Monday, July 16, 2007

Scarcity, Poverty, Decline

From an excellent post at Needlenose on the depletion of natural resources is this semi-aside:

I imagine that, like most of my fellow beneficiaries of our tech-intensive lifestyle, you're inclined to just dismiss this as more 'eco-alarmism,' or at best some rather abstract scientific thing with little relevance to your everyday life. Think again.

As prices for copper have begun to soar, entreprenuers among the 'barely have' communities of the third-world have started to steal copper wire from power and telephone lines for export to the 'haves.' And just Google 'copper theft' and you'll find dozens of examples of similar entrepreneurship here in the U.S. I imagine that will heat up in step with the increasing price of copper.

No kidding. Several people have been killed around here attempting to steal wire and getting electrocuted for their efforts. Tons of wire has been successfully stolen, however. Abandoned houses stripped not only of their wire but of their aluminum siding, too. People stealing aluminum irrigation pipe from fields in the dead of night. Scarcity! And why? Because of people like Brad DeLong, who think that exporting the American model of wasteful consumption to societies numbering in the billions is a)doing those societies a favor and b)not an environmental Holocaust waiting to happen. Also, these people doing the stealing? Yes, from depressed, de-industrialized parts of America, downsized and outsourced. Neo-liberal economists, after all, don't have to steal scrap metal to put food in their bellies.