One of Climate Care‘s carbon offset schemes involves replacing diesel pumps for irrigation with treadle pumps. They say that the benefits include:

  • Allows 2 or 3 harvests a year, instead of 1
  • Prevents farmers having to leave their families to work in the city during ‘off season’
  • Farmers’ income increases, often between two and five-fold

So as a result of trade both parties are better off. Someone in a rich country gets to offset their CO2 emissions, while poor farmers save the money they would have had to have spent hiring diesel pumps and increase their income.

Sounds good, who could possibly object to trade that benefits poor farmers?

Brendan O’Neill, that’s who. In Spiked he describes the scheme as “keeping brown people in a state of bondage” and “eco-enslavement” and

These pumps were abolished in British prisons a century ago. It seems that what was considered an unacceptable form of punishment for British criminals in the past is looked upon as a positive eco-alternative to machinery for Indian peasants today.

But bondage, slavery and imprisonment are all forms of coercion. No-one is forcing the farmers to use treadle pumps — they are only going to use one if it makes them better off. If calling voluntary trade “slavery” reminds you of Marxist propaganda, that may be because Spiked used to be Living Marxism which was launched as the journal of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

You wouldn’t think that O’Neill’s crude rhetoric could get libertarians to come out against trade, but here’s Megan McArdle:

To be fair, there apparently are other projects that don’t involve tethering people in developing countries to human hamster wheels, but all in all, that may be one of the most appalling things I’ve ever read.

And here’s Jason Soon:

Climate Care is a genuinely evil multinational which should be boycotted

To be fair, there are some libertarians with consistent principles. Here’s Alex Tabarrok:

Ala Larry Summers, I don’t see the problem. Westerners pay Indian farmers to produce cotton, why is producing carbon-sinks any different? It seems that some environmentalists are more interested in producing guilt than in reducing carbon.

P.S. I raised this matter in comments to Soon’s post and he responded by calling me a bunch of names and declaring:

you’ve made an enemy of me for life.

Shine on, you crazy diamond!

Comments

  1. #1 z
    September 8, 2007

    I’d love to discuss it, but I have to drive over to the gym so I can get in an hour on the treadmill.

  2. #2 j
    September 8, 2007

    To be fair, plenty of environmentalists are agonizing about this issue too, with good arguments on both sides.

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/9/4/123247/9991

  3. #3 Left_Wing_Fox
    September 8, 2007

    I have to wonder, if this is a good idea, why don’t we encourage local farmers to replace their diesel pumps with treadle pumps, rather than subcontracting the carbon offsets to India?

    Much of our economy comes down to the need for cheap energy. Before we had electrical and fossil fuel generation, we had slaves. While our economy has adjusted to ensure that technology now fills the role of servants and slaves in the modern household, I think it’s important that whatever the “next step” is going to be in switching to a more ecological model is not going to revert further back to exploitation of the poor for the benefit of the rich.

  4. #4 SmellyTerror
    September 8, 2007

    Like most people, I work a job I don’t really like because I want money. If they paid me enough they could send me to Guantanamo Bay and put electrodes on my testicles.

    …and does anyone think these guys are doing exciting, challenging work when they take factory jobs in the off season? Do they imagine that harvesting comes with blogging breaks? Work, for most people, is boring grunt labour. Is now, always has been, probably always will be.

    Is it demeaning? Who’s cleaning your public toilets? Who’s mopping up the vomit outside your pubs? Who’s passing bricks to a guy who gets paid more to lay them, over and over and over every single day brick after brick after brick…

    Gee, could it be human beings, doing crappy work because they don’t like the alternative of not-having-money? Welcome to reality, people. If you offer people more money to do a slightly different crappy boring “demeaning” job to the one they’re doing now, then *surprise* they’ll do it. Add to that the perks mentioned in the original post above, and make it a 2 to 5 fold increase in income, then sir, you may get those electrodes ready.

    If there is a single person here who wouldn’t instantly quit their current job for a hamster wheel when offered more time with family and 5 times your wages, then you are an incredibly lucky human being, and very, VERY rare.

  5. #5 John Cross
    September 8, 2007

    A Canadian right wing blog that I comment on also on this article. Complete with Harriet Ann Jacobs quotes.

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    September 8, 2007

    “I have to wonder, if this is a good idea, why don’t we encourage local farmers to replace their diesel pumps with treadle pumps, rather than subcontracting the carbon offsets to India?”

    An average Australian farmer earns around $50,000 a year.

    It doesn’t make sense for them to spend an hour when they could be earning $20-30 pumping water to say $1.00 worth of diesel.

    It does make sense for an Indian farmer whose hourly output is 50 cents.

    Also Australian farmers don’t have to worry to anything like the same extent about people stealing diesel out of their pumps.

  7. #7 nanny_govt_sucks
    September 8, 2007

    I got as far as “free trade” and “offset their CO2 Emissions”. Sorry, but the two do not meet. You need coercion to enforce a CO2 emissions scheme, and that’s not free trade.

  8. #8 Tyler DiPietro
    September 8, 2007

    NGS is right, of course. A pure free trade policy can’t be more than a sentence long:

    “There shall be no tariffs, duties, excises, or any other monetary extraction of any sort on capital, goods or labor between the parties of this agreement.”

    …or something similar. Anything beyond that sentence is regulation.

    Of course, that disqualifies free trade from existing in just about any contemporary legal context.

  9. #9 Gautam Rao
    September 8, 2007

    Well, I suppose one objection to the scheme might be the possibility (is there any evidence on the topic?) that households offered benefits from the scheme may choose to, say, pull children out of school and put them to work pumping water. While this may be a rational decision for the decision-maker (the head of household, typically the adult male), it is not necessarily a pareto improvement for the child. (obvious externality issues…)

    So, yeah, if the scheme causes harm to kids in India, it should be shut down. Of course, this is an entirely empirical issue.

  10. #10 John Mashey
    September 8, 2007

    This is interesting … but likely to soon be a fairly irrelevant argument in the scheme of things. Farmers, in general, and poor third-world ones in particular, do whatever makes economic sense to them. If crop X is more “profitable” (by farmer’s own metric), that’s what they do. Most people in developed countries have spent little time on local farms, much less on poor third-world farms, for which Norman Borlaug’s opinions probably carry more weight than anyone.

