Ode to the resource wasters (a poem)
Kathleen Martin addresses a prose poem to those who squander resources smugly.
Kathleen Martin is a good poet. Below I report her poem. Economists rarely discuss "moral imperatives". We discuss the free rider problem and we recognize that social sanction can substitute for formal sanction but what if "social sanction" is ineffective with a subgroup of the population? Tell Rush Limbaugh to extinguish his cigar when it is making a young kid cough and what will he do? The cliche is that he will laugh. Ms. Martin wants him to put down that cigar for all of our sake. But Rush understands the free rider problem and knows that there is no "cigar tax" so economics predicts that he will keep smoking. Ms. Martin knows that Limbaugh knows this and she is trying to make him more aware that the child is suffering. If Rush is made aware of others' suffering caused by his actions, what will Rush now do?Skip to next paragraph
Mathew is an economics professor at UCLA and has written three books: Green Cities (Brookings Institution Press); Heroes and Cowards (Princeton University Press, jointly with Dora L. Costa); and in fall 2010, Climatopolis: How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter World (Basic Books).
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HERE is her poem
"This "prose poem" below was written in a rush of despair the morning of the autumnal equinox upon hearing a radio report the temperature could reach 100-degrees in the Louisville, KY, metro area that day. Various titles I've considered for it include "If the Shoe Fits..." and "Which Shoe Fits You?" and "Get Your Gloat On" -- whatever it's called, it's long past high time to start calling some of us so-called '70s "pessimists" by our true identities: REALISTS.
Okay, all right. Gotta admit, you got us good. I'm talking to YOU, the
loud, materialistic majority who smirk at us bent on our bicycles or
cramped in our compact cars as you cruise around in your roomy,
gas-guzzling SUVs and minivans. Who scoff at all the extra time and
effort we take to recycle and compost over the decades while you fill
the ground with your mounds of trash. Who luxuriate in your long hot
baths and chuckle at us shivering in our stream-off-when-soaping
showers. Who fill up your swimming pools and hot tubs with utility rate
breaks while we use collected rainwater on our locavore gardens. Who
sneer at the "eyesore" of clothes hanging to dry on lines while you run
your w/d's for that one pair of jeans you just gotta wear tonight. I
could continue ad nauseum with this laundry list of compare and
contrast, but you get my drift.
So now when it's 100 degrees on the first day of autumn and natural
disaster after natural disaster follow upon the heels of man-made
disaster after man-made disaster, you get to gloat about us all winding
up together in the same oil-filled boat after all. You can smile smugly
to yourselves and think, "Tree-hugging suckers! At least WE really lived
it up and enjoyed the spoils of the planet before we spoiled it for
everyone! Ha-ha! You took all that extra effort and sacrificed creature
comforts for decades, yet in the end you won't suffer any less from our
selfishness just because of your responsible behavior. And besides,
we'll just crank up the A/C even higher and go take a dip!"
But here's a truly sobering thought for consumerists who have done
little-to-nothing as stewards of this great Earth: If not your children,
then your children's children, and whatever generations may survive
beyond that, all still alive will curse you and your lethal legacy left to
them with every labored breath they try to take. And the band plays on
with Nero on first violin....
New Albany, IN
September 23, 2010"
The logic of my climatopolis book is that Rush Limbaugh and friends will slowly see the link between their actions and collective outcomes. How will Rush change his behavior as climate change unfolds? He has the income to protect himself in a variety of ways. Ms. Martin is pointing out that the rich transfer quality of life away from the poor when they live a high carbon lifestyle because climate change's impact will be mostly borne by the poor. In Climatopolis, I argue that all of us will have access to some coping strategies for adapting to climate change and that economic development will help the poor to adapt. In 100 degree areas (as they grow more common), we will need more electricity to cope. Capitalist innovation today in anticipation of such trends will help all to reduce the quality of life impacts caused by Mother Nature.
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