The moneygoround

NZETS.jpgBack in March climate change minister Nick Smith decided it was time to sort out whether the Emissions Trading Scheme was a recipe for economic disaster, as ACT and big emitters were insisting (using figures from a shonky report by NZIER), or affordable, as Treasury modelling (conducted by Infometrics) showed. Smith commissioned both economic consultancies to work together to arrive at a consensus, which they were happy to do (at a cost of $79,200 + GST). The result of this ministerial banging of heads was released yesterday [PDF], and it is simultaneously interesting, encouraging and profoundly disappointing.

The obvious winners are Adolf Stroombergen, Infometrics and Treasury, because the new modelling shows that far from being as economically crippling as NZIER had suggested in their 2008 report, action to restrain carbon emissions appears both affordable and sensible. The new report is explicit: the introduction of carbon pricing is warranted, and under all the scenarios considered the economy will continue to grow. The modest cost is in foregone growth, and that amounts a few thousand dollars off annual incomes by 2025. In other words, we’ll be slightly less rich than we might have been. So much for Rodney Hide’s scare tactics and the economic doom and gloom pedalled by the cranks and deniers.

The really interesting conclusion?

Our modelling shows that if the rest of the world takes steps to price carbon, and technological change is induced by this pricing, then a broad-based domestic carbon pricing scheme is the least cost way to meet New Zealand’s international obligations. (p40)

NZIER/Infometrics are curiously uncertain about the international situation, and apparently clueless about the technological progress already well under way, because this conclusion is made dependent on an “if” that the rest of the world takes for granted. International action is already under way, and however disappointing the progress there will be some sort of carbon pricing tent NZ will need to be inside. The technologies to achieve emissions reductions not only exist, they are already in many cases being deployed. Or perhaps those wind turbines are a mirage, and electric cars a pipe-dream?

From this high point, the report descends to the farcical. Despite having made no effort to model the role of agriculture — only 50% of our emissions profile, after all — or done more than decide forestry would be too difficult to factor in, the authors conclude that agriculture should be excluded from a near-term ETS on the grounds that it may cost too much to measure agricultural emissions. This view is not supported by any argument or reference in the report that I could find, and looks like something the authors added as an afterthought. On the one hand, a broad-based scheme is least cost (as the last government insisted), but it’s sensible to exclude our biggest emitters?

In addition, the authors argue that until we can see what the rest of the world is going to do and what technology may bring, we should hand out free allocations of emissions permits to “trade exposed” industries (code for the big emitters). As No Right Turn eloquently argues, this amounts to a huge subsidy from the general taxpayer to corporate interests. Given that Nick Smith had a draft report back in April, one is forced to wonder what (if any) changes were made to the authors’ original conclusions in order to make them acceptable to a government keen to water down the existing Emissions Trading Scheme. There’s no denial in this report, but there is certainly delay that many will find financially and politically convenient.

Perhaps most disappointing of all is the fact that this report is a missed opportunity. As conceived and presented, it’s a purely technical exercise in economic forecasting, based on limited scenarios and far too little consideration of the world in which New Zealand exists. To establish the real risks — the real costs and benefits of dealing with climate change — we need to give our economists a range of scenarios that are rooted in a wide-ranging assessment of climate projections, the state of international relations and technological progress. Instead, the government leaves them to bring their own biases to the table, or imposes its own. Bad practice breeds bad policy, and I’m very afraid that’s what we’re going to get.

[The Kinks]

25 thoughts on “The moneygoround”

  1. The modest cost is in foregone growth, and that amounts a few thousand dollars off annual incomes by 2025.

    Is that from any one approach in particular? So that means…a few thousand dollars a *year* off an average income? Strikes me as extremely expensive, if i’m reading that right. Rodney’s ‘scare tactic’ figures were/are about $3,000 a year from each NZer, which seems to about match this.

  2. I’m offering a comment sooner in my reading of the report than I probably should, but I was struck by the unfortunate wording of this sentence early in the report:

    “New Zealand signing up to Kyoto and any subsequent international agreement results in a net welfare loss, no matter which instrument is used to account for our liability”

    Economists may well offer advice on the most cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and may rightly say that there’s no way of doing it without cost (and then hopefully go on to say as Stern does that the cost will be hellishly higher if we do nothing). But to express this cost baldly in terms of net welfare is to step well beyond their area of competence. Perhaps they are using the term in a technical economic sense. I hope so. But it would be better not to use it at all in this context.

