"System change is now inevitable. Either because we do something about it, or because we will be hit by climate change. '...

"We need to develop economic models that are fit for purpose. The current economic frameworks, the ones that dominate our governments, these frameworks... the current economic frameworks, the neoclassical, the market frameworks, can deal with small changes. It can tell you the difference, if a sock company puts up the price of socks, what the demand for socks will be. It cannot tell you about the sorts of system level changes we are talking about here. We would not use an understanding of laminar flow in fluid dynamics to understand turbulent flow. So why is it we are using marginal economics, small incremental change economics, to understand system level changes?"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Earth Day in an Airplane

The fates have a number of plane flights between Austin and Montreal lined up for me from which I can envision no escape. In addition to the jarring culture shock of abrupt transition between two such dramatically different cultures, I found myself struggling with feelings of guilt and excess as I changed planes in Chicago on Earth Day.

I'm not sure what else I should report about it, except how the newspapers handled Earth Day.

The entire front page of the Montreal Gazette was taken up by mea culpas about how the newspaper itself had environmental damage (though the idea of, well, giving up on paper wan't examined very deeply.) There were no other stories beside this rather pointless introspection.

The Montreal Star, by the way, has long since folded. Montreal can barely support a single English language daily at this point. I mention this because, if you come across a copy of the Star for the first Earth Day, though, you will find a picture of some earnest teenagers picking up garbage from the street, myself among them.

There was prominent and thoughtful coverage in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The National Post (of Canada) prominently featured a columnist on the front page with the usual denialist talking points mercilessly mocking the idea of anthropogenic climate change.

The front page of the Chicago Tribune had no mention of earth day whatsoever.

I think the difference of opinion between the US and everywhere else is that the US is not coming to grips at all with the fact that there might be a serious sustainability problem. The difference in emphasis was very striking.


Dano said...

Societal differences expressed as possessive individualism vs cooperative collectivism. That the individual may be happy (or possess distractions) at the expense of others is better than everyone being happy at the expense of the individual. IMHO, this system isn't sustainable.



Michael Tobis said...

I have thought about the differences between Canadians and Americans a great deal. Dano's analysis is commonly held, but I don't actually think it's quite right. The political outcome is certainly like that, but the differences in man-on-the-street attitude are very different.

Remember that I speak as someone who has done both and would much rather live in Austin than in Montreal. The differences are large but I hate to see them painted with too broad a brush.

What was striking to me on Earth Day was not the difference in public attitude so much as the difference in attitude of the popular press.

We see this come out in our discussions. Scientific attitude in the US is much more vehement in the US than elsewhere because the press (and the political sector) makes as many errors of overstatement as of understatement elsewhere.

Michael Tobis said...

I had somehow forgotted the trauma of the worst part of the National Post coverage, but Eli does it some justice.