Posts tagged ‘Maggies Farm Postscript’

Staggering Arrogance

This is a story that most people who care for humanity would consider good news:

After years of secret preparation, the world's cheapest car will be unveiled in Delhi this week...At 100,000 rupees (£1,290), the People's Car, designed and
manufactured by Tata, is being marketed as a safer way of travelling
for those who until now have had to transport their families balanced
on the back of their motorbikes.

Ratan Tata, 70, chairman of the
family-run business, who has spearheaded the race for a cut-price car,
wrote on the company website: 'That's what drove me - a man on a
two-wheeler with a child standing in front, his wife sitting behind,
add to that the wet roads - a family in potential danger.'

But Tata hopes also to create a 'new market for cars which does not
exist', making them accessible to India's booming middle classes made
recently rich by an economy growing at around 9 per cent a year. ...

year just over one million cars and seven million motorbikes were sold
in India. Tata wants to transform some of those motorbike buyers into
car owners and believes that the company can eventually sell up to a
million People's Cars a year. Analysts say the project could
revolutionise car prices, not just in India, but globally. Several
other manufacturers have similar products in the pipeline.

Awesome.  This is a story about three quarters of a billion people who have lived in poverty, well, forever, starting to join the middle class.

But many environmentalists, about 100% of whom I would venture to say own a car themselves, oppose this transition to prosperity:

'There is this mad rush towards lowering the prices to achieve mass
affordability,' said Anumita Roychoudhury, of the Centre for Science
and Environment in Delhi. 'If vehicle ownership increases very rapidly,
we'll have a time bomb ticking away. When you lower the price that
drastically, how will you be able to meet the safety and emissions
standards? There are no clear answers yet.'

I would challenge this person to design a car that doesn't crash test better than a motorbike.  This is just incredible arrogance, attempting to deny millions of people the prosperity which western environmentalists already share.  (via Maggies Farm)

Postscript: The fact is that environmental quality in every developing nation tends to follow a J-curve.  Early stage development tends to muck things up a bit (think air quality in 1018th century Pittsburg or in China today) but things improve as people get wealthier.  Places like China and India are in some of the lowest reaches of that J-curve.  Attempting to freeze their development in place not only arrogantly denies these folks prosperity, but also cuts off future environmental gains that come with wealth.