  3. Stephen, this is what the report says:

    In the absence of any policy change, we estimate RGNDI(*) will grow from around $38,500 per capita in 2009 to $56,000 per capita in 2025. Under a carbon pricing scheme with a world price of $100, this will fall by between $1,700 and $2,000 by 2025.

    * “national economic welfare”, but I take it to be real gross national disposable income – acronym not expanded in report.

    From Rodney’s letter to John Key:

    “I’ve read the NZIER report. Have you read it? It says the ETS is going to cost New Zealand 22,000 new jobs a year. Worse than that. You’re going to be making the average household write out a cheque for $3000 and hand it over to the Russians. Every year . To say nothing of the disaster that’s looming for your rural constituents. The ETS is going to knock 23-40% off the value of sheep and dairy farms.

    I’d say the tenor is rather different, and Rodney’s representation of what that $3,000 might mean somewhat alarmist… 😉

  4. As I read on I see that welfare is used as a technical economic term, and my initial outburst was unwarranted. But I still lament generally the appropriation of a word with such wide human ramifications to the narrow focus of economic analysis, carrying with it the overtone that less wealth than we might have had means we are missing out on something that matters.

    The strength of an economist like Stern is that he first recognises the imperative of combating climate change and global poverty, and in this context considers how best to achieve a low-carbon economy which he describes as an attractive one in which to live. Reports such as this one Smith has commissioned are very narrow by comparison. They reflect what seems to be the government’s approach – we’ll reluctantly join in this because we have to, but let’s make doing it as cheaply as possible our prime consideration.

  5. Gareth I think you have made an important point on the economic cost of an ETS. This the same misrepresentation that was made about Stern’s estimates of GDP reduction as the result of reduce GHG emissions.

    What GE models of the economy do is shock the economy at some point in time (now) and then estimate the effect of that shock at som point in the future. In this case without the shock we have an estimate RGNDI (good guess by the way) per capita of $56,000 in 2025. With the shock and assuming no countervailing economic benefits we get $54,000 in 2025. No way is this the annual cost as RH is making out.

    I haven’t read this report, but what assumptions/accomodations have they made in their analysis about the new economic activity that will arise from the development of low carbon industries and services?

  6. Doug, they make some allowance in some scenarios for new technology reducing emissions. but do not (as far as I can see) allow for increased economic activity resulting.

    The models do not contain any endogenous technological response to a carbon price, although we look at the effects of some exogenously-assumed technological responses.

    The “exogenous” is restricted to developments in reducing agricultural methane.

  7. I shall have to read the report – but the current Canadian government is similar in counting only costs of doing something, ignoring costs of doing nothing, and discounting benefits of a leaner and cleaner economy.

    Fundamentally, the folks who write such reports do not believe that climate change is a big deal, and blame the whole mess on those clever environmentalists who manipulate the public with… science!

    I am keeping an eye on this site because I think that smaller communities are going to be better at responding – check out how slow the US Feds have been at responding, compared to American cities and smaller communities, many of which have met their Kyoto targets neatly – and if not in New Zealand, then where?

  8. So Gareth the $2,000 drop in RGNDI is a worst case scenario. I would argue very little down side risk and lots of upside economic growth potential :-).

  9. * “national economic welfare”, but I take it to be real gross national disposable income – acronym not expanded in report.”

    Page 10:
    “Moving forward, Infometrics and NZIER have agreed that the most appropriate economic welfare measure for analysing the impacts of an ETS is Real Gross National Disposable Income (RGNDI). RGNDI measures the total incomes New Zealand residents receive from both domestic production and net income flows from the rest of the world (Statistics New Zealand, 1999), and adjusts for changes in the terms of trade. This is particularly pertinent for the analysis of policies to meet our Kyoto obligation, which will include a lump-sum offshore payment for excess emissions over our Kyoto allowance. RGNDI includes these effects in contrast to the GDP metric which provides an indicator of domestic production but does not capture the impact of international transfers and investment income.”

  10. No worries, sounds like a good measure to use.

    I like the titles of the articles, except I would have thought “Sunny Afternoon” would have been better for this one, you know;

    “The tax mans taken all my dough,
    And left me in my stately home,
    Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
    And I cant sail my yacht,
    Hes taken everything Ive got,
    All Ive gots this sunny afternoon.”

