Wednesday, August 8, 2007

No Free Lunch

One of the most important lessons to learn about environmental issues (which are a branch of public health) is that almost everything has a trade off. Every benefit has a cost, and as citizens we have to assess that cost before deciding on a method to achieve the benefit.

Take organic food, for example. Agricultural pollution is a major concern , with a number of rural water supplies showing levels of pesticides and manufactured fertilizers that worthy of concern. Going organic eliminates this problem, but creates several more. It turns out that the methods of organic food production release more carbon dioxide from the soil than industrial methods, and also require more land.

There are no simple solutions to problems. If there were, we would have solved all of our problems already.

1 comment:

Jason H. Bowden said...

Excellent point. Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Anointed develops it in great detail-- Utopians see the world in terms of problems requiring solutions, while conservatives see the world in terms of costs and benefits.

Neo-neocon was talking about the same thing a while back. She brought up the example of war. We often hear "war is not the answer" and "there needs to be a political solution." In contrast, conservatives see all peace as temporary, and war sometimes as the best option given a tragic set of alternatives.