Rio +20 Earth Summit: 436 Visions of Sustainability, At Least

Reason's science correspondent reports from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Rio de Janeiro—How many definitions are there to the concept of sustainable development? At least 436, according to the panel on assessing sustainability at the Rio +20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. More on that shortly.

Business wants to get in on the business of sustainable development big time. The official United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development doesn’t kick off until the end of next week. But there’s plenty going on in and around Rio de Janeiro now. I spent the day hanging out in meeting rooms at the elegant beachfront Windsor Barra Hotel where a couple of thousand businesspeople, government officials, activists, and U.N. bureaucrats have gathered with the goal of somehow making money out of “sustainability.”

The figure for 436 different definitions and visions of sustainable development comes from the private voluntary social and environmental product labeling schemes identified by the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) have identified. That number includes labels like Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, and Marine Stewardship Council and so forth. Other panelists would later ratchet that number to more than 800 just in Europe alone.

The head of COSA is Daniele Giovannucci who declared at a panel discussion devoted to Making Sustainability Standards Work for those Most in Need that the goal of COSA is to set up a consistent set of standards and indicators that can be used to assess the impact of the labels – are they actually accomplishing what they claim to be doing? Even if a person thinks that some of the goals of the certifying groups are silly, checking up on them is a laudable enterprise. His organization aims to gather evidence for effectiveness using 135 different indicators of economic, social, and environmental effects. The group has sought the advice of hundreds of groups ranging from major food companies to radical leftwing NGOs. Giovannucci declared, “If we are going to drive sustainability, we can’t drive it from a charitable or donor perspective; it must be driven through markets.”

Giovannucci illustrated COSA’s goals by citing a study looking at a couple of eco-labeling schemes applied to coffee and cacao production. Why? Because these export crops appear to be moving faster toward sustainable production than crops that are not exported. COSA analyzed more than 5,000 farms in ten developing countries measuring various aspects and consequences of certified versus uncertified production, including yields, income, adoption of conservation measures, and even the schooling of children.

For example, the COSA researchers looked at coffee yields under various labeling schemes. Giovannucci said that he was surprised that the researchers found that certified yields were generally higher than uncertified yields, e.g., Organic + 5 percent, UTZ +32 percent, Starbucks + 18 percent, Rainforest Alliance + 15 percent, and Fairtrade + 13 percent, for an average +17 percent over uncertified production. He speculated that certification training of farmers might have introduced better management practices. However, Giovannucci did note that between 2009 and 2011, the differences in yield between certified and uncertified were declining. The researchers had no explanation.

Coffee certification also tended to increase farm incomes, raising them +35 percent in Colombia, but falling -1 percent in Mexico. In addition, certification raised the chances that farm kids were in grades appropriate for their ages, up 9 percent in Colombia (which is already fairly high) and up 254 percent in Tanzania.

One intriguing finding was that when COSA researchers measured how income affected environmental conditions in and around the coffee farms, they were surprised to find that increased income resulted in worse conditions. Giovannucci speculated that incomes between $2,000 and $10,000 per year are not yet high enough for farmers to prioritize environmental improvements.

I asked Giovannucci later if the certifiers liked being checked on by COSA. He observed in one instance that COSA researchers had discovered that in one country a specific certification scheme had increased incomes and yields, yet in a neighboring country certified yields and incomes were 30 percent lower than uncertified yields. “They do not want to hear that,” he said.

The result of the proliferation of hundreds of labels, codes and audits, according to Robert Skidmore from the United Nations International Trade Center, is that “standard fatigue is developing” among producers and consumers. His group has set up a database looking at 75 standards, codes, and audits based on a framework of 200 criteria. The idea is to make it easy for producers and businesses to find background information on what is involved in implementing each scheme.

The chief sustainability officer at Mars, Inc., Andrew Hobday claimed that the company has found that “being more sustainable is entirely consistent with making a profit.” Mars relies on sustainability labeling of cacao by the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ. Currently 20 percent of the cacao used by the company to make chocolate is certified, but the goal is 100 percent by 2020. The company is also involved in four pilot programs for sustainability certifying coffee. However, Hobday noted that sustainability labeling doesn’t have the clarity and simplicity behind it yet for consumers to make sensible decisions. Mars currently uses certification as a way to drive supply chain changes, not really to inform consumers.