    Sounds appropriate? Especially the bit about only having the enjoyment of hot weather? Lol

  11. I did read it.

    Actually, tho it studies a narrow slice of data with the assumption that it is sufficient to come to adequate conclusions, the report does conclude that, in the context of New Zealand’s place in the world, it is actually least costly to introduce a carbon tax that is broad enough to send a clear price signal to the economy.

    This is a very positive outcome for those who are interested in significant action on climate change.

    As for the cost to the economy, saying that your future income will not be $56K but $54K, unless you are prepared to snag onto that projection alone simply because it falls neatly into your negative view of a carbon tax, is not significant in my view. It is very important to note that it really means that we will be less wealthy, rather than poorer.

    Missing, unfortunately, unless I have missed it completely, are the economic benefits of the move to a low or zero carbon economy, particularly in view of the competitive advantage to New Zealand if it can take advantage of its positive image in the world of being “green.” I can almost hear the winces and heavy sighs, but an asset ignored is lost. As an example, I follow opinion on the application of a 100-mile diet, and have shied away from New Zealand produce as a result. (I live in BC, in an area that is almost completely dependent on forestry. With the crash in the US housing market, it is soon going to be absolutely essential to pull in my supply lines and spend where I live – it will no longer be some eco-choice, just living within limited means…) I would be much more willing to buy produce from New Zealand if it were organic, tho that is contradictory. But the savings to the environment that is provided by organic farming would offset in my mind the cost of transport. Now if we can just get the freighters to all use sails…

    Another point that strikes me is that a globalized, export economy often ignores the benefits of trading at home, aka the work of Jane Jacobs on the growth of economies following the development of local markets that replace imports with locally produced goods. The development of a Kiwi wine industry, and the development of olive groves in NZ are examples of this. So the “costs” to the economy of people in NZ “growing their own” so to speak are calculated, but not the benefits. I realize that NZ is a trading nation, and that exports are key drivers of wealth – Canada and the US are the amongst the world’s top trading partners, so it is clear to me what the impact of a fall in exports can do.

    As for exempting agriculture from a carbon tax, simply because it is “prohibitively expensive to measure emissions,” say what? This policy would fail to provide the price signal that the authors have shown to actually be least costly. It is also possible to develop simple methods of measurement that would provide signals to agriculture regarding the trend in emissions – my knowledge of the emissions from agriculture are that they are from a few major sources: exhaust from the burning of fuels for farm equipment and transport, emissions from processing facilities, and methane from the guts of animals. It seems that each of these sources could benefit from reductions, and that price signals for fuels and energy consumed would be a good way to start. There has to be some kind of benefit to those who are growing food in ways that are less harmful, or even beneficial, to the environment and to their customers; the fact that “inorganic” agriculture has such a price advantage over organic agriculture is simply due to the fact that the full cost of producing food with the application of large quantities of pesticides, fuel and fertilizers is not counted in the final price to the customer. But this question, for New Zealand, is fraught with difficulties: you have an agriculture that is founded on the idea of beating back the native bush with clearing and fire, and keeping it beat back with herbicides. It is the only place I have been where it is necessary to post signs stating that “agricultural operations are in progress,” meaning that herbicides are being applied, and where dead, grey bush is the boundary between agricultural land and non-agricultural land. We found this on a hillside beside Lake Wanaka…

    All this being said, by a Canuck, it is too bad that the world’s governments are still bickering about how little we can do to abate global warming. If we actually took significant action, then we might have price signals that would reveal the worst polluters – Canada has the world’s highest per capita use of energy of all forms, and one of the highest of water – and provide relative rewards to the least polluting peoples. Then we would know the true economic impact of the good habits of Kiwis – you put on a sweater far sooner than Canadians, who are much more likely to crank up the heat – and of other cultures who simply live in a way that is less polluting.


  12. Let’s enjoy our sunny afternoons…

    So don’t tax. Simply charge emitters the actual cost of cleaning up. If your neighbour the next slip over dumps trash on your sailboat, preventing any enjoyment of sunny afternoons, tax or no, then they get to pay for the cleanup.

    As long as we allow people who burn coal to dump all over the South Pacific at no cost, allow farmers to continue to burn vast piles of garbage in their annual bonfires, and continue treating the world like one vast garbage dump, at no cost to the dumpers, we will start to have many more sunny afternoons than we would like, and agriculture will be seeking even more relief from droughts and inclement weather, and no one will be able to enjoy sunny afternoons, we will be too hungry…

  13. Further to my comments on agriculture, love the story on Aussie carbon farming. Now here’s a positive take for NZ agriculture if I ever heard one.

