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Web Letter

The wrangling in Bali is unreal, in that the actual problem is not beingaddressed, I think because it is scary and probably unsolvable. To beginwith, this business of trading is fundamentally flawed: all it does islets people who can afford it (in exchange for cash) to continue to dothe same or more of what they are doing. It also exposes the policy ofmaintaining hegemony by the US in all matters: the US continues toimpose its will disregarding the (needs of the) world community, simplybecause it is too powerful and no one can do anything about it!

The problem that needs to be tackled is that of ever-increasing,unchecked consumption mostly by the developed countries of the West andJapan, but also by the potentially mammoth emerging economies of China,India, Brazil etc. The political reality, however, is that in additionto the problems of hunger and dire poverty, the standard of living inthe countries of the South in general is so low (compared to thedeveloped countries) that the demand for goods and services in thesesocieties cannot be ignored. Therefore, talk of limiting consumption inthose societies is unrealistic.

Furthermore, the force created by expectations for attaining the Westernmodel of lifestyle created by the consumerism-driven globalizationethos makes any attempt to consider controlling/reducing demand futile.Where it makes sense to start considering limiting consumption, from arational point of view, is in the countries which already consume mostof world's resources. But what politician is going to get (or can expectto get) elected by proposing that he or she will reduce consumption oftheir constituents to save the world when they get elected? Everyone(including Al Gore) seems to hide behind the faith thatscience/technology will come to rescue us. Science is not religion, andfaith does not solve problems that cry for rational thinking. Planting afew more trees and generating few more kilowatts of power from windmills will help in the margins, but none of the measures on the tablenow would resolve the fundamental problem. We seem to have hit upon ahard brick wall, and pessimism arising from Bali is not unexpected.

M. Siddique

Chevy Chase, Maryland

Dec 13 2007 - 1:02pm