials especially in bathrooms. These require water in substantial quantities for ensuring hygiene by de-contamination and human-waste disposal, in addition to providing solely drinking water.
And then there's the question of air pollution, particularly the indoor variety. In countries without cheap and reliable electricity, the people of necessity turn to indoor fires of wood or animal dung for heating and cooking. The result:
Decentralized heating and cooking in homes in the urban areas of the developing world account for most ambient air pollution and perhaps 80-90 % of the WHO estimate of up to 6.5 million annual deaths linked to such air pollution.
So where are our national and international bureaucracies on addressing these critical issues?
Instead of addressing those [water and air pollution] issues in the most practical way possible, the US in 2013 declined multilateral (World Bank) aid to build centralized power plants in the poorest countries – because to be affordable they had to use coal. Instead, the US government sided with WHO and Dr. Margaret Chan and insisted on climate change mitigation for poor countries while giving China unlimited emissions until 2030.
Where did we go wrong? When guiding the "Our Common Future" report, Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland chose to deny crucial infrastructural urban development, such as the provision of fresh water supplies and the installation of sewerage systems, unless it could be done "sustainably". But the countries that need such infrastructure are often unable to raise capital on their own and need multilateral assistance from rich countries. By mandating they could only have loans if they agreed to build things that would be too expensive, we doomed those countries to failure.
I guess I can understand how the bureaucracies can get involved in these efforts that lead to mass impoverishment and millions of deaths. After all, bureaucracies have an internal dynamic that makes them only interested in increasing their own power and prerogatives; the poor are just collateral damage. But how is it that the faculties and students of all elite universities, and the entire progressive media, have become part of this immoral endeavor? It's impossible to understand.