Helio Mattar, founder of the Akatu Institute in Brazil, suggested that sustainability labeling comes in two varieties, window labels and mirror labels [PDF]. This distinction was devised by Simon Zadek and his colleagues at the New Europe Foundation more than a decade ago. Window labels inform consumers about how the product was or was not produced; mirror labels reflect back consumer values securing for them the benefits of self-expression and positive social identity. Basically a person buying certified goods tells themselves that they are nice people. Most sustainability labels now function as mirrors, but Mattar claimed that his research shows that the demand for window labeling is increasing. The point is that information behind labeling costs money and somebody has to pay for collecting and verifying it. That would be the consumer.

While the activist panel on assessing sustainability standards concentrated on how to get private voluntary labeling to work, I was struck by the contrast with the panel devoted to doubling global rate of energy efficiency improvement. The corporate participants in that panel were intent on seeking government mandates as way to boost their profits. For example, Gabriela Werner who was representing the appliance manufacturer Embraco noted that her company currently makes a refrigerator that turns on its compressor only when cooling is needed, making it 40 percent more efficient than earlier models. However, she said her company was quite frustrated by the fact that government energy efficiency standards vary quite a bit around the globe, making it hard for this improved refrigerator to compete with cheaper, less efficient competitors. This lack of government regulation and standard setting was big theme in the discussion that followed. “Government policies and legislation are the main drivers to how fast we introduce new products,” explained Werner. She asserted that the return on investment in energy efficiency is always positive, but that for many companies the payback period takes longer than expected. Thus, in her analysis, they tend to underinvest in energy efficiency.

Another panelist, Stephen Harper from Intel, was asked what it would take to drive radical innovation inside of companies. Harper declared that there is already a tremendous amount of innovation available. He then added that companies will only invest in more energy efficiency innovation for two reasons: They have to get a regulatory signal, such as carbon tax. Or they must get a price signal. For example, a new energy technology must be cheaper so that the buyer will save money. (The last point seemed pretty obvious).

 “We know that incentives don’t always work,” said Harper. Why? Because of things like principle/agent problems in which the person buying equipment doesn’t have to pay for the energy they use. One typical example is a homebuilder selecting appliances for a new house. A second failure occurs because of lack of open information. Consumers don’t know how much electricity they are consuming, so they can’t connect their behavior to their monthly bills. This lack of information creates a market for various applications that allow consumers to control their energy use. Harper identified as a third problem the disconnect between energy production and the way power companies are compensated. Regulators need to figure out a way to pay power companies for selling energy services instead of just more electrons.

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  • Sevo||

    What, specifically, is to be 'sustained'?

  • T o n y||

    The human species.

  • KPres||

    Given all the people like you out there I'm not sure that's desirable.

  • ||

    Given Tony is a self-identified gay man, I find his input on procreation laughable at best. Especially his bigoted disdain of "Breeders".

  • ||

  • Brutus||

    If I read Tony right, the best way to sustain the human species is to exterminate it.

  • John||

    Nothing sustains the human species like mass hunger and technological devolution. Tony you and your ilk always end up murdering people. Forgive the world for not wanting to just give you one more chance.

  • T o n y||

    I assure you I have no plans to murder anyone.

    I believe it's those who are concerned about the environment pushing for technological advancement, while it's sad right-wing sheep like you offering up every form of specious bullshit you can possibly dredge up to defend century-old fossil fuel technology.

  • John||

    I assure you I have no plans to murder anyone.

    Yes you do, you just don't realize it. The policies you advocate would result in the death and misery of millions of people. Fossil fuels have brought prosperity and wealth to billions of people. And you hate it. You can't stand it that there could be so much disorder and things out of your control in the world. People like you would murder half the human race if your policies were ever put into effect. The fact that you would murder them out of stupidity and pigheadedness rather than specific intent really doesn't matter.