  14. Nicol Design, all NZ’s pastoral farmers are already zero tilling. So our soils are already high in carbon. Due to the use of the base year in international treaties we can’t seem to get any recognition for this.

    The Aussies and the American farmers are essentially profiting from there own past bad behavior!

    As for farmers lighting bonfires – I thought the problem was burping sheep and cows??? Now bonfires are the enemy?

    The food miles argument is a crock. Most emissions do not occur during transport but the actual production of the food. A recent UK DEFRA study (well 2005 I think) found imported tomatoes use far less greenhouse gases than local ones. Beef from Alberta, fed emissions intensive grain, and kept in warmed herd homes over the -30C winters may be more emissions intensive for you than imported NZ or South American beef. Maybe you should research this issue if you are really concerned about it.

    I think the issue with agriculture measurement is not how do you measure emissions, but how do you measure reductions?

    The aim of the policy is to reduce emissions, not reduce production (I hope). So the policy needs to reward good behavior. If a farmer takes measures to reduce emissions, how is that measured and rewarded?

    It is not possible to measure the exact emissions on every dairy farm. They can be approximated, but then there are no incentives to introduce management practices that may reduce them.

    One way would be to say; on average dairy has x emissions under normal circumstances. If someone uses technology m they save y emissions. If they use n they save z.

    But this is not a pure emissions trading scheme, this becomes a policy where output is taxed, and then tax relief is given for different management practices that reduce emissions. This may be the way agriculture has to be included. But the benefits of this limited scheme may not outweigh the costs.

    In essence this is similar to what some European countries have proposed to introduce, except they will not tax emissions, they will only be given an incentive to introduce practices that reduce emissions. They also get production subsidies. So this policy would mean our farmers are taxed while there competitors are subsidised. If our farmers are less emissions intensive, as they claim, this policy will lead to an increase in world emissions. Yet this is what many here would propose and claim it is for the benefit of the environment.

  15. …all NZ’s pastoral farmers are already zero tilling

    That’s nonsense. About the only pastoral farmers who don’t do much tilling are hill and high country farmers. Others do plenty of pasture renewal, planting of fodder crops, etc.

    If our farmers have a carbon price signal, they will adapt and become even more efficient than they currently are, and will be more competitive in future, not less. Note that no-one is currently suggesting that they should bear the full cost of their emissions – only that there should be a marginal cost to high carbon practices. Smart farmers will do on-farm offsets – really smart farmers will work on biodiversity offsets…

  16. Hey R2D2

    Thanks for the comments. A few points:
    I wouldn’t be surprised if many farms in NZ have high carbon soils. But there are plenty of degraded farms where the soils are visibly eroded. Note that saying that improvement is possible is not the same as saying that all farmers are eco-criminals…

    As for the comment about bonfires:
    Helensville, 2006. Karen and I were at a farm through WWOOF – Willing Workers on Organic Farms – which was a small family cattle operation. Turns out not to be so organic, but a small family needing help, so there we were. They had a bonfire. The kids got their marshmellows ready. It promised to be fun. The only problem is that the pile consisted of, amongst other junk, a TV, a chainsaw, a tricycle, loads of plastic hay bale wrap, the light blue stuff, and odds and ends of machinery. The pile was about 25 feet across, significant. When it was lit, there was the odd yellow flame, meaning that something like organic matter was burning. The rest of the flames were pink, blue, green – like a junior science kit experiment. When questioned by me, feeling queasy and watching the kids roast their marshmellows, the attitude was, “What? Everyone does this!” Meaning, I suppose, that it was commonplace.

    Alberta, 2008. Working to build a house, I was doing finish carpentry for a contractor. Building the house for a matriarch of a ranching family – larger farm than the one in NZ, but similar family operation. Big pile of trash in a pit that was dug for it – lots of wood and cardboard, but also buckets of paint, plastic, old wood stain… When questioned about the wisdom of burning all the chemicals and plastic,
    the response was, “What? Everyone does it!” Meaning…

    My comment was veering from the scientific to the poetic. The meaning being that if we continue as a matter of course behaving in such ways, we might discuss it until we are blue in the face, but we will never solve anything. It is the fundamental attitude that has to change. And I do believe that polluters must pay. We can no longer count pollution as an unfortunate yet necessary external cost of doing business. Especially since there are now so many alternatives.