    In the US Mid-west, if growing miscanthus for fuel becomes more profitable than growing corn for food, that’s what they’ll do, and no amount of concern over that availability of corn to be sent to third-world is likely to make much difference. Likewise, if somebody can make money on jatropha for biodiesel, they’ll do that.
    ====
    But why do I say irrelevant argument?
    Ever hear of peak Oil? Peak = 2015 +/- 5 years, with natural gas peak about ~20 years later. Petroleum is going to get more and more expensive, which will change the tradeoff versus renewables vs human power, and if anyone gets outbid for shrinking supplies of diesel, it will be poor farmers.

    Poor third-world farmers who labor by hand or with draught animals are either going to stay that way, or will skip to biofuels or even better, solar-electric … but only as the developed countries can manage to knock the costs down fast enough.

    At least, PV-solar tractors (& pumps) have some promise, as they require much less local infrastructure to support. Just hope that Applied Materials and other tech companies bring down solar-energy costs quickly. They are trying, and Silicon Valley VCs are funding solar companies like crazy, and maybe some of them will work.

    For the reality of world farming, see section 4.6.2, especially Table 4.16 in:
    http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y4252E/y4252e06b.htm,

    EXCEPT that I think their estimates for developing world tractorization are optimistic, because I find no model in the FAO document that includes peak oil’s effects. All that matters because:
    John Deere says of farm populations
    2% US
    4.4% Western Europe
    53.7% India
    66.6% China
    I.e., there are a *lot* of farmers.

    Note, of course, that developed-world farms are totally different propositions (for better or worse), but we certainly headed for a period when people do *not* ship bulk food around the world.

    http://www.lastoilshock.com is a useful source.

  11. #11 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Tim

    Here’s a a deal. I’ll be happy to buy you a peddle generator is you promise to use it and turn off the utility. They do sell them you know.

    No one, as a far as I know, wants to stop the promotion of this. Like in ban it! As I have continually pointed out to you it’s the motivation that’s behind it that is really creepy.

    Buy the people some diesal gnerators FFS, if you’re really concerned and really care about 3rd worlders. Diesal gneration is labor saving and I bet a small motor wouldn’t cost more than that horrid contraption.

  12. #12 zoot
    September 9, 2007

    If we’re going to buy them diesel generators FFS, why not do the right thing and buy them solar powered pumps?

  13. #13 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    JC: but given that there’s no coercion to accept the treadle pumps, your libertarian ideology surely declares that peopel who choose to do so will be making economically rational decisions, right?

    Zoot: probably because solar pumps cost a lot more and don’t last as long. That’s a guess.

  14. #14 Chris Tucker
    September 9, 2007

    Google “money maker pump”. Here’s one hit: http://kickstart.org/home/

    These things are working NOW in Africa. Making a lot (to the users) money.

    Oh, and for all those Randroids, SO concerned with the freedom and liberty of the poor, ignorant Africans, and how that freedom and liberty would be enhanced with diesel (note correct spelling!) pumps, tend to ignore the nature of diesel pumps. They are machines that break down and need repair.

    COSTLY repair! (but of course, the Horror of all Libertarians is that someone, somewhere is not making money off someone else.)

    Whereas the money maker pump and it’s diverse knockoffs can be repaired in the field by the person using it. It’s a REALLY simple design. Anyone can make one. (oh, crap! Someone is NOT paying someone else! How un-free market!) And just about anyone can fix one as need be.

    Oh, and finally. the money maker pump and it’s knock offs are affordable by just about anyone. I guess that once a treadle pump user has made enough profit, they could buy a diesel pump on their own.

  15. #15 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    http://www.ashdenawards.org/media_summary06_india_idei

    “The treadle pump is a simple device which uses human power to lift water from either shallow aquifers (via a tubewell) or surface waters such as lakes or canals.-This is a brilliantly effective and environmentally friendly alternative. The ‘pumping’ action involves the user standing on two bamboo or metal treadles, pumping each foot up and down alternately in a walking movement. In terms of effort, it’s no harder than pedalling a bicycle up a slight incline, or a gentle work out on a step machine in the gym, yet it can lift water from depths of up to eight metres, with an output of 3,500 – 5,000 litres per hour. Anyone can ‘pedal’ a pump – from children to grandmothers, and sharing the workload amongst the whole family keeps it manageable.”

    “The cost of a treadle pump on its own is around INR 400 (US$9); if a tubewell is needed, this rises to around US$29. Dealers often offer farmers 120 days’ credit so they won’t have to pay the full cost until they have benefitted from the first harvest from their newly-irrigated land.”

    “In the words of the users ..

    “In the old days [before the treadle pump], I was making around INR 300-400 profit per crop – and I just had one crop, the wheat. I used to use the diesel pump, but it was expensive, and I couldn’t always hire one when I needed it, and it washed all the topsoil over to one side of the field. Now I’m making around INR 2,500 per crop – and I get three or four crops a year. My family eats better now, and I can sell the surplus at the market, and buy new clothes for all the family. Next year I’m renting more land. Thanks to the treadle pump.” Bhikram Singh, Uttar Pradesh

    “I used to have to pay around INR 3,000 every year to hire the diesel pump and buy in water, too. I paid INR 1,200 for the treadle pump and the tubewell, and all I have to do is buy new washers and valve each year – and they cost nothing, really. So I save so much money!” Ajay Pratap Singh, Uttar Pradesh

    “I like working the [treadle] pump. See this knee? It used to be swollen and painful. Now after treadling, the pain’s eased and the swelling’s gone down. How old am I? I’ll be 79 next birthday.” Bhikram Singh, Uttar Pradesh (photo available)

    “I bought a pump with my father-in-law so we could irrigate more land. Now we’ve got 1,200 m2 – three times what we used to. We’re growing tomatoes, onions, garlic, papaya, cauliflower and cabbages. The pump cost INR 1,300, so it was a real bargain, considering we used to spend nearly INR,1500 a year on hiring the diesel pump, and it never arrived on time. I’m the woman of the house, but this is my land, and I’ll take the profit!”. Suman Devi, Uttar Pradesh ( photo available)”

    Anyone think you can buy a diesel pump for $9.00?

