Oh God, the environment, God the developing world!

Following the virtual demise of traditional Western religion, the newly-instituted worship of “the environment” has spread and flourished. Commentators point out how many things are done and called for in the name of the environment, as were once done and called for in the name of God.

Nothing has changed except the name of the deity. We brook no argument against our deity, nor questioning; we demand blind obedience, for fear of public obloquy. We still call upon people to consider, to fret, to act and to pay handsomely in the name of the deity—just the projects differ. Where once it was a fine new cathedral in Coventry or the Swansea city square statuary, now we want action on poverty or global warming.

And there’s an even newer deity: it’s the “developing world”.

There’s a story from the BBC about the rort that is the CDM, the Clean Development Mechanism. The CDM is meant to provide a means for western companies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions more cheaply than by actually reducing their emissions (yes, it’s that blatant, but nobody seems to be complaining).

They effectively buy “emission reductions” from the developing world. They’re allowed to use the certificates to offset their actual emissions, and the enterprise in the developing world gets an injection of cash.

But, if the project in the developing world would have gone ahead anyway, it turns into a rort—large amounts of money go to the “developing world” project without affecting GHG emissions. It’s a problem, and guess who’s behind it—oh, it’s the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Not that you’d ever catch the UN getting involved in corruption.

I noticed a wee comment the BBC reporter made in the course of describing his investigations. He mentioned that trade in CDM carbon credits is worth about $10bn a year, then he said: “That is a welcome flow of resources from the developed to the developing world.”

I had a vision of barefoot children driving their scrawny goat to the market and getting a terrific price from a smiling man in a suit from the UN—the man, not the suit, from the UN.

But that vision burst and vanished away. In its place I saw another man in a suit, smiling, but not in a wholesome, trustworthy way. This man was an entrepeneur, he’d heard about the CDM and worked out a way to apply it to his palm oil plantation. He was becoming very wealthy and spent a lot of time at the bank.

The BBC reporter betrays political motives in praising the “flow” of resources from the wealthy to the poor. We do well to remember that healthy development requires the poor to make their own efforts to advance, just as the western world has done over the past five hundred (5000?) years or so. They helped themselves and they’ve done well.

But the point is that giving the CDM money to this oily man in his oily business is helping the oily man, not the “developing world”. He will use the money to benefit himself, as you would expect. He will add more machines to his plantation, more cars to his garage and more houses to his inventory.

Granted, he will also add more workers to his payroll, but at wages that suit him, not them. He won’t need to raise the wages, since there’s an endless line of applicants stretching away down the dusty street to the unhappy village, all desperate to work at any wage. The developing world is a mirage we ought to inspect more closely.

We must be watchful, when helping poorer nations, that the beneficiaries are the ones who need help, not the oily men.

We must not be blinded by the light of our new deity, the developing world.

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