  • fish_remote||

    None of that matters as long as T o n y means well!

  • T o n y||

    Care to explain how my preferred policies would result in the death and misery of millions of people? Or is it just that you believe anything a doughy rightwing moron with a microphone says? Get a grip man.

    I can't speak for all environmentalists but my only concern is sustaining the human species in a way that leaves it with an increasingly comfortable lifestyle. Yes the world economy has depended and continues to depend hugely on fossil fuel energy, but it's delusion to think there are no costs to this. I didn't say it's an easy problem to solve. The level of your discourse indicates that you need it to be easy so your little mind can handle it, but lunches don't become free just by wishing.

    Well, there is at least one free thing in this world: the PR hackery people like you do for one of the most profitable industries in the world.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Any solution that lowers people's standard of living isn't sustainable.

    It certainly isn't sustainable in a democracy.

  • T o n y||

    But that's just a scare tactic from fossil fuel apologists. Nobody wants to lower anyone's standard of living. The whole point is to raise it, or at least keep it from declining.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If you don't think the use of "century-old fossil fuel technology" contributes significantly to people's standard of living, then you don't know what you're talking about.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But that's just a scare tactic...

    Scare tactics are the worst.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Like the scare tactics Gore and his followers use. Those are the worst.

  • Pi Guy||

    "But that's just a scare tactic from fossil fuel apologists."

    Polar ice caps melting? Coastlines flooding? Global Famine?

    Yeah. Scare tactics are absolutely the reason why people are resisting making changes.

  • ||

    As I understand the predictions over 4 billion people will be dead from the effects of global warming by the year 2012.

    4 Billion!!!!!

  • Ken Shultz||

    My only concern is sustaining the human species in a way that leaves it with an increasingly comfortable lifestyle.

    Then you should be a hardcore free market Capitalist with a capital "C".

  • T o n y||

    Hardly. Laissez-faire capitalism is a recipe for wealth concentration and the unchecked consumption of resources. It has never demonstrated an ability to protect the commons or any other universal social interest. It has only contributed to a widespread increase in standard of living when coupled with redistributive social policy and environmental protections.

  • ||

    $

  • Ken Shultz||

    It has only contributed to a widespread increase in standard of living when coupled with redistributive social policy and environmental protections.

    Who said environmental protections are incompatible with capitalism? Show me a country that used to be communist, and I'll show you a country with big environmental problems. The U.S. is clean, clean, clean, comparatively speaking.

    Oh, and have you ever heard of China? A lot of people have pulled themselves out of poverty there over the last 20 years. And guess what? They don't have much in the way of a social safety net or redistributive social policies--that's one of the reasons they have the highest savings rate in the world.

    That's one of the reasons why so many people over there have managed to increase their standard of living.

    Want an increasingly comfortable lifestyle for the human species? Try capitalism: it's what's for dinner.

  • LarryA||

    (Laissez-faire capitalism) has never demonstrated an ability to protect the commons or any other universal social interest.

    Of course. Because "the commons" and "other universal social interests" only exist outside laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalists can't protect what they have no control over.

  • ||

    the unchecked consumption of resources.

    You might want to check the facts on that one:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UmRT......38+AM.png

  • Rasilio||

    Um, that is because it has never been tried except on small scale segmented portions of the economy. The closest we ever got to it was probably the period from the 1780's through about 1830, after that it was all Mercantilism all the time and that Mercantilist system did not give way to a laissez Faire Free Market susyem but rather a corporatist system predicated on driving aggregate economic indicators rather than industrial production.

  • Sevo||

    T o n y|6.17.12 @ 12:09PM|#
    "Care to explain how my preferred policies would result in the death and misery of millions of people?"

    No, shithead. Attempting to explain anything to someone as stupid and dishonest as you is a waste of time.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Electric cars are also "century-old technology", Tony.

  • Pi Guy||

    That are charged by burning coal to make electricity.

  • Ken Shultz||

    A lot of them are charged by hydro.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Enviro-pussies hate hydro, too, Ken.

    And windmills, especially anywhere near Kennebunkport.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I know a lot of greens just want to slow economic growth.