  16. #16 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Gouldie says:

    “JC: but given that there’s no coercion to accept the treadle pumps, your libertarian ideology surely declares that peopel who choose to do so will be making economically rational decisions, right?”

    Yes they are. The people being offered the deal are doing thmesleves a good deal otherwise they wouldn’t do it. I support them them 100%.

    that’s not the point I made though, it it.

    The problem I have is the people making the donation are doing so knowing full well that a diesal pump wouldn’t cost that much more more than the peddle crap. Their motivtion just creeps me out.

    Gouldie,

    So you think libertarians shouldn’t ever be able to express an opinion? Let me know if you think a bike is as fast as a Porcsche.

    —————

    Zoot,
    get the soot out of your head. A solar panel is very costly and only idiotic first world ex-rocks stars and studpid conservatives think they make sense. They don’t even make sense in the wealthiest countries on earth, dodo, so why would they in the middle of the Sahara?

  17. #17 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Gouldie

    Spare us your link. We know that the peddle pump is more effective in certain areas for various reasons.

    However they belies the real reason why those quacks at the eco-charity are making the donation. They are not doing so because there has been an analysis done on which is the most effective. They are doing it for the creepy reason that they think they can stop brown people from polluting the atmosphere. That’s the creepy thing about it.

    It’s the new form of slavery – eco-slavery. It just creeps me out.

    I guess all you guys supporting non -coercion are now librtarians.

    I find it truly fascintating how you all can be for free markets on one thread but then support banning electric heaters on another thread.

    This is hillarious. Keep up the contortions fellas. Let me know if you need you limbs untangled.

  18. #18 Tim Lambert
    September 9, 2007

    Er JC, the treadle pump costs $9. I looked up prices of diesel pumps, and they start at over $400. And don’t forget that the running costs are much higher.

  19. #19 sod
    September 9, 2007

    Jc, basically everything that you say is false. as always.

    The problem I have is the people making the donation are doing so knowing full well that a diesal pump wouldn’t cost that much more more than the peddle crap. Their motivtion just creeps me out.

    please give us some price comparison!

    the small farmer will NOT buy a diesel pump. instead, he will RENT it. and he has to pay the diesel. plus repairs, if it gets damaged while in his use.
    all of this is a huge risk, in a region, where crops might be very different every year.

    the generator and the diesel most likely will be imported. so the money paid for them, leaves the (poor) region.
    the pump on the other hand will be produced there. doesn t need diesel and can be repaired locally.

    A solar panel is very costly and only idiotic first world ex-rocks stars and studpid conservatives think they make sense. They don’t even make sense in the wealthiest countries on earth, dodo, so why would they in the middle of the Sahara?

    the price of solar tech has been falling. developments and mass production will change the price even more.

    http://www.awea.org/faq/tutorial/images/re_cost_reductions.gif

    solar panels are used in the “first world”, in sunny places, with little electricity use and no/expensive grid.
    hm. anywhere else in the world any such places?

  20. #20 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Tim

    You can’t even buy a pack of Benson and Hedges extra mild for 9 bucks.

    I hope the pump comes with the a time use warranty.

    ———————————-

    Sod

    You’re missing the point…. again. It’s the motivation of the people behind that charity that gets our goat. I have already said there are places where the peddle pump is effective, but WE are not talking about that are we?

    ————–

    here’s my offer for a white version of my very own own eco-slave or eco mule.

    I am quite happy to buy any of you guys a peddle generator if you promsie to turn off the power in your home. Any takers? Ian, how about you old fella? I’m alsmost certian you could do with the daily exercise.

  21. #21 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    “So you think libertarians shouldn’t ever be able to express an opinion? ”

    No, I just think it’d be nice if once in a while the particular libertarians who hang out here expressed a logically consistent one.

    As opposed to nanny claimed that a private charity paying peopel to undertake actions voluntarily is somehow engagign in corercion or the contradiction between your endlessly asserted mantra that “actions matter not intentions” and your statement here: “The problem I have is the people making the donation are doing so knowing full well that a diesal pump wouldn’t cost that much more more than the peddle crap. Their motivtion just creeps me out.”

    So it’s not their actions that matter it’s their intentions.

    BTW, JC ever wonder what produces actions in the first place? According to Miltie Friedman, its intentions and expectations.

  22. #22 sod
    September 9, 2007

    They are not doing so because there has been an analysis done on which is the most effective.

    Jc, i am rather glad that you have done a comprehensive analysis, on their lack of analysis. will you share your detailed work?

    btw, did i miss your price comparison between diesel- and pedal-pumps?

    I am quite happy to buy any of you guys a peddle generator if you promsie to turn off the power in your home. Any takers?
    a peddle generator, that will cover my electricity needs? and generate enough extra to sell, to rise my current income two to five fold?

    bring it on!

  23. #23 Tim Worstall
    September 9, 2007

    “A pure free trade policy can’t be more than a sentence long:

    “There shall be no tariffs, duties, excises, or any other monetary extraction of any sort on capital, goods or labor between the parties of this agreement.”

    …or something similar. Anything beyond that sentence is regulation.”

    No, not quite. While that might be true for some definitions of free market or free trade the one generally accepted for free trade is that there will be no distinctions made in the application of such extractions based upon point of origin of the goods, capital or labour.

    Doesn’t stop taxation per se, just discriminating against a group in hte apllication of it.

  24. #24 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    You know what, Gouldie, true enough. I have to accept the point you make in that it’s not a coerced transaction and I shouldn’t be so critical. That point has nagged at me for a couple of days now. It’s right what you say ( and also Lamberts). It is the result that matters and not the intentions.

    I screwed up on this one and I concede that whatever is done it is not through coerced action and everyone gains.

    I made a mistake and I am prepared to admit it.

    How do you see you own position though. How do you support banning electric hot water systems and then argue in support of non-coercion?

  25. #25 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Gouldie

    You seemed to disagree with my comment that “results matter intentions don’t” by bringing up something Milt said that was totally irrelevant to the point being made.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/08/greenhouse_denial_and_delay_fr.php#commentsArea

    I take it that you agree with me: results do matter and intentions are basically irrelevant. Is that right?

