A De-Escalation of Folly

Jessica Wright

Paul Collier is a respected economist, Professor at the University of Oxford, and former director of the Development Research Group at the World Bank.  Collier is a specialist in the economic, political, and development issues of poor countries, and last week took environmentalists to task in an article in the London Times.  He calls environmentalism the "religion of our times", and says, "we are more inclined to moralise about nature than to understand the science and economics underlying it" (see article linked below for all quote references).

His important message comes down to the following points:

1. We can't afford to mess up agriculture because it... feeds us.  He says, "... the moral high ground in the West has become occupied by romantic environmentalists, often aristocrats, who view modern scientific agriculture with distaste".

2. Developing countries can't afford romantic environmentalism.  "While Europe shot itself in the foot (by banning GMO's or genetically modified organism technology), Africa copied the decision and duly shot itself in the heart. Faced by fast population growth and a deteriorating climate, Africa needs rapid crop adaptation more than any other region".

3. The "small is beautiful mythology" is false and dangerous. "For 40 years their efforts to raise the productivity of African agriculture have been exclusively focused on small farmers. Our non-governmental organisations tend to face both ways, wanting development without change; Africa’s peasants are to be preserved in aspic. Yet this is not how our own agriculture became more productive: our peasantry vanished for a simple reason — it was inefficient".

As he states near the end of the article, what we need is a "mutual de-escalation of folly".

Read the entire article here

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