In the early stages of our childhood we are taught how to walk properly, eat decently and piss without assistance. After mustering these elementary capabilities we are exposed to the ritual of consumption. Whenever we consume, be it household products, food or energy, we rarely question the origins of that particular product.
Balancing the costs
In Malta, if I spit on the street and get caught I am fined 50 cents (a bit less than 1 Euro). If I do not separate waste products in Belgium the trash collector will refuse to take it. If I flush used car oil down the drains I would face criminal charges. In general, if I pollute I must pay the price. I agree with these terms and conditions
Unfortunately this condition has an abundance of double standards. Industries, food producers and fuel consumers, who are the main culprits of global warming and environmental degradation, are exempt from such restrictions.
For sure very few people wonder why unprocessed food is so cheap to consume. One of the reasons is because it is highly subsidized by governments as I will explain later on. The second reason why food is so cheap is because many of the costs of cleaning up after the production process are simply not paid by the producer or the consumer. Instead the environment pays.
The eco system is being pushed to it’s limits by forcing it to produce more food per square inch of soil. Pesticides and fertilizers are being used without any regard for the long term impact they have on the water system, surrounding ecological system and the soil itself.
Food producers are not forced to clean up the pesticide and fertilizers they dump into the soil during crop production. Of course, imagine the price of vegetables if the food producers are forced to clean up the water system from pesticide and fertilizers they have used. For the sake of the low price of vegetables, the water system that provides fresh water for drinking and clean bathing areas, becomes unusable. This deprives all members of the society living near the water source of resources of drinking water and leisure.
Criticism loses it’s value if solutions are not given. I believe that radical reforms of the massive agricultural subsidies in the US and EU are necessary. The current situation is that the US and EU are spending around 350 billion dollars per year (that’s 1 billion each day) on food production, making food so cheap that even when exported to third world countries it is cheaper than their local produce. This policy forces the local farmers out of work. Even worse it does not give the food producers in developing countries a chance to export their produce, which is so badly needed to develop their economy. The three lines above just mean that free trade is only applicable to developed countries.
Subsidies should be redirected. Farmers in first world countries should be forced to adopt organic farming techniques. The subsidies on food should stop being used to produce such cheap environmentally degrading food, to be exported to developing countries. Of course unless their is a humanitarian crises free food should be supplied to any corner of the globe.The subsidies which are being used to send such cheap food to developing countries should be used to help farmers in developed countries to make a transition from conventional to organic farming. From those 350 billion dollars per year there still would be money left to subsidize the organic food. At the same time the food produced will contain no harmful pesticides and fertilizers that are venom for the ecological system. This means that the consumers will have greater food quality and still at a cheap price. Food producers in developing countries could get jobs again and get a chance to work themselves out of poverty.
What was said about the food industry can be repeated for other products, especially energy. Whenever we consume energy we rarely think about how cheap it is and about the quantities of it we consume. Our electricity and car fuel bills do not include the damage done to environment or even worse to other members of our society.
Repeatedly elaborating on the costs of each product we consume is fruitless. A clear example made by the food industry is enough.
So, each time you purchase non environmentally friendly products and you are a religious believer remember you are abusing God’s gift to you. If you are not a religious believer look at a young child and remember that you are sharing your world with him.