    I know, too, that some of my fellow libertarians, because they think they're sticking it to the greens, want to suggest that there really aren't any environmental problems--but that just makes us look stupid.

    People who pointlessly denigrate technological innovations capitalists are introducing to solve environmental problems? They might not be as stupid as those who say there aren't any environmental problems, but sometimes it's just because they're already beyond that.

    It's like the Hanoi Jane program. First you think that the Vietnam War is a bad idea, but that isn't good enough. So, you start saying that Americans aren't necessarily the good guys. But that isn't good enough either, so then you start saying that Uncle Ho is the good guy--and when that isn't good enough, you spend the rest of your life trying to live down posing on enemy anti-aircraft guns.

    Except, on this side, it's more like somebody starts out saying that the left's solution to global warming is a bad idea, then graduates to saying that global warming isn't really a problem; then that there aren't really any other pollution problems either--and not only that? The solutions capitalists offer are ridiculous...

    That's the road map to Dumbshitville: start disagreeing with someone's solution; graduate to denying there's a problem, and that's when all the stupid shit gets said.

    Let's decide not to be stupid.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Tell the Chicken Littles to not be stupid, while you're at it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, we should make fun of them, too.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I know a lot of greens just want to slow economic growth.

    I saw a show on some river in Africa recently, and they actually had the gaul to say that in Kenya, they've had the fortune to resist economic progress.

    I immediately told my wife that willfully resisting economic advancement and progress, especially in Africa where people are poor as fuck, is immoral. They'd rather see millions of people live in squalor than allow a few crocodiles to die. They are cretins and should immediately kill themselves. You know, for the planet and all. I'm sure that the Kenyans who have been fucked out of economic advancement by greentards would appreciate it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    One of the worst cases I ever saw was about ten years ago. There was a place in Africa that looked like it was about to suffer a food shortage, and one of the prominent animal rights organizations over here sent a team there to teach the locals about vegetarianism.

    ...telling people--who are staring starvation in the face--how unethical they are to eat animals? Is about the most abominable act I can imagine someone committing without a weapon.

    It's the very definition of unconscionable.

  • SKR||

    Oh IDK, convincing people about to face starvation after a massive earthquake that the free seeds they just received and will feed them in the future need to be burned because they are GM is right up there as well.

  • John||

    Your political brothers have already murdered millions with things like the DDT ban. That is just the start if you ever had a chance to put your madness into real policy.

  • Sevo||

    T o n y|6.17.12 @ 11:53AM|#
    "I believe it's those who are concerned about the environment pushing for technological advancement, while it's sad right-wing sheep like you..."

    Yeah, well you're an ignoramus, so anything you believe can be profitably ignored.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "I assure you I have no plans to murder anyone."

    Of course not. Your lords and masters, however, will just do that dirty work for you.

  • Brutus||

    I assure you I have no plans to murder anyone.

    Neither did the collectivist lunatics that took over so many unfortunate countries last century. But they didn't hesitate to when their best-laid plans went awry.

    Human beings aren't cattle, Tony, and they most certainly aren't your cattle. So fuck off.

  • Rainbow Puppy||

    Do you deny the intentions of good interventionists, Brute?

  • Brutus||

    I do indeed, RP. A century ago, one could plausibly assign benign motives to people like Tony, but not any more. Too much data are available that show what a catastrophe their nostrums are. They are fascists, pure and simple.

  • Rainbow Puppy||

    Right on bro! Down with Reichsnaturschutzgesetz and up with Stalin's vision!

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I assure you I have no plans to murder anyone.

    Fuck off you shit eater.

    You may not have plans, but those who enact the policies you support don't have any fucking qualms at all about murdering people in the name of "environmentalism." So whether you have plans or not doesn't make one iota of fucking difference.

  • Sevo||

    T o n y|6.17.12 @ 11:45AM|#
    "The human species."

    Bullshit.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    At least he's not a breeder, Sevo. Take comfort in the small things in life.

  • Brutus||

    The self-limiting nature of folks like Tony is their most redeeming feature.

