Normally my posts here are quickly ignored in favour of the more sensational and illuminating posts from Toad. And I’m happy with it that way. But Toad must be off doing green things away from his computer at present. So instead my comments yesterday about bottled water have unexpectedly attracted attention from WhaleOil and Kiwiblog. In WhaleOil’s case I really thought it would have been the earlier post about porn.
Butn then there’s nothing like a stereotype: Green wants to ban something. As it turns out I wasn’t so much supporting the ban as the fact that someone was doing something about the issue. I tend to agree with with the derision I have attracted over at the Kiwiblog comments section: If something is wrong with bottled water, let the market sort it out. Of course for that to work, as one of them noted, you need to price in the environmental externalities.
And this is where we part company. They seem to be implying that the market can sort out that bit too. That water bottle companies and their lobby groups, such as the one I linked to yesterday, will work collectively together to raise the price of the product they are selling to account for the oil depletion, waste and environmental destruction that their products cause. And they will then feed that money back into restoring the resources they have depleted and undoing the damage they have done. I am, how do you put it, some what more cynical about the market’s ability to deliver on this particular point.
See I tend to think for that to work you might need some kind of agency that would monitor the environmental externalities of products, assign an economic value to that cost, levy businesses accordingly and then redistribute that levy to restore the environment that has been exploited. Sadly such an agency is known in common parlance as ‘bureaucracy’. And ironically most kiwiblog commenters want to ban bureaucracy.
Actually, on the topic of banning, what is the difference between limiting the sale of bottled water on a university campus and limiting the sale of paint spraycans to young people, or limiting the right to wear gang patches in particular towns, or limiting the sale of party pills and drugs? It seems it’s not just one party that sees banning as an appropriate response to addressing behaviour that it doesn’t condone. The major difference seems to be whether the proposed ban addresses recognised and widespread environmental problems or if it placates falsely held fears and biases.
Personally I think there is a time and a place for bans – not everywhere and not as the first measure to a problem, but occasionally – and I reckon anyone who follows the road code tends to agree with me, at least in part. No Right Turn has what I reckon is one good example of somewhere the market isn’t going to work and a ban is needed. But sadly there are others too.