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re: consumer impact on the environment



Hope this isn't too far off-topic here, but the discussion of U.S.
lifestyle environmental impacts got me thinking about a parallel
discussion going on on an environmental law listserv about the tragedy
of the commons. One of the points that came up is that the planet lacks
the resources to provide every person with the resources that privledged
citizens (like us) take for granted. Exerpted below are some thoughts
from Monsanto's CEO on the future of business in a world where not
everyone can have everything. 

regards,
Melissa Malkin
> ----------
> From: 	Redick, Thomas[SMTP:Thomas_Redick@McKennaCuneo.com]
> Sent: 	Wednesday, September 10, 1997 1:41 AM
> To: 	MJMALKIN@rti.org
> Cc: 	abasonreel@abanet.org
> Subject: 	Re: Alternative compliance with regulatory objectives
> -Reply
> 
> I highly recommend the recent "sustainability" issue of the Harvard
> Business Review (Jan 1997?) which offers a 21at century corporate
> perspective that is surprisingly long term and directly addresses the
> tragedy of the commons and the life  cycle of regulated industry.
> <<snip>>
> 
> Perhaps the most intriguing article  features Harold Shapiro, the CEO
> of
> Monsanto, who predicts that population growth will bring cause
> profound
> environmental degradation.  He describes the tragedy of the commons in
> stark terms:
> "There are about 5.8 billion people in the world.  About 1.5 billion
> of
> them live in conditions of abject poverty (. . .).  These people spend
> their days
> trying to get food and firewood so that they can make it to the next
> day.  As many as 800 million people are so severely malnourished that
> they can neither work nor participate in family life.  (. . .)
> Without
> radical change, the kind of world implied by those numbers is
> unthinkable.  It's a world of mass migration and environmental
> degradation on an unimaginable scale.  At best, it means the
> preservation of a few islands of privilege and prosperity in a sea of
> misery and violence."  John Magoetta, Shapiro
> interview at 80.
> 
> Shapiro suggests that a new corporate approach is required:
> 
> "We're entering a time of perhaps unprecedented discontinuity.
> Businesses grounded in the old model will become obsolete and
> die.  At Monsanto, we're trying to invent some new businesses
> around the concept of environmental sustainability.  We may not
> yet know exactly what those businesses will look like, but we're
> willing to place some bets because the world cannot avoid needing
> sustainability in the long run...Far from being a soft issue grounded
> in emotion or ethics, sustainable development involves cold,
> rational business logic."
> 
> An integral part of this business strategy will be made from sharing
> the
> newfound
> knowledge and technology with the developing countries, in order to
> help
> them "leapfrog from preindustrial to postindustrial systems without
> having to pass through that destructive middle" 	Id. at 87. and
> thereby
> save the world from environmental degradation:
> 
> "The developing countries can grow by brute force, by putting steel in
> the ground and depleting their natural resources and burning a lot of
> hydrocarbons.  But a far better way to go would be for companies like
> Monsanto to transfer their knowledge and help those countries avoid
> the
> mistakes of the past.  If emerging economies have to
> relive the entire industrial revolution with all its waste, its energy
> use, and its pollution, I think it's all over"	Id.
> 
> Mr. Shapiro predicts that Monsanto's sustainable development business
> strategy will be driven by the exponential growth in information
> systems
> and biotechnology:  "The early twenty-first century is going to see a
> struggle between information technology and biotechnology on the one
> hand and environmental degradation on the other.
> Information technology is going to be our most powerful tool.  It will
> let us miniaturize things, avoid waste, and produce more value without
> producing and processing more stuff.  The substitution of information
> for stuff is essential to sustainability."  Id. at 82.
> 
> The US is far behind in this sustainability game -- the Nordic
> countries
> are light years ahead of us.  Our leadership in information technology
> and biotechnology could change that .  I would like to suggest that
> nearly thirty years later, those  clear, uncomforting views discussed
> below may  be missing out on new information about how the world is
> going to be  doing business in the next milennium -- we hope.
> 
> Tom Redick
> McKenna & Cuneo
> San Diego
> thomas_redick@mckennacuneo.com
>  ----------
> From: soliva@consrv.ca.gov
> To: Milmoe Cornelius
> Cc: abasonreel@abanet.org
> Subject: Re: Alternative compliance with regulatory objectives -Reply
> Date: Tuesday, September 09, 1997 7:12PM
> 
> 
> If you're going to examine The Tragedy of the Commons, don't forget
> The
> Tragedy of the Commons Revisited by Beryl Crowe (1969).  Garrett
> Hardin
> required it (along with his own essay) in his Human Ecology courses.
> You
> can
> extracts from Crowe's essay at > http://dieoff.org/page95.htm <.  Both
> agree
> that the problem of natural resource demands by human populations
> seems
> intractable.  Hardin suggests that only "mutual coercion, mutually
> agreed
> upon" (essentially via regulation of unrestricted actions affecting
> the
> "commons") because it's not in the long-term interest of individuals
> to
> be
> altruistic.
> 
> Crowe responds by pointing out that:
>  "... one writer postulated a common life cycle for all of the
> attempts
> to
> develop regulatory policies. The life cycle is launched by an outcry
> so
> widespread and demanding that it generates enough political force to
> bring
> about establishment of a regulatory agency to insure the equitable,
> just,
> and rational distribution of the advantages among all holders of
> interest in
> the commons. This phase is followed by the symbolic reassurance of the
> offended as the agency goes into operation, developing a period of
> political
> quiescence among the great majority of those who hold a general but
> unorganized interest in the commons. Once this political quiescence
> has
> developed, the highly organized and specifically interested groups who
> wish
> to make incursions into the commons bring sufficient pressure to bear
> through other political processes to convert the agency to the
> protection
> and furthering of their interests. In the last phase even staffing of
> the
> regulating agency is accomplished by drawing the agency administrators
> from
> the ranks of the regulated."
> 
> Nearly thirty years later, these remain fairly clear, and uncomforting
> views.
> 
> 
> Milmoe Cornelius wrote:
> >
> >The issue is not Government v. Business, but a broader social dilemma
> >explored in:
> >Hardin, Garrett, "The Tragedy of the Commons", Science,
> 162:1243-1248, 1968.
> >(Now online at >http://www.abic.org/free/FP/TragedyCommons.html)
> >
> >See also the September, 1993 issue of Atlantic Monthly , "Can
> Selfishness
> >Save the Environment?" by Matt Ridley and Bobbi S. Low.
> 
> Evan Slavitt wrote:
> > ----------
> <snip>
>  The kind of paternalistic approach you envision -- children and the
> keys to
> the car -- is symptomatic of the approach the governments (state and
> federal) have taken that have made some
> progress but at enormous cost and with huge inefficiencies and
> problems.
>  In
> my view, it is past time for government to recognize that business
> must
> be
> seen as a partner in the environmental process, not a wayward child.
> Flexibility is not a privilege to be granted by the wise government
> but
> a
> way of life that both government and business must bear joint -- and
> equal
>  -- responsibility for.
> 
> 
> Stephen E. Oliva                              e-mail:
> soliva@consrv.ca.gov
> Staff Counsel                                 voice : 916-323-6733
> California Department of Conservation         fax   : 916-445-9916
> 801 K Street, MS 24-03
> Sacramento, CA  95814-3528
>