This is going to be a tough one for you guys to swallow. At the heart of it, is a chap called Lawrence Summers who’s currently the Director for the National Economic Counsel in the US. When he was president of the World bank, he wrote a memo which recommended dumping more toxic waste in developing countries because – get this – lives in poorer countries are worth less than those in developed countries.
Image Credit: Molas
The problem of where to dump toxic waste generated abroad has plagued planners in the west for a long time. The recent controversy regarding the Platinum II cruiseliner on Indian shores is evidence of this. Summer’s memo makes a very clear point by saying,
“The World Bank should be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]”
He gives three reasons. First, rich people in the west earn more money. Therefore if someone has to die, it makes economic sense for it to be the poor people. In his words:
“I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”
Second, poor countries like Africa are under polluted! To quote:
“I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City”.
His logic is that the pollution generated by the west must be spread over the globe instead of being restricted to the countries where it was created. In other words, he sees the good air quality in Africa as a haven for dumping the Industrialized world’s waste into.
And finally, he says that since people in poor countries anyway have a shorter life expectancy, dangerous chemicals will have less of an impact on them. He goes on to claim that they’ll be willing to trade clean air in exchange for money since they must value a clear environment less than rich people
Remember that these aren’t the words of some loony fringe economist, but the Chief economist of the World Bank in 1991 and who still holds a position of prominence in the Obama administration!
In my opinion, such statements can only come from economists who view everything including life in terms of money. Wait, that’s not true. Corporates whose only motive is profit also think the same way. When you start looking at the entire world using just one metric – money, you commit terrible atrocities because your sole aim is then to increase that metric to the expense of everything else. The whole world becomes a means to increase your money as much as possible. The lives of all living things, and the environment are fodder to be used.
When Summer’s memo was released, it created a terrible backlash leading him to claim that it wasn’t serious. But from reading his language in the original memo, I don’t believe that for one moment. I think he was dead serious. And for a brief moment, we the regular public caught a glimpse of the kind of people who rule our world today.