    Your argument consistently calls a price for carbon a tax. So, the guy in the next slip insists on dumping his garbage on my sailboat, and the cost of him cleaning it up is a tax??? Seems to me that it is a shell game, this war of words. I simply want the fellows who are doing the damage to pay the price of cleaning it up. Then we will have appropriate price signals in the economy to guide our decisions.

    As for the food miles argument, it certainly is not a crock. The UK study – did it perhaps compare UK greenhouse tomatoes to Italian field tomatoes? And isn’t it just the point, to not ignore more climate hardy and local ways of getting vitamin C and tomato like nutrients? New Zealand has a climate and soils that are ideally suited for agriculture. The country doesn’t need to import any agricultural goods. And if farmers in NZ were to improve their agriculture to the point that they led the world in organic methods, I would be happy to purchase NZ products. Not at the moment. The statistics on rare cancers in NZ is very scary – the main reason why I am not still there, seeing as how I think that NZ is the most beautiful and dynamic country in the world.

    As for NZ or South American beef – no way. Canadian cattle ranching has many things to answer for; you will not find me apologizing for it. (Tho’ the story about “warmed herd houses” is interesting. Have never seen any myself, tho’ wouldn’t be surprised. Cows have hair on their hides, rather thick in the winter. And it is -30C for only maybe a week now, thanks to GW…) That is why I find grass-fed, organic beef from the local area. Thus I support local farmers whom I trust to get the food on my table in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet or my gut, avoid the transportation and grain-fed costs, and make the money go around a few times in my community before I spend it on… Kiwi wine…

    You have some interesting comments on agriculture tho’. I think that basically industrial agriculture, wherever it is practiced, can argue with industrial agriculture about who is the bad guy, and who is benefiting from what subsidy until, well, the cows come home. Industrial agriculture is subsidized in whatever country it is being practiced, by the system not having, again, to pay for the impacts on… a long list, but a few things here: water systems and rivers, lakes and oceans from over-fertilization with chemical fertilizers, depleted soils through the application of herbicides and pesticides and the same fertilizers, topsoil loss, the vast quantities of petroleum for these chemicals as well as the fuel burned on the farms, and etc. And again too, these problems are far worse in NAm than in NZ. The drive to organic farming seems to me to be the best way of solving the issues of industrial agriculture, that and removing the subsidies to industrial agriculture so that the smaller, organic farms are more competitive. Instead of arguing about how to make unsustainable agriculture a little less damaging, I think we should just cut to the chase and adopt methods that are far better, and solve some of the worst problems as a matter of course.

    The idea from Garth about on-farm offsets and biodiversity offsets would ring true as well. And seeing as how there is plenty to be done (with shelterbelt management – for sustainable forestry, for instance) it seems to me that we need to look at the problem from a different angle for solutions.

    What is involved in a simple measurement of soil carbon? Could farm by farm baselines be measured, and then credit given for improvements? What else can be done?

  17. nicol design, a lot of good points,

    I wont comment on them all, as we will never agree on most issues, if you have had personal experience with bonfires I can’t argue with that anyway!

    But I will clarify that when I was talking about the problems of measuring emissions I was referring to nitrous oxide from soils and methane from ruminant enteric fermentation, not soil carbon. I think the latest NZ inventory report or projection mentioned that the standard error when estimating enteric methane emissions was 52%.

  18. My deepest apologies Steve Bloom, to fulfill your reference expectations I will find the link (I couldn’t really be bothered before but oh well guess I will)

    “Methane emissions from enteric fermentation

    In the 2003 inventory submission, the CH4 emissions data from domestic livestock in 1990 and 2001 were subjected to Monte Carlo analysis using the software package @RISK to determine the uncertainty of the annual estimate (Clark et al, 2003). For the 2007 data, the uncertainty in the annual estimate was calculated using the 95 per cent confidence interval determined from the Monte Carlo simulation as a percentage of the mean value ie, in 2001, the uncertainty in annual emissions was ±53 per cent.”

    Happy? Still a wrong view of the world? Oh yes I said 52% instead of 53%, i guess I am an idiot. (to the editor: sorry the tone of comments on this site are becoming increasingly sarcastic, I am finding it hard to cope with the childish line of argument of some of the posters).

  19. R2, nobody is fooled by your attempted dodges. My reference was to the multiple (note the plural I used!) points regarding which nicol design nailed your sorry hide to the wall.

    BTW, as the ramped-up sarcasm seems insufficient to the task, would more insult and derision work better?

