Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bean burger

Next month I will present a paper at the ISA convention in Hong Kong with the title "Scandinavian Environmental Policy in the Pacific Century?". My main ambition with the paper is to critically examine the Scandinavian self-image of being “environmental leaders” with regard to climate change in particular.

As good as the optics of Scandinavian environmental policy may look at the surface, it is no secret that the offshoring of environmentally destructive industries has played a key role and so has geographical luck (numerous rivers suitable for hydropower) as well as policies that present-day governments do not like to take credit for (nuclear power). Once we remove these three factors, the image of Scandinavia becomes much less stunning as it reveals a continuing heavy reliance on fossil fuels for road transportation, massive burning of biomass for heat and a preference for non-scalable forms of energy such as wind power.

Likewise, at the individual level, we find a very mixed picture once we start scratching on the surface. On one hand we have growing ethical responsibility with regards to food (like the great bean burger I had for lunch above) and transportation (biking and public transportation). On the other hand, there is strong resistance to industrial agriculture even as the advanced knowledge economies of Scandinavia would be entirely unthinkable were it not for past gains in agricultural productivity that freed up labour. As good as “organic” or “non-GMO” may sound, the fondness for such labels reflects an acute inability to think hard about the provision of food in a world of 7.5+ billion people.

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