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Can We Have Free Trade and Reduce Pollution of the Environment?

Can We Have Free Trade and Protect the Environment?

Endorsing free trade is easy. Ask an Economics professor why free trade

is good and you will surely be shown a graph with three or more

intersecting lines that show a higher rate of output for nations that

participate in free trade than nations that do not. Opposing free trade,

at least on economic grounds, is a bit harder-unless you are an


The economic advantages of free trade were recently brought to light at

the meeting of North and South American nations in Quebec City last

month to discuss the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

The proposed agreement would reduce tariff barriers on everything from

textiles to foreign direct investment between virtually all nations of

the Americas. In essence, FTAA is an expansion of NAFTA-a really, really

big expansion.

As with NAFTA, the obvious consequence of the FTAA is greater access to

U.S. and foreign markets (which is good for growth), increased

incentives for foreign direct investment (which is good for growth), and

higher capital availability for developing nations. Unfortunately,

growth is not the only story. This is partly why the Quebec summit

garnered tens of thousands of protestors outside a meeting hall with

only 34 delegates.

Economists are notorious for leaving out environmental costs when

evaluating the benefits of free trade. The FTAA appears to be no

exception. Unfortunately, the FTAA resembles NAFTA in a number of

aspects that could devastate environmental protection laws in developing

countries, which are not only important for the environment, but for

growth as well.

NAFTA, like ot…

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…on policy and investment

should be sensitive to the inclusion of competitiveness safeguards for

states with existing environmental regulations, and should ensure the

promotion of sustainable development measures among all participants.

Finally, a dispute settlement mechanism that recognizes the right of

participating states to adopt new and more stringent environmental

protections that apply to domestic as well as foreign producers should

be established.

Economists have long recognized the benefits of free trade and this

author is no exception. A substantially revised FTAA agreement that

corrects the environmental failures of NAFTA will not only produce an

economically superior future for the western hemisphere, but one that

includes clean air, clean water, and an overall higher standard of

living for the western hemisphere.

The Earth Cannot Support Six Billion People

The Earth Cannot Support Six Billion People

The United Nations Population Division estimates that the human population will number six billion on October 12th, 2000. For those of us born approximately a quarter-century ago, that colossal number is two billion more than the four billion that inhabited the Earth when we entered it. Moreover, it represents a doubling of the population in less than forty years.

Most of us, however, have little grounding for such mind-boggling numbers. Most of us literally cannot conceptualize numbers of this magnitude, when it’s a struggle in itself to keep track of the number of digits. Most of us in our everyday lives have no need to conceive of such vast amounts of anything.

Yet there are good reasons to attempt to do so. Meteorologists have warned us that pollution linked to the tremendous and growing resource use of the immense and expanding human population will lead to a greater frequency of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, as well as a rise in global temperature; the last decade would seem to support such a suggestion. Biologists have gloomily predicted that many of the Earth’s species will be exterminated within the next century, as a direct result of the human domination of the landscape. Social scientists are well aware of the putatively causal link between overcrowding and social conflict, violence and war, and we already have no shortage of these three evils. Even now humans have seriously impacted most ecosystems on Earth, and use more than half of the fresh water accessible for consumption. It is a fundamental truth that on a planet with finite resources, unrestrained growth is an impossible practice to sustain; all of the signals woul…

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… quantities once every other day? By eating dairy, bean and grain products for protein we can greatly reduce our intake of harmful saturated fats and cholesterol: on the whole we’re likely to benefit from such a switch. But the easiest ploy of all would be to limit waste. It sounds so simple, and yet at Princeton’s dining halls it is not an infrequent occurrence to see a student throwing away platefuls of food.

We can do better. As Meadows et al. proclaim in “Beyond the Limits”, the state of the world is not a prediction of doom, but a challenge. It’s a challenge to navigate this world through the next century without social collapse. I would add that the present situation also represents an opportunity: an opportunity to make our lives more meaningful by foregoing certain indulgences and leading rich lives in the pursuit of higher, more ethical goals.

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