  20. This is a fascinating thread. Shame it got a little disjointed at the end. Thankyou all for your thoughtful discussion.


    I have a great deal of sympathy for your world view. To play the devils advocate one of the arguments used to promote unstainable industrial agriculture is that yield levels are too low to feed the world without the carbon inputs.

    Can you respond to that argument please?

  21. Hey althecat,

    I don’t know about data for NZ – there is certainly a greater mix of small farms taking up a greater share of total agricultural production, I suspect, than in Canada, where the bulk of agricultural production is on large, industrially operated farms.

    We now have an agricultural system where so much is produced through industrial agriculture

    But various authors have countered the position that large scale farms have a greater output per acre. The best argued take on the “small is better” position is Wendal Berry’s work on agriculture. You may have read his work – it is very refreshing for not automatically taking the “green” view, very independently argued. Two books especially: The Gift of Good Land, and The Unsettling of America. The Unsettling of America offers excellent arguments in favour of smaller, mixed, family run farms, and on the interconnected nature of agriculture to culture, cities, employment.

    It also offers data on the output of industrial farms and organic farms – one salient point is that tho’ the organic farms studied in a 1975 (Barry Commoner, Washington University) study produced approximately the same yields as conventional farm (except for about 12% less corn), they did so with about 1/3 as much energy, and at a cost of $31 per acre as opposed to $47 per acre for conventional farms.

    Note that the difference in costs is intimately connected to the productivity difference in corn – the extra $16 was due largely to fertilizer and fuel costs, and corn is a crop that is a notoriously heavy feeder. Indeed, the production of corn in Canada and the US is thoroughly unsustainable at present levels, depending as it does on high inputs of energy and fertilizers.

    There are numerous other studies to support this view as well, surely more up to date. See, for example, a recent blog entry:
    For a much more articulate view of the importance on non-industrial agriculture, check out the work of Vandana Shiva, the Indian activist and agricultural expert.

    Another point that is extremely important is the issue of costs: let’s take the example above, that of Commoner’s study. The costs of operating organic farms, at $31, and of conventional farming, at $47, count only the dollars flowing in and out of the books. It does not include the cost of soil erosion, eutrophication of watersheds due to over application of watersheds, and the actual death of soils on many large farms, especially those who use anhydrous ammonia for fertilizer (which is injected into the soils, flash freezes them, and kills all biology, beneficial as well as pestilent).

    Conservation of soils, the actual health and ability of soil to keep producing food, as well as conservation of water, are two primary concerns of agriculture that takes care of us in the long term. The cost of losing basic soil health is not counted in the accounting of the true costs of industrial agriculture. This is an externality, not the responsibility of the industrial farmer to account for, and of no particular interest to the agents for fuel, fertilizer and machinery suppliers.

    It is yet another field where neo-classical economics and “bigger is better” ideology comes up short, and produces huge errors in our way of surviving in the world. A favourite quote from The Gift of Good Land, as Berry talks about traditional Peruvian agriculture:

    “…this is an agriculture of extraordinary craftsmanship and ecological intelligence – but they were worked out over a long time, a long time ago; learned so well, one might say, that they are forgotten. It seems to me that this is probably the only kind of culture that works: thought sufficiently complex, but submerged or embodied in traditional acts. It is at least as conscious as unconscious – and so is available to all levels of intelligence. Two people, one highly intelligent, the other unintelligent, will work fields on the same slope, and both will farm well, keeping the ways that keep the land. You can look at a whole mountainside covered with these little farms and not see anything egregiously wasteful or stupid. Not so with us. With us, it grows harder and harder for intelligent people to behave intelligently, and the unintelligent are condemned to a stupidity probably unknown to traditional cultures.” Gift of Good Land, p. 27 (1981, Wendell Berry, North Point Press)

    I see by reading this post that it is perhaps more revealing of my world view than that of the science of agriculture – be that as it may. Until we count the actual costs of industrial systems, and quit disregarding the damage that they are doing, we will have an argument that is at cross purposes to itself. How is this related to Hot Topic? The data on energy use, soil health and its relationship to total soil carbon, watershed health and its ability to absorb carbon – all connected.

    Hope that helps. Cheers.

  22. Missing half of second paragraph:

    We now have an agricultural system where so much is produced through industrial agriculture> <that it would seem counter-intuitive to suppose that more people per acre would be a solution.

    Sorry 'bout that…

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