Too much of a good thing?

Can too much sustainable development be dangerous? Yes, according to this opinion piece. However, Brian Gongol’s argument would only make sense if we were all ‘back to the land’ hippies so it’s a pretty obvious straw man argument. The average proponent of sustainable development is more in touch with comparative advantage than Mr Gongol thinks.

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0 thoughts on “Too much of a good thing?

  • Brian Gongol

    If you’d like to share some examples of the use of comparative advantage in designing sustainable communities, I’d be happy to revise the article. In the (admittedly brief) time I spent doing the research I shared, my conclusion was that much of the sustainable-development movement is simply not aware of comparative advantage, and that the lack of awareness has the paradoxical result of leading to increased waste, which none of us want.

    The article was certainly not intended as a straw man argument; I’m quite interested in finding ways of more efficiently improving human standards of living while minimizing waste. The problem is that I’ve encountered lots of well-intentioned (but wrong) talk from self-identified environmentalists who seem much more interested in neo-Ludditism than in actually improving both the environment and human well-being.

    Again, I’d be delighted if you would share more specific counter-arguments to help make it a better article.

  • Ian

    My main problem with the piece was that it read as an indictment of all sustainable development but only looked at the extreme end of it. I suggest you read more of this blog, and those linked to in the side column, to get a better idea of what the majority of us are trying to achieve.

    I’d never heard of comparative advantage until I read your article, but I’ve been practising it for years. As a simple example I start a new job next week. It’s only a mile away, so I’ll be walking. I’ll get there quicker than I would by car or bus and I’ll get exercise. Most people would see a rise in their efficiency if they reassessed their daily trip to work. A bike should be seriously considered for anything less than a ten mile commute. In most cities it’s faster. On a personal level it saves the cost of petrol and gym membership (why pay to waste another hour when you’re getting the exercise by saving time getting to work?) On a grander scale you’re producing less pollution not just by not running your vehicle but by allowing other vehicles to flow more freely and efficiently.

    The sort of community you wrote about will always remain a fringe thing. As such your argument holds no water. The commune members are utilising their energy in the way that best suits them and because they are self sufficient they are not costing society as a whole anything. The aim of mainstream sustainable development advocates is to day to day costs for energy etc. lower through greater efficiency. If the running costs of your life are lower then you can make better use of your time, be it to earn more money, spend more time with your family or work toward that thing you are best suited to.