  • Rainbow Puppy||

    For the sake of Gaia, none should be a breeder be.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Kill yourself, then, Pup. Do Gaia a solid.

  • Brutus||

    Just enough of me, way too much of you.

  • Rich||

    National Academy of Sciences projected that the U.S. by 2010 would need to produce 130 quads of energy (A quad is a quadrillion British Thermal Units

    Meh. Nobody can appreciate a trillion, much less a quadrillion.

    Also, bring back John's spot-on comment about these hypocrites not using VTC!

  • Ken Shultz||

    One of the problems with standardizing these different qualitative measures is that they tend to be standardized down, and, sometimes they stop meaning what consumers think they mean.

    Somehow, as the term "organic" became standardized, it doesn't seem to mean what it used to mean anymore.

    It used to mean (to me) that they didn't use any pesticide, among other things...

    But now "organic" seems to mean that no less than 70% of it consists of non-genetically modified seed, which I don't really care about, and, furthermore, "organic" seems to mean that the only pesticides used were approved for "organic" use by the Department of Agriculture--which really doesn't make me feel any better.

    Seems like the only way to make sure something is "organic" by my standards, now, is to grow it in my own back yard. Thanks for making my life easier standardization!

    If we had more competing standards for "organic" produce, then a more useful and efficient standard would emerge that met the needs of both consumers and producers...I'm not sure these calls for the standardization of "sustainability" labels are going to do what these people think they're going to do.

    Letting the standards compete might mean less work for government bodies like the Department of Agriculture, but then the idea of less work for the Department of Agriculture doesn't really scare me.

  • Rainbow Puppy||

    Dude, Organic means like natural, man. Smoke some herb, get into the scene of nature.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "smoke some herb"

    Blind pig, acorn. Stopped clock, twice a day.

    Everything else you've spewed, however, is bullshit.

  • LarryA||

    You mean like all the jars of preserves on my grocery store shelf that are proudly labeled, "No Preservatives Added?"

  • SKR||

    They are probably also low sugar and will mold over in the fridge after opening.

  • Almanian...still||

    Sad banana is sad.

    Whatever.

  • juris imprudent||

    Looking at the entire span of human history nothing has been nearly as sustainable as poverty and short, brutal lives.

    Those that fancy themselves aristocrats see nothing wrong with the suffering of serfs.

  • Almanian...still||

    But...but...AGRI[cult]ural city [STATE] gambol {LOCK]down hunting gathering derp hurr durr hurrr. HURRR DURRRR HURRRRR!!!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Also, CHRIST-FAG and OBAMA = BARRY GOLDWATER.

    Also, fried chicken.

  • Sevo||

    Once more, ignoring shithead's stupidity:
    What are we attempting to 'sustain'?
    Is it Xn hectares of 'old growth' forest?
    Is it Xn species of flora or fauna?
    Is it certain specific species?
    WHAT are we supposedly trying to do?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Environmental sustainability means different things in different contexts.

    Animal waste polluting our rivers with hormones, animal pharmaceuticals and antibiotics must reach some kind of limit, beyond which more of the same simply isn't sustainable.

    For farmers taking the rainforest down in Brazil and elsewhere, rather than working the land they have in a sustainable way, that must reach some kind of limit, too, beyond which the practice cannot continue to escalate without major negative consequences.

    So, sustainability will look a whole different if you're talking about a pig farmer along a river in Iowa or a farmer on the edge of the rainforest in Brazil. I don't have a problem with that. Different environmental problems occur within different contexts and raise different concerns.

    What gets ridiculous is when leftists misappropriate the term "sustainable" and try to use environmental policy to further some goal that has nothing to do with the environment really.

    And that looks like what Tony's trying to do. He thinks he's being cute, but all he's really doing is delegitimizing the cause of environmentalism by making it about his own personal political and economic theories.

    I don't think anybody could do anything more harmful to the cause of environmentalism in a chat room. He should be ashamed of himself.

