The Finite World - NYT Paul Krugman

Excellent editorial in the NYTimes by Paul Krugman, titled The Finite World.

He describes how copper and cotton are hitting record highs, and oil prices are peculating upwards, despite an under-heated USA economy.  Rapidly emerging economies - What I describe as Korea-zation - is having a dramatic effect on climate, mining, extraction, habitat loss, extinction and resource consumption.

Krugman writes:
[T]he big problem with those blaming the Fed for rising commodity prices is that they’re suffering from delusions of U.S. economic grandeur. For commodity prices are set globally, and what America does just isn’t that important a factor.
In particular, today, as in 2007-2008, the primary driving force behind rising commodity prices isn’t demand from the United States. It’s demand from China and other emerging economies. As more and more people in formerly poor nations are entering the global middle class, they’re beginning to drive cars and eat meat, placing growing pressure on world oil and food supplies.
And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.
The same demand for our recyclables is pressuring Brazil's rain forests, Congo's watersheds, and Papua New Guinea's coral reefs.

What Krugman describes as "delusions of economic grandeur" is precisely in line with the Narcissus (Power and Responsibility) blog and the California Compromise Sopranos blog.  Proportionately, the USA is just not as big of a consumer on the world market as it once was.  And therefore, not that essential as a supplier of secondary products, reuse or scrap.

America still has legacy scrap from decades of past economic grandeur, and the highest consumption rates per capita.  People want to buy the post-consumer scrap from us.  Yes, we should be concerned about their environmental management, and should demonstrate our concern with fair trade recycling contracts - economic incentives which reward emerging markets for taking the right steps in e-waste recycling.  Demonstrating our concern by sacrificing added value to the shredder is (horribly) counter-productive.

[Analogy alert]  The USA had the biggest house in the neighborhood for many decades.  Now "the Jones" (India, China, Brazil, etc) are catching up.  "The Jones" need lead and copper and aluminum and cotton, and they are starting to order meat for dinner.  They feel good.

The USA has plenty of moral leadership when it comes to women's rights and civil rights, technology, freedom of speech and invention.  But we are not in a good position to preach about recycling and consumption.

We can smoke our pipes in the den and tell ourselves that the "nouveau riches" are not OECD, not up to speed, not in the club.  But if we tell our kids not to play with their kids on the recycling playground, we will accomplish nothing outside of our backyard.

The USA used to be a very, very important supplier of computers for refurbishment, because of the decades where we were the largest producer or consumer.  If we create export rules which are not in harmony with purchase orders (defined by the buyer), we are selling into a world with other choices.  The WR3A's overseas factory members are finding the supply elsewhere.  

they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.
  耸 耸 肩   [sŏngsŏngjiān]! 

The shrugs are deafening.  It's not something we can change.  I just want to be the kid from the old-money house who plays with, defends, and establishes friendships with, the geeks of color.  I may meet them on the soccor field in college, I may apply to them for a job.  This is no longer about winning BAN or winning the environmentalists over, as much as I want that.   The "Manufacturer Takeback" movement denied the contract manufacturing SKD factories three times before the cock crowed... Overseas recyclers have been declared primitive, have been nailed to a tree, and will rise... maybe in the coming months, or weeks.

WR3A sponsored the first R2 inspection of an overseas ewaste recycling factory, not the last.  We were the first to say "I'm proud to be an exporter".  Whether or not Americans are proud to trade with the emerging world really won't be all that relevant in another generation.

In five years, the Uncle Sam will be talking about the old days.  Personally, I want to say "I marched with Martin, before we dreamed of Obama".  When everyone knows one day that the best e-waste recycling practiced in the world is not found in Europe or the USA, when it's common knowledge that Aryans are not the track and field stars, I want to say I recognized Jesse Owens before the 1936 Olympics.  Extinction of the gorillas and bleaching of the coral reefs will depend on people in the emerging market.  If environmentalist begin by seeing people for what they can do, and not for what they cannot do, we have a better chance of the next generation actually listening to our advice.   Uncle Sam should applaud the good practices.

The Chinese teenagers must have a word for "whatever".  没事 (mei2 shi4)?

Bad Sir Brian Botany hopes that "no harm done" is the way it gets translated...
... BAD SIR BRIAN, A.A. Milne, last stanza 
'...Sir Brian struggled home again and chopped up his battleaxe.
Sir Brian took his fighting boots and threw them in the fire.
He is quite a different person
Now he hasn't got his spurs on,
And he goes about the village as B. Botany, Esquire.
Was Milne describing Uncle Sam?
"I am Sir Brian? Oh, no!
"I am Sir Brian? Who's he?
"I haven't any title, I'm Botany;
"Plain Mr. Botany (B.)"

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