  26. #26 ChrisC
    September 9, 2007

    This issue, like so many in the real world, is not simple. It is not immediatly “slavery”, nor is it a lynch pin on poverty in India. This idea, like many, ddepends on how it is implemented.

    While the tredal pump may be cheaper, I’m not sure if the excess labour required to operate it over a diesel pump may put a farmer in a worse position. For example, while operating the tredal pump, they may not be able to go off the farm to earn a second income, or they may co-opt their children to perform the labour. If this idea was to result in the further expolitation of children in the third-world, it’s not something I could support.

    That said, there are obvious bennefits, as Ian Gould pointed out. As such, I cannot jump to oppose it. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how the results come out.

    Cursed real world being so complicated!

  27. #27 ChrisC
    September 9, 2007

    “They don’t even make sense in the wealthiest countries on earth, dodo, so why would they in the middle of the Sahara?”

    In the middle of the Sahara? Are you kidding?

    Solar panels for generating heat and electricity make absolute sense in remote communities with lower consumption levels. Often remote communities are so far from the primary generating centres, and there are so few people that the cost to connect them to the grid cannot to justified. Petrol and diesel generators require expensive fuel, that needs to be transported long distances so may be in short supply.

    Distributed grid systems can work wonders in remote communities. An organisation I am part of (not in a big way though), Engineers Without Borders (EWB), sets up remote communities in Nepal with renewable electricity generators, such as wind turbines. This supplies the community with electricity it would have at all, and makes the community pretty self-sufficient once the system is in place. They don’t need to purchase generator fuel, and the systems are much easier to repair than standard generating equiptment.

    Here’s an example.
    http://www.ewb.org.au/program/?pid=7

    As for the Saharah, it’s in almost the perfect position and climte for large scale solar power generation, and many of its remote communities with no access to electricy could certainly bennefit from some.

  28. #28 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Chris

    I was in the Sahara (Morocco) earlier this year visted a few Kasbars and stayed at an oasis deep in the dunes. I saw both electric/ diesal pumps used as well as solar.

    I think solar was being used because the kasbar we visted had historic importance. I recall asking the local tour guide why they were using solar and that was the reason given. The villagers were very unimpressed with it and were hoping at some stage to be connected to the grid with under ground power lines. the solar panels were a donation by the UN (who else).

    The Oasis was deep in the Sahara and it had a diesal powered motor drawing water from the stream.

    So i don’t know what your point is. there is lot of sun in those parts but solar is also very expensive.

  29. #29 Chris O'Neill
    September 9, 2007

    “here’s my offer for a white version of my very own own eco-slave or eco mule.

    I am quite happy to buy any of you guys a peddle generator if you promsie to turn off the power in your home. Any takers?”

    I estimate that I generate 2-3 MJ per week of extractable energy at the gym. There is an opportunity here to extract this energy and use it somewhere else. I am quite willing to be exploited as a white eco-slave if someone wants to pay me for something I’m doing anyway.

  30. #30 david tiley
    September 9, 2007

    Slavery like this?.

    The pics are great.

    (With apologies to non-Australians, who probably don’t understand how sentimental we can get about this kind of thing. I have a Ceduna School of the Air badge. In the middle it says “Knowledge is Power.”)

    Now, go back to being serious.

  31. #31 DuWayne
    September 9, 2007

    Chris O’Neill -

    I have a friend who is really into renewable energy, who went as far as installing turbine generators in the underground spring that provides water to his forty acres. He comes from a (non-practicing) Catholic family and has a large number of siblings, many of whom have gym memberships. He has been talking about setting up a gym in the basement, with stairwalkers, treadmills and bikes that generate electricity. Of course, the generators he has now, produce a surplus, after supplying his shop, his house and a sibs house on the property – he averages $40 a month from the electric company. He figures the gym would be worth an additional $10-15 a month.

  32. #32 Sortition
    September 9, 2007

    I don’t understand this: if the Indian farmers could enjoy all those benefits by simply replacing a diesel pump with a manual (or pedal) pump, why don’t they do it without the help of us benevolent and generous and Westerners? Are they just genetically predisposed to exterme stupidity?

  33. #33 sod
    September 9, 2007

    I don’t understand this: if the Indian farmers could enjoy all those benefits by simply replacing a diesel pump with a manual (or pedal) pump, why don’t they do it without the help of us benevolent and generous and Westerners?

    there seems to be a lot of misperceptions on this topic.

    to correct the worst one:
    those indian farmers DO NOT replace “their” diesel pumps with pedal pumps”.

    i wonder whether this misperception is based on sheer stupidity or genetically predisposed.

  34. #34 Holly Stick
    September 9, 2007

    There is nothing actually wrong with doing physical labour such as using a pedal pump instead of a diesel pump, or a push mower instead of a gas mower, or walking instead of driving somewhere. The most mechanized solution is not always the best one. The simpler the device is, the less likely to break down and to need eexpensive supplies such as diesel.

    My grandfather used to hire threshing crews to harvest his crops; during World War II he bought a combine harvester because there was a labour shortage. After the war more hands were available and he went back to threshing which he preferred; until the cost of labour rose so much that he had to revert to using the combine.

    Some people can afford the time more than they can afford the cash.

  35. #35 Holly Stick
    September 9, 2007

    There is nothing actually wrong with doing physical labour such as using a pedal pump instead of a diesel pump, or a push mower instead of a gas mower, or walking instead of driving somewhere. The most mechanized solution is not always the best one. The simpler the device is, the less likely to break down and to need eexpensive supplies such as diesel.

    My grandfather used to hire threshing crews to harvest his crops; during World War II he bought a combine harvester because there was a labour shortage. After the war more hands were available and he went back to threshing which he preferred; until the cost of labour rose so much that he had to revert to using the combine.

    Some people can afford the time more than they can afford the cash.

    Has anybody invented a TV powered by a treadmill or a stationary bike? I would buy that if I could afford it.

  36. #36 goatchowder
    September 9, 2007

    I see.

    So the poor people of the work do hard manual labor to offset the luxurious carbon-fuel-based living standards of those of us sittign on our fat, lazy arses in the “developed” countries?

    And there’s nothing wrong with that? Pointing out this obvious inequality makes one a filthy Marxist Communist rabble-rousing class warrior, eh?