  • Sevo||

    "Animal waste polluting our rivers with hormones, animal pharmaceuticals and antibiotics must reach some kind of limit, beyond which more of the same simply isn't sustainable."
    Maybe, but digging two pages deep in google shows that other than some whacko sites, no one has found amounts worthy of concern

    "For farmers taking the rainforest down in Brazil and elsewhere, rather than working the land they have in a sustainable way, that must reach some kind of limit, too, beyond which the practice cannot continue to escalate without major negative consequences."
    WIH is 'working it in a sustainable way'?

    I'm serious with my question: WHAT are we trying to sustain?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm serious with my question: WHAT are we trying to sustain?

    That's like asking an economist what he's trying to price. If it's a general rule, and he can't give you an itemized list of exactly what supply and demand are supposed to price, should we just scrap the whole economics thing?

    What I'd like to sustain is other people's property. If other people can't use a stream that runs along their property because you polluted it as it ran along yours?

    If your practices, left unchecked, would get to the point that other people, who own property along the stream, won't be able to use it for anything other than carrying pollution away?

    Then I'd call your practice unsustainable.

  • Sevo||

    "That's like asking an economist what he's trying to price."

    Nope, Ken, nothing of the sort. If you claim you want to sustain something, I want to know what that thing is.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It's actually pronounced "thuthtainability", when spoken by liberals.

    Nose must be pointed upward during pronunciation. Jingling the keys to a Prius is optional.

  • Chupacabra||

    It seems clear to me.

    They're trying to sustain all of the bullshit jobs for the "green" industry.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    But those jobs only cost millions of dollars apiece, and they last for WEEKS!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Maybe, but digging two pages deep in google shows that other than some whacko sites, no one has found amounts worthy of concern

    Here's the U.S. Geological Survey to weigh in on the problem of pharmaceuticals, hormones and antibiotics polluting our streams and rivers:

    "A recent study by the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that a broad range of chemicals found in residential, industrial, and agricultural wastewaters commonly occurs in mixtures at low concentrations downstream from areas of intense urbanization and animal production. The chemicals include human and veterinary drugs (including antibiotics), natural and synthetic hormones, detergent metabolites, plasticizers, insecticides, and fire retardants. One or more of these chemicals were found in 80 percent of the streams sampled. Half of the streams contained 7 or more of these chemicals, and about one-third of the streams contained 10 or more of these chemicals. This study is the first national-scale examination of these organic wastewater contaminants in streams and supports the USGS mission to assess the quantity and quality of the Nation’s water resources. A more complete analysis of these and other emerging water-quality issues is ongoing."

    http://tinyurl.com/6p6ggfq

  • Sevo||

    "commonly occurs in mixtures at low concentrations"

    Uh, well, look there: Water isn't pristine.
    Sorry, unless there's some harm being done, I don't really care.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Oh, obviously, if you're not worried about it, then no one else should be concerned about it either.

    Who said there's no harm being done? I don't know about that. Given the choice to swim or fish in that water, I think I'd rather see what the alternative looks like. Especially if the alternative is holding people responsible for what they do to other people's property.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    You wouldn't want to fish or swim in waters that run along agricultural land for amount of distance anyways. Because diarrhea for 6 months ain't a good thing. And it has nothing to do with hormones or any of that shit.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    Well, actually, the diarrhea does have to do with any of that shit. Or all of that shit or some of that shit. The hormones, not so much.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Yes.

  • SKR||

    Ken should have stopped at pig shit as that is the biggest pollutant in that example. The N will cause a bacteria bloom which sucks up all the O and kills damn near everything in the river.

  • jdgalt||

    Whenever the eco-nuts start talking about their myth of "sustainability," it's time to talk about the real thing -- a balanced federal budget. Today's welfare state is NOT sustainable.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It will collapse in on itself, like a black hole, and even among the ruins of the riots started by Team Blue stalwarts, they'll STILL claim it was a good idea to start handing out freebies.

  • Brutus||

    That's the acidly ironic thing here. Faced with a budget that is, by any standard, unsustainable, Team Blue averts its gaze and tries to convince us that they have metaphysical certainty of how much gasoline each of us is to be rationed, how much sugar we are to be allowed to consume and how much health care is perfectly optimal.

