Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
wade into the water to watch what came out of the sewer. Any
fat escaping the pipe was a clear sign that his factories oper-
ated inefficiently, so he would trace the source of the leakage
and fix it. He despised pollution, not because he loved the
environment, but because he loved money. By pursuing his
own self-interest he reduced the amount of pollution entering
the river.
Why tell this story? Because we often ignore the fact that
people every day reduce pollution without any intention of
doing so, simply by producing things efficiently. The road to
hell is paved with good intentions, the saying goes, so per-
haps the road to heaven is built on self-interest. Every business
that operates more efficiently than its rival reduces the carbon
footprint of that product. Most people assume organic food is
good for the environment because its proponents boast of their
green intentions. Sometimes this is indeed the case. Yet some-
times nonorganic food has a smaller carbon footprint because
it is produced more efficiently. Like Gustavus Swift, conven-
tional producers look for every source of waste, and when they
fix that waste they are able to produce each unit using less
energy. Less energy then translates into less carbon. When the
beef industry started giving calves growth hormones to help
them grow faster, producers were not trying to reduce the car-
bon footprint of beef, but that is exactly what they did.
If readers really care about the environment, then they will
concentrate on the actual level of carbon emissions and not
just rely on the stated intentions of the seller. What matters are
outcomes, and if an industry makes no announcements of sin-
cere concern for the environment but leaves behind a smaller
carbon footprint, it provides a public good.
As a general rule, the more a product costs, the larger its
carbon footprint. This isn't always the case, but adding value
to a product or service usually requires more energy, and most
of the time that energy is derived from fossil fuels, which have
carbon footprints of their own. This means that any time a
person wants a higher valued product sold at a higher price,
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