    A deeply right-wing, libertarian friend has been scoffing at carbon offsets for years, calling them “environmental Catholic Indulgences”. And slamming them as nothing more than way for “rich Hollywood liberals” to buy their way out of guilt for continuing to act immorally. I dismissed his rants was as mere partisanship– just looking for ways to slam Al Gore, for example.

    Now I think perhaps he, not Gore, is right. I don’t care whether it’s brought up by “Marxist” O’Neill or by my Ayn-Rand-admiring friend, the point stands.

    We accumulated bundles of money by exploiting the environment, then we get to hold that money out as a carrot, “freely” traded to the poor in exchange for getting them to run on a treadmill fixing our mistakes for us. What a great racket! But, not a very “efficient” trade, IMHO.

  37. #37 h
    September 9, 2007

    Well, it would be better for those of us who are sitting on our fat, lazy arses to get off them and do some manual labour ourselves. But this does not mean some farmers might not prefer to use cheap pedal power instead of expensive diesel power to irrigate their fields, especially if the pedal power works better, not washing away the topsoil, allowing more crops in a year, as some of the quotes above suggest.

    We are going to have to employ all sorts of methods to cut our CO2 emissions, and can’t afford to turn up our noses at simple solutions that work well for some people.

  38. #38 Sam-Hec
    September 9, 2007

    As a Libertarian, I support voluntary Certified CO2 Offsets. I also support requireing our governments to become CO2 Neutral, wioth or without Offsetts; and this would be paid for by ending Corporate Welfare. I’d comment more but I am off to workies.

  39. #39 Sortition
    September 9, 2007

    sod:

    > there seems to be a lot of misperceptions on this topic.

    > to correct the worst one: those indian farmers DO NOT replace “their” diesel pumps with pedal pumps”.

    ???

    It definitely seems that exactly is what is supposed to save happen in order to save carbon emissions.

    Enlighten me: How do you “perceive” the offsetting scheme?

  40. #40 Chris Tucker
    September 9, 2007

    Sortition, you cannot be that dim. Seriously, you’re just doing some chain yanking, right?

    You do realize, of course, that the farmers don’t actually own the diesel powered pumps, they rent them.

    Whereas the “Moneymaker”-type pumps will belong to them, as in, “Here’s a pump that you will own as your own personal property, it will cost you nothing, as it is a freely given gift from someone in the West.”

    So, of course, you’re just having us on, what with all that codswallop about “Indian farmers giving up ‘their’ diesel pumps”.

    What a joker you are, to be sure!

  41. #41 SmellyTerror
    September 9, 2007

    No, you’re absolutely right, Goat. It’s much better than farmers use expensive technology for less return and more environmental damage. That’s heaps better.

    Do you guys understand that you are arguing against farmers making *more* money, and spending *more* time with their families, based on WHAT exactly? You imagine this device to be demeaning? You wouldn’t be willing to “demean” yourself through boring, repetitive, hard physical labour? Well whoopee for you! What the hell do you think they’re doing anyway? What do you think most workers on earth do?

    I don’t see you complaining that the public toilet cleaners of America don’t have automated toilet cleaning machinery. No, we must save the poor brown-people, this is our white-man’s burden!

    …or you think it’s “demeaning” to have the product of poor workers benefiting the rich? WELCOME TO REALITY. I don’t know what bunny-filled marshmallow planet you live on, but on my world this is the fact in every nation, in every economic system that’s ever actually worked. Do you think Castro, or Bill Gates, or Stalin, or the Dalai Lama, had to spend the bulk of every working day in boring, repetitive labour just to feed their family? Do YOU?

    I’ll tell you what’s demeaning: a bunch of arm-chair activists who think they need to protect the poor, poor foreigners from their own prosperity, because they, personally, cannot imagine doing a job that takes them away from their comfy desks.

    “No, noble brown savage! Discard this highly lucrative device! It is a trap!”

    “Uh, but I make a ton more money.”

    “No! Your poverty is pure and noble! The true benefit of the pump would go to the wealthy!”

    “Who the hell do you think buys my crops? Who do you think sells me my diesel? This way I make more money and don’t have to go work in the factories in the off season. Who do you think owns them, and who do you think buys those products?”

    “It’s not worth it! Here, let me destroy this foul, demeaning hamster wheel! You’ll thank me later…”

    (Sounds of violence)

    I don’t like the inequality, but until someone comes up with a solution that isn’t an exercise in intellectual masturbation and might actually work, then this is the system we have. Unless your system offers these guys more income than the “hamster wheel”, or magically transforms our economy into a workers’ paradise, then I suggest you STFU.

  42. #42 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    “I made a mistake and I am prepared to admit it.”

    That’s a very gracious and reasonable concession, thank you.

    “How do you see you own position though. How do you support banning electric hot water systems and then argue in support of non-coercion?”

    Well firstly I was pointing out to you the inconsistency in your argument.

    I used to consider myself an anarchist, a principal reason I no longer consider myself an anarchist is that when I started studying economics I encountered situations when a degree of coercion actually increases economic welfare. (Pollution limits and fire safety regulations are examples.)

    Coercion is undesirable and should be avoided where possible. But when, as with the solar power rebate, noncoercive measures have failed a minor degree of coercion may be acceptable.

  43. #43 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    “I take it that you agree with me: results do matter and intentions are basically irrelevant. Is that right?”

    No, because as Friedman showed actions are driven by intentions and expectations.

    A decline in the economy will induce changes in consumption even amongst people whose own income hasn’t fallen at all because of increasing economic uncertainty.

  44. #44 Ian Gould
    September 9, 2007

    “I don’t understand this: if the Indian farmers could enjoy all those benefits by simply replacing a diesel pump with a manual (or pedal) pump, why don’t they do it without the help of us benevolent and generous and Westerners? Are they just genetically predisposed to exterme stupidity?”

    Yes, why DON’T people who have a per capita income of less than #1 per day who spend 90% of their income on food and basic staples use part of their vast hoard savings?

    Let’s say I showed up at your door tomorrow and offered to sell you $10 million of gold on the spot for $1 million – cash only, offer good for the next ten minutes. Would you be “genetically predisposed to stupidity” to decline?

  45. #45 Sortition
    September 9, 2007

    > You do realize, of course, that the farmers don’t actually own the diesel powered pumps, they rent them.

