Norman Myers Convocation Lecture 2009


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A lecture by Professor Norman Myers to Newcastle University alumni as part of Convocation on 20 June 2009, entitled: 'The citizen is willing but governments won't deliver: the problem of institutional roadblocks'.

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Norman Myers Convocation Lecture 2009

  1. 1. The Citizen is Willing But Governments Don’t Deliver: The problem of “institutional roadblocks” Professor Norman Myers
  2. 2. "GNP does not include the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our relationships, or the integrity of our public officials. It allows neither for the justice in our courts, nor the justness of our dealings with each other. It counts air pollution, cigarette advertising and medical costs, yet it does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. In short, GNP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile." Robert F. Kennedy
  3. 3. AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES EU cow: subsidies each day, $2--or as much as the daily income of the 2.6 billion poorest people in developing countries.
  4. 4. European fishing fleets feature 40% over-capacity. Too many boats are chasing too few fish.
  5. 5. Desertification losses to agriculture: at least $65 billion p.a. Potential anti-desertification measures: would cost only half as much. Another institutional lacuna.
  6. 6. U.K. AVIATION One branch of the government urges that aviation fuel, currently free of tax, should be taxed heavily. Another branch projects a steep increase in present-day cheap air travel, and plans many new runways, even new airports. A glaring instance of lack of joined-up government.
  8. 8. Urine is cleaner than the water 1.1 billion people drink daily. 5 million people die each year from drinking unclean water.
  9. 9. WATER ECONOMICS Amount of developing-nation disease due to lack of clean water: 90% Annual cost of workdays lost to sickness $125 billion Every $1 for water returns $8 in diseases avoided and increased worker productivity. Needed to supply water for all: an extra $15 billion per year
  12. 12. Needed to grow the cotton to make one T-shirt: enough water to fill 25 bathtubs.
  13. 13. BOTTLED WATER U.N. goal: by 2015, to halve the proportion of people without safe water (still leaving 800 million thirsty people). Cost of annual supply: an additional $15 billion Possible funding: a 10c tax on each of the 150 billion 1-liter bottles consumed every year (a worthless luxury, hardly healthier than tap water). Certain brands cost more than petrol.
  14. 14. WHAT SHALL WE DO? 1. Swap GNP for a Genuine Progress Indicator. 2. Get the prices right, e.g. petrol/gasoline. 3. Phase out “perverse” subsidies. 4. Expand eco-technologies.
  15. 15. U.S. Gross Domestic Product vs. Genuine Progress Indicator, 1950 to 2004
  16. 16. “PERVERSE” SUBSIDIES: adverse for the economy as well as the environment. $billions per year Agriculture 510 Fossil fuels/nuclear energy 300 Road transportation 780 Water 230 Fisheries 25 Forests 92 Total 1,950 By definition, these funds support unsustainable development. Contrast the Rio budget for sustainable development, $600 billion per year.
  17. 17. PERVERSE SUBSIDIES A typical American taxpayer pays at least $2000 a year to fund perverse subsidies, then pays another $1000 through increased prices and through environmental degradation. Perverse subsidies persist because they create special-interest groups and political lobbies. There are 16,000 lobbyists, plying their trade at a price of $250 million per month.
  18. 18. U.K. EXPORTS/IMPORTS, 2006: MARKETPLACE MADNESS UK 1500 t. of potatoes to Germany Germany 1500 t. to UK UK 2300 t. of ice cream to Sweden Sweden 2260 t. to UK UK 665 t. of jelly sweets to Italy Italy 612 t. to UK UK 20 t. of mineral water to Australia Australia 21 t. to UK Plus dozens of other such oddities.
  19. 19. ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN U.K. Wasted on energy: £5 billion per year, £85 per citizen Through energy efficiency, a household can SAVE UP TO £300 A YEAR Laundry: drying outside saves up to £40 p.a. Stand-by: turning tv’s etc. off standby saves up to £50 p.a. Lighting: replacing 5 bulbs with compact fluorescents saves £35 p.a. Heating: turning down thermostat by 1o C saves up to £40 p.a. Making tea: heating enough water for only 1 cup saves up to £30 p.a.
  20. 20. “The UK’s scientific prowess is threatened by a bunch of academic apparatchiks, [and] today the DNA work of Crick and Watson, both Nobel Prize winners, would have been blocked before they had got started." Lord Robert May
  21. 21. BLINKERED THINKING The wheel "X-rays are a hoax." Lord Kelvin, 1900 "The radio craze will die out." Thomas Edison, 1922 "There is a world market for about five computers." Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943 "Space travel is impossible." Richard Wooley, British Astronomer Royal, 1956 "640k of memory is enough for anybody." Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, 1981
  22. 22. SCIENTIFIC PROBLEMS New answers to old questions; new questions 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment 7000 theses on the white-tailed deer at a cost of over $50 million Scientists as advocates: professional credibility? Undue scientific caution; science denials
  23. 23. ENERGY EFFICIENCY If all American households replaced their five most-used light fixtures with compact fluorescents, energy savings would total $8 billion pa. That's like taking 10 million cars off the road. If all the world switched to these bulbs, energy savings could close one fifth of coal-fired power plants.
  24. 24. ENERGY EFFICIENCY At 6500 ft in the Colorado Rockies, this house is heated/lit by energy efficiency and solar power. The heat-trapping measures cost less than the boilers eliminated, with investment repaid <10 months.
  25. 25. MOBILIZING PUBLIC OPINION By late 2007, 800 mayors from all 50 states with 78 million citizens are striving to meet/beat the Kyoto Protocol’s target for the U.S.
  26. 26. NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs) 1 million NGOs worldwide with 100 million members --the single biggest movement in the world. Amnesty International: 2 million members in 152 countries (funded better than the human rights arm of the UN). 122 countries have agreed to stop the landmines trade—a breakthrough due not so much to government initiative as to 1000 NGOs lobbying governments for years.
  27. 27. BREAKTHROUGHS Optimist and pessimist Iran fertility rate: 6.6 in 1980 to 2.1 in 2000 Montreal Protocol Berlin Wall; South Africa; U.S. smoking; New Zealand sheep subsidies Biodiversity hotspots
  28. 28. NEW PARADIGMS "There is nothing more difficult to carry out, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For those who would institute change have enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and they have only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order." Niccolo Machiavelli, 1490