    They are insane.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Eventually - if things don't completely collapse - we'll have ten-trillion-dollar annual budgets.

    Shit, we can't live on ONE trillion? Now??

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "you believe anything a doughy rightwing moron with a microphone says?"

    One might ask why anyone would believe Limbaugh OR that other doughy moron with a microphone: Ed Schultz.

  • econmagic||

    This is sad. Labeling is the future of sustainability? Most people live from paycheck to paycheck, and many no longer have the opportunity to earn a paycheck. Will people engage in purchasing products that may be more expensive, but were produced in a sustainable fashion? Perhaps a university profesor will. This is exactly why we get these would be funny, if it wasn't about a serious matter proposals, because we have the discourse dominated by academics torn away from reality.
    http://zoltansustainableecon.b.....ut-no.html

  • ||

    "Window labels inform consumers about how the product was or was not produced; mirror labels reflect back consumer values securing for them the benefits of self-expression and positive social identity. Basically a person buying certified goods tells themselves that they are nice people. Most sustainability labels now function as mirrors...."

    In a nutshell, the sustainability movement is driven by smug self-righteousness. Whether religious or environmentalist or vegan, there is nothing the smug, self-righteous love more than government mandates.

    Oh, and Ken, you made an excellent point. Something is 'Organic' if it is composed of molecules constructed of chains or rings of carbon atoms typically with hydrogen, oxygen, or nitrogen or others attached.

  • Brutus||

    I think it's time for some CS Lewis and HL Mencken:

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

    "The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.”

  • ||

    Those are two of my favorites Brutus....they never get old.

  • ||

    Oh, and a word that suffers more from standardizing down is 'natural'. I have to laugh every time I hear that one. Anything that exists is natural.

  • Brutus||

    Pam Anderson's tits...natural?

  • ||

    silicone/saline

    U bet!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    As was spake by Seinfeld:

    "If I can touch 'em, they're real."

  • JeremyR||

    Great use of Reason's money

  • Ken Shultz||

    You're absolutely right, Jeremy.

    It's really important for someone to point out that the best solutions to our environmental problems are libertarian/capitalistic in nature, and if it weren't for Reason sending Bailey to conferences like this to come back and make that case?

    Then the only solutions most people would know about would be statist/socialistic ones.

    Nice call. Reason got it right again. I think I'll buy another subscription.

  • Brutus||

    Caipirinhas on Copacabana are, like, $1.50 each.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    But he's in fucking Barra, which sucks balls, and really isn't that close to Copacabana.

  • NotSure||

    Like was mentioned in an earlier article, the Rio conference 20 years ago was supposed to be the last chance to save humanity, and there will probably be these save the world conferences for many decades to come, and the world surprisingly did not come to an end.

    They simply make people like Tony feel better, let him doom monger all he wants, long after he is gone people will still be here.

  • ||

    her company currently makes a refrigerator that turns on its compressor only when cooling is needed

    Isn't that how all refrigerators always worked?

  • DrAwkward||

    I thought the same thing when I read that. Starting and stopping the compressor is how temperature has always been regulated in an electric fridge, as far as I know.

  • Trespassers W||

    That just gave me an idea for a self-regulating home heating system that turns off the heater when the home reaches a certain temperature. I call it the "cybernetic thermatron". What's the address for the patent office?

  • ||

    Harper identified as a third http://www.lunettesporto.com/l.....c-3_6.html problem the disconnect between energy production and the way power companies are compensated. Regulators need to figure out a way to pay power companies for selling energy services instead of just more electrons.

  • joy||

    COSA analyzed more than 5,000 farms in ten developing countries measuring various aspects and consequences of certified versus uncertified production, including yields, income, http://www.petwinkel.com/pet-gucci-c-35.html adoption of conservation measures, and even the schooling of children.

  • ||

    I can't get through this article because some word processor has changed every "un" in the article to U.N., giving rise to such words as "coU.N.try" and "U.N.sustainable." Bailey is a very good writer, but it's too much work to translate three or four words per paragraph in my head.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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