    How does it matter who owns the diesel pump? If for $9 (which must be cheaper than using the pump for even a single season, since it will buy you no more than a few gallons of diesel) a farmer could become independent, make more money, and spend more time with his or her family, why would you need to be showing them a film extolling the virtues of the pedal pump? Surely, if it is such a good deal, even those dim-witted farmers would understand that it is better for them to use the pedal pump.

    Oh, white man’s burden is heavy indeed.

  46. #46 dhogaza
    September 9, 2007

    why would you need to be showing them a film extolling the virtues of the pedal pump? Surely, if it is such a good deal, even those dim-witted farmers would understand that it is better for them to use the pedal pump.

    Well, dim-witted farmers in the United States make heavy use of ag extension services, which exist solely to teach them new stuff.

    Stuff that will save them money, increase production, etc.

    By your logic, they shouldn’t need to be educated.

  47. #47 Sortition
    September 9, 2007

    > Well, dim-witted farmers in the United States make heavy use of ag extension services, which exist solely to teach them new stuff.

    If you told me those U.S. farmers are being taught how to improve their lives (and reduce carbon emissions) by quitting the rural habit of shaving using a Bunsen burner, and opting for the more efficient disposable razor instead, I’d would be just as skeptical.

    Yes – educational videos can actually be useful for teaching some things. Other stuff is just too obvious to teach.

  48. #48 Jc
    September 9, 2007

    Gouldie

    I think we’re confusing this result and intentions point I brought up.

    I am trying to convey ths message that it doesn’t matter if say Richard Lindzen had worked for Exxon or whoever. I am more interested if he is right or wrong.

    For too long people have been impugning the motives of others and forgetting if what is being said is valid or isn’t.

    The Milt discussion is not releveant to this.

  49. #49 Harald Korneliussen
    September 10, 2007

    JC, the question _is_ relevant, because there is not enough time in the universe to answer everything any idiot can come up with. There’s a swedish proverb: “A fool may ask more than ten sages can answer”

    At some point, we may judge that a person, or an interest group, is not arguing in good faith; that they aren’t interested in finding the truth, only spreading noise. That line was crossed a long time ago for Richard Lindzen, as far as I’m concerned.

  50. #50 Jc
    September 10, 2007

    Harold

    You’re missing the point. Is Lindzen wrong simply because in 1822 he worked for Exxon.

  51. #51 Left_Wing_Fox
    September 10, 2007

    Ian: Yes, that’s an obvious point, but I was concerned more about the relative quality of life of those who use the different technologies.

    The problem is that the Carbon Offset in this situation is attempting to balance two different goals. The first is to offer enough economic benefit for people to sacrifice the quality of life afforded to them by using a diesel pump. At the same time, it requires a situation where human labour is cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives to maintain the comparative economic benefit.

    Personally, I would much prefer if we could use ecologically friendly technological solutions that could both reduce the need for fossil fuels in developed nations that could be given to developing nations that could allow economic development, reduce ecological impact, and improve quality of life.

    So while I accept such carbon trading schemes might work as a stopgap measure, I have concerns about the economic pressures that might delay the introduction of new ecologically sound technologies, or discourage economic development in impoverished nations.

    I admit, those concerns might be unfounded, so I’m interested in hearing from all sides of the discussion on this.

  52. #52 Sam-Hec
    September 10, 2007

    LWF,
    You say you are interested in what others have to say. Did you watch the video linked to at the Climate Care site? The people getting these treadle pumps have something to say.

    What i have to say is, Carbon Offsets have two basic goals. First is to minimize the growth of background levels of CO2. The second is to do the first in the most economical way possible.

    It makes no sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars to reduce ones own CO2 emmission when the same emmissions reduction can be acheived to for a few tens of dollars paid to farmers in Africa and India etc.

    Spending tens of thousands of dollars on one’s own small CO2 reduction does nothing to help poor farmers in Africa and India; whereas the few tens of dollars in CO2 offsets clearly have (clear if you watched the vid). All without coersion or dubious big government programs.

    People in western societies should still work to control CO2 emmissions in their own lives; CO2 offsets should never be used an exuse to do otherwise; it is not an indulgence.

    CO2 Offsets are another useful tool in our Climate Control Kit; which also connects us with the rest of the human world.

  53. #53 Jc
    September 10, 2007

    Sam

    I don’t see where trhe immediate carbon offset is here. The peddle pumps are offfered to the villagers to offset a richer persons carbon. However where is the offset if the person doing the peddling is not going to attain a motorized pump.

    i can see the credit, but I can’t see the corresponding debit in the new accounting method some in the green movement are using.

  54. #54 Left_Wing_Fox
    September 10, 2007

    Did you watch the video linked to at the Climate Care site?

    No, I can’t. I think the MIME handler for that is messed, since all I get is a page full of nonsense text instead of a video file.

  55. #55 Johnno
    September 10, 2007

    Further to Jc’s comment this offset would make sense if
    a) the Indian farmers all had diesel pumps to begin with
    b) they were all taken away and dynamited (the pumps that is).
    Note as always the yields are spectacular..no point in appeasing half hearted guilt.

    Changing tack I see a UNSW academic (Ted Trainer) has just written a book saying renewable energy won’t save us. Before that Prof. Diesendorf wrote a book saying it will, with the help of natural gas presumably before the Chinese contracted for it.

  56. #56 Sortition
    September 11, 2007

    > No, I can’t. I think the MIME handler for that is messed

    I had to use IE in order to see it.

    > whereas the few tens of dollars in CO2 offsets clearly have (clear if you watched the vid)

    The only thing that is clear is that this is a charming feel-good story which makes no sense at all. If the pedal pump was a cheap life improving technology it would have been adopted by the farmers without prompting from CO2 spouting Westerners. The whole thing (including the little cartoon with the brown, naked, child-like figures) seems like a parody. See my comments above.

  57. #57 guthrie
    September 11, 2007

    I wouldn’t really call Spiked libertarians, rather contrarians. They seem wedded to some ill defined ideology which involves maximisation of human potential by means of new technology, and therefore anything which opposes such technology is evil and will lead to us falling back into the dark ages. I’m sure you all know how silly this is.

