Articles by Jason D Scorse
Jason Scorse, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair of the International Environmental Policy Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His book What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics is available at Amazon.
The agricultural industry is one of the biggest users of water, energy, and chemicals on the planet. Overall it poses one of the biggest threats to global biodiversity, which is why it deserves significant attention from the environmental community.
But when it comes to defining what is meant by "sustainable agriculture," there is a lot of confusion. Many people think "organic," or "local," or "non-GMO," or even "biodynamic." It will come as little surprise that economists don't think of the issue in this way; they primarily examine the basic conditions for the efficient use of resources in the agricultural sector.
The following outline is the beginning of what a move toward a sustainable agricultural system would entail:
Putting aside the causes of the oil-price rise and what the future holds, I am concerned that progressives are losing the public debate about what to do about it. Like David, I was extremely disappointed with Gore's interview on Meet the Press this past week, both with respect to the ridiculous questions from Brokaw and Gore's complete inability to get the right message across.
And now we have an editorial from The Wall Street Journal (as well as John McCain himself) making the absurd claim that Bush's lifting of the offshore oil drilling ban is responsible for the recent drop in oil prices. Since I am assume both McCain and the op-ed writer are smart enough to know that this is false, one can only assume they are willing to lie because they think that this presents an opening for the rightwing in a season when they look doomed.
Unfortunately, data exists to back up this belief, as the public's support for offshore oil drilling is rising. The simple fact is that when costs of energy go up, most people are willing to put aside environmental concerns, including global warming.
This is why it is crucial that progressives, and especially the Obama campaign (who brilliantly won the gas tax holiday debate during the primaries), need to adopt an aggressive strategy for winning over the public on energy issues.
Here's what I think should be the central message:
The other day, President Bush, in response to a question as to why he has not pushed more for energy conservation, responded that the American people are smart enough to figure it out on their own. This prompted conservatives at the National Review to call for a "Dubya-Love Moment" in honor of what they perceived as the straight-talking truth!
It is truly amazing that a philosophical movement once filled with some of the smartest minds in economics now wears economic ignorance as a badge of honor.
So here's how to respond to those on the right who still don't get it that energy policy requires government intervention, and not just blind faith in markets:
As a big Obama supporter I am delighted that McCain's national co-chair and economic adviser Phil Gramm was stupid enough to talk about America being in a "mental recession" and the country being a "bunch of whiners"; it's going to be the gift that keeps on giving (Obama had a great line about how the country doesn't need a new Dr. Phil).
Gramm was 100 percent wrong about the "mental recession" part -- we are teetering on a real recession if not already in one -- but he actually was right about America being a bunch of whiners, although not for the reasons he thinks.