Environmentalists and the Third World

While we can argue about the projected impacts of man-made global warming (my skeptics site here), it is almost certain than any solution that puts a real dent in CO2 production will bar from the middle class about a billion people who are just climbing out of subsistence poverty.  TJIC notes a particularly odious proposal by environmental groups to encourage human power over industrialization in the third world:

See, first world Volvo-driving environmentalists!  We can help
the Third World! All we need to do is build them human hamster wheels,
so that they can set their children to work pumping water, instead of
using nasty diesel pumps (like we do here in the First World, while our
children attend soccer practice or piano lessons).

Don't miss the really awful animation from the environmentalist's site.


  1. Sameer Parekh:

    So I watched the video and I actually think this treadle pump thing isn't so bad. Replacing a diesel pump with a treadle pump is clearly abhorrent, as you basically have rich westerners subsidizing their carbon use on the backs of the third world poor, but I get the impression that the treadle pump is a form of industrialization, not de-industrializion. In most of these cases it appears that the treadle pump is not replacing a diesel pump, but it is replacing a hand pump or no well at all. They don't pitch it as industrialization because it would offend the left wing sensibilities of their supporters, but my take is that it actually is.

  2. markm:

    I've heard about this before, but presented rather differently. Some capitalist do-gooder is selling the treadle pump irrigation systems on credit. And so industrialization begins...

    A treadle pump is better than no pump - and it's also better than a diesel pump with no fuel, or no repair parts, or nobody that knows how to repair. In particular, a bunch of little treadle pumps that individual farmers own and take care of themselves is better than a huge project that installs one huge pump, slaps a politician's name on the building, and then neglects to provide fuel, parts, and mechanics - and that's happened all too often, to the profit of no one except the contractors and crooked third-world governments that skim off half the contributions in exchange for permission for the project to go forward.

    Yes, a better way would be to arrange financing for the farmers to buy their own irrigation systems, powered by solar, diesel, or whatever is best for local conditions, plus arranging some way that they can get their crops to market so they can afford spare parts and pay off the loan. But there are many areas where they've got a long way to go to work their way up to where a small-scale "modern" system could pay for itself. With the treadle pumps, they can start smaller.