  58. #58 Sam-Hec
    September 11, 2007

    JC,
    I am assuming that owners of existing pumps were the ones being offered the offsets. Some certification may be required to ensure as much.

    LWF,
    darn. I will admit the video is potentially a heavily cherry picked fluff piece of propaganda, but the basic idea seems sound as long as there is a certification process where additionality and duplication are avoided.

    fwiw, I am a customer of TerraPass, which just seems to do projects in the U.S.

    sam-hec

  59. #59 David Parsons
    September 11, 2007

    And even if some of the footpumps go to people who don’t rent, it’s not as if they’re going to waste; if some farmer dumps their (presumably already broken or otherwise unacceptable, because otherwise why go through the trouble?) existing footpump for one of the Climate Care-subsidised ones, they end up with the same sort of pump that many of their neighbors use, which means they can pool parts and repairs with their neighbors when their now-standardised pumps break down.

    That’s not an immediate carbon offset, of course, but if you’re not the only farmer in your county with that particular footpump design, you’re less likely to throw it out and go back to renting a diesel pump when something breaks.

  60. #60 David Parsons
    September 11, 2007

    And even if some of the footpumps go to people who don’t rent, it’s not as if they’re going to waste; if some farmer dumps their (presumably already broken or otherwise unacceptable, because otherwise why go through the trouble?) existing footpump for one of the Climate Care-subsidised ones, they end up with the same sort of pump that many of their neighbors use, which means they can pool parts and repairs with their neighbors when their now-standardised pumps break down.

    That’s not an immediate carbon offset, of course, but if you’re not the only farmer in your county with that particular footpump design, you’re less likely to throw it out and go back to renting a diesel pump when something breaks.

  61. #61 sod
    September 11, 2007

    However where is the offset if the person doing the peddling is not going to attain a motorized pump.

    again, they do not OWN diesel pumps.

    they either rent one or use buckets.

    so either you produce a carbon offset immediately or you at least ease his labor. in the sceond case, there might be a carbon offset, because he would have changed to a diesel pump eventually.

    . If the pedal pump was a cheap life improving technology it would have been adopted by the farmers without prompting from CO2 spouting Westerners

    Sortition is great. he believes, that if it hadn t been around already, he surely would have invented the bicycle.

    where i live, plenty of people manually water rather huge gardens with bucket, colected rain water and possibly a hand pump to fill the bucket.

    i have NOT seen a SINGL pedal pump, even those would extremely and obviousely ease the labor.

    and we are talking about NON-genetically handicapted westeners here!!!!

  62. #62 Sortition
    September 11, 2007

    sod,

    My neighbors don’t do things that are obviously outrageously stupid. Yes, they, and I, probably regularly do silly things on a small scale and occasionally do stupid things on a moderate scale, but when it comes to increasing our livelihoods by a factor of 2 to 5, and not having to migrate away from our families for long periods of time, we put a lot of effort into making sure no obvious solutions are left unexplored. I’d be very surprised if your neighbors, or Indian farmers, are much different.

    So let’s be clear. The scenario that Climate Care describes is as follows:

    Indian farmer A has a neighbor, Indian farmer B. B makes an investment of $9 in a pedal pump (the cost of at most a few days’ work), saves money on fuel, increases his profits by a factor of 2 to 5, and does not have to go to the city looking for work. Indian farmer A sees all this, and yet he keeps on doing his own farming using the diesel pump, foregoing all those obvious advantages. Then, Benevolent Westerner C gives Indian farmer A some money ($9?) (or maybe just shows him an educational film, or maybe both), and suddenly, Indian farmer A realizes that his life could be so much better and starts using a pedal pump instead of a diesel pump.

    Is that really what you think is going on?

  63. #63 sod
    September 11, 2007

    So let’s be clear. The scenario that Climate Care describes is as follows:

    about.

    to get the most obvious error right again:
    without the project, there is NO neighbor B.

    and yes, then all you need to do, i organise an additional couple of dollars, that you don t have.give up an old habit. put trust into the long term gain, that is slightly difficult to see, with your general lack of education.
    finally, like on this blog, you need to ignore your environment, who will look down upon you, for exchanging the comfortable diesel pump for manual work.

    but talking about you and your neighbors, i m rather glad that you invented the internet 30 years ago. it must be nice as well, to earn enough money, that a 2 to 5 fold increase is next to impossible. and i applaud you, for not having any bad habits, a change of which would influence your life significantly.

  64. #64 David Parsons
    September 11, 2007

    So what do you think happens? Roving gangs of westerners, forcing (at gunpoint!) the farmers to install footpumps instead of continuing to rent the more-expensive diesel pumps?

    There are plenty of institutional barriers to introducing different technologies anywhere. The third world is no different in this regard, despite how much people might wish to think of it as some unspoiled eden that we’re corrupting by distributing more-efficient footpumps.

  65. #65 Sortition
    September 11, 2007

    sod:

    > without the project, there is NO neighbor B.

    According to the clip, the pumps already exist, with some farmers using them. If the advantages are so clear, it would take very little time, and no subsidies at all, to make them prevalent.

    > it must be nice as well, to earn enough money, that a 2 to 5 fold increase is next to impossible

    Earning more money is certainly theoretically possible, but would involve a large investment, and a lot of uncertainty. Despite having put a lot of thought into it, I could not come up with a sure-thing scheme in which all I have to do to double my earnings is spend a few days’ worth of income on buying a machine. I’d be very interested in any such idea you would be willing to offer.

    > i applaud you, for not having any bad habits

    I have my share, I imagine – but none of them is, as far as I am aware, as self-destructive as the “diesel pump habit” that you ascribe to the Indian farmers. Do you have bad habits of this sort?

    David:

    > So what do you think happens?

    What happens is that either the pedal pumps would have been installed without any involvement of Westerners (in case they are that useful), or they would not be used even if their installation is subsidized (in case they are not as useful as they are made out to be).

    > There are plenty of institutional barriers to introducing different technologies

    None of those barriers was described by the Climate Care material. What specifically are you talking about in this case?

  66. #66 sod
    September 12, 2007

    According to the clip, the pumps already exist, with some farmers using them. If the advantages are so clear, it would take very little time, and no subsidies at all, to make them prevalent.

    i would look at medical examples in the west, to contradict you.
    according to you, about every western doctor should be trained in acupuncture. funny, most are not.

    Earning more money is certainly theoretically possible, but would involve a large investment, and a lot of uncertainty. Despite having put a lot of thought into it, I could not come up with a sure-thing scheme in which all I have to do to double my earnings is spend a few days’ worth of income on buying a machine. I’d be very interested in any such idea you would be willing to offer.

    your comparison is false. there is a massive difference, in a ouple of gay wages, between you and a poor indian farmer.
    for him it IS a massive investment, and HUGE uncertainity.

    he will not reserve a diesel pump. most likely, have to cut ties, to the guy, to whom he owes money.

    and you would NOT want my input. there surely is a guy B around, who s example you will follow, WITHOUT any further input, and against the advice of the majority of your peers!!!

    I have my share, I imagine – but none of them is, as far as I am aware, as self-destructive as the “diesel pump habit” that you ascribe to the Indian farmers. Do you have bad habits of this sort?

    you mean like the potentially lethal habit of occasionally drinking a lot too much? driving too fast? wasting enormous time on internet forums? doing sport at best once per week?

    the difference in economic situations is to huge, to make a direct comparison. i think you need to look at other subjects of behaviour.

  67. #67 sod
    September 12, 2007

    lol, that was supposed to be

    in a couple of day wages..

  68. #68 Jc
    September 12, 2007

    Sod

    You’ve now taken this discussion to the wages paid to gay peddle pumpers!?

    tim has to supervise his more blog often :-)

  69. #69 elspi
    September 12, 2007

    sod
    I am ashamed of you. Didn’t your mother teach you not to pick on the kids riding the short bus. Yes I know he has said some astonishing stupid things:

    1. If it was a good idea, why didn’t someone do it before now (which of course applies to EVERY technological advance EVER)
    2. The poor farmer making < $100/year owns the pump worth >$400.
    3. $9 is a trivial amount of money to someone making <$100/year. (I am sure he would be willing to spend the measly $5000 for my free energy and ponies for all machine)
    4. The highest technologies can be supported in a country where there is no division of labor and almost all are engaged in subsistence farming.

    Nonetheless, you have used his head for a toilet brush and his shorts are around his ears. Leave Sortition alone or I will be calling your mother.

  70. #70 Sortition
    September 12, 2007

    sod:

    > your comparison is false. there is a massive difference, in a ouple of [d]ay wages, between you and a poor indian farmer. for him it IS a massive investment…

    Note that I have already accounted for the income difference. The $9 are no more than a few days’ income for the _farmer_. (And, as I pointed out above, the farmer’s investment in diesel fuel alone for a single season must be much higher than those $9.)

    > …and HUGE uncertainity.

    According to the clip, there is no uncertainty involved, and even if there is, the investment is so small that the risk is very low.

    > you mean like the potentially lethal habit of occasionally drinking a lot too much? driving too fast? wasting enormous time on internet forums? doing sport at best once per week?

    All of these habits are bad, meaning that they reduce my life expectancy by say a couple of years (internet forums excepted). In exchange I get some short-term fun. This is very different from doing something that changes my entire life for the worse, and has no clear benefit except for sheer habit.

    The equivalent of what you seem to think the Indian farmers are doing would be for a CS professional foregoing a $100K/year job because he just got used to doing babysitting for $10/hour.

    elspi:

    This is hardly a way to have a discussion. If you find my arguments unconvincing, that’s fine, but no need to resort to insults.

  71. #71 Sam-Hec
    September 14, 2007

    Gar Lipow has updated his previously negative opinion at Gristmill.
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/9/13/142313/706

  72. #72 Lab Lemming
    September 15, 2007

    “I have to wonder, if this is a good idea, why don’t we encourage local farmers to replace their diesel pumps with treadle pumps, rather than subcontracting the carbon offsets to India?”

    Because Australian farmers don’t have any water to pump.

  73. #73 ac
    September 17, 2007

    Where is the evidence that treadle pumps increase productivity when compared to diesel pumps? The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says they are better than buckets, but I missed a hard comparison with motorised pumps, and none of the fans above have gone further than citing Climate Care’s own promotional material.

    Tim’s right – if they make economic sense, people will adopt them. And Brendan, as usual, has a philosophical point that bears considering. Modern agriculture is mechanised, and as India develops, no doubt there will be a population shift off the land, and a reduction in manual farming. We need to figure out how to run a sustainable large-scale industrial society – paying poor farmers to sink out emissions is only viable because of massive inequality.

  74. #74 Sam-Hec
    September 17, 2007

    ac,
    it’s not that pedalpumps are more productive than diesel pumps, it’s that the later has higher more variable costs, which make the former worthwhile.

  75. #75 David B. Benson
    September 17, 2007

    For those locations and conditions where a motor driven pump makes the greatest economic sense, I suggest using biodiesel. The farmers can grow the Jatropha (or whatever) which they press and sell the resulting biooil to a near-by biodiesel production facility. This at least lowers the cost of the fuel and is carbon-neutral except for the metal parts.

  76. #76 ac
    September 17, 2007

    Sam-Hec, your point of view is plausible, but again, where’s the evidence?

    I could just as easily assert that the increased productivity of mechanised pumps more than compensates for their higher costs, and frees up manual labour leading to not only increased income but more time to pursue additional work. But I’d just be making stuff up.

  77. #77 Sam-Hec
    September 18, 2007

    AC,
    there isn’t a whole lot of evidence going around, just lots of conjecture. IIRC According to their claim the farmers get 1 crop per year with only the weather as a water source. No claim is maid of how many crops per year are gotten from diesel pumps. 2-3 crops pr year is the claim made for treadle pumps.

    It ‘sounds’ like 2-3 crop/yr is the maximum given no other variables changing. But I don’t really know. IF so, then it’s jsuta caomparison fo the costs of getting and running treadles vs diesels; which would seem to favor the former.

    I would like to see a comparison with wind pumps, which I am sure is with the technical capabilities of India, and would free up personal time away from the treadle.

  78. #78 ac
    September 18, 2007

    Sweet idea – I’m imagining a small turbine that stores mechanical energy in a spring-ratchet assembly – when the user wