Two great pieces today in the NYTimes
, one by Matthew Wald on Fossil Fuels’ Hidden Cost Is in Billions, Study Says
and another by Leslie Kaufman on Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None
. Both stories are fundamentally about accounting for what historically cost nothing: the environmental and health impact of absorbing pollution and waste. That's changing fast. Fossil fuel...
"...costs the United States about $120 billion a year in health costs, mostly because of thousands of premature deaths from air pollution. [...] "The largest portion of this is excess mortality -- increased human deaths as a result of criteria air pollutants emitted by power plants and vehicles," said Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who led the study committee. Nearly 20,000 people die prematurely each year from such causes, according to the study’s authors, who valued each life at $6 million based on the dollar in 2000. Those pollutants include small soot particles, which cause lung damage; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog; and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain."
At the same time, for solid wastes...
"Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as "zero waste" is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations. The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can. Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere."
By accounting for true costs
, and internalizing
these historic externalities
, economic rationality drives us to minimize these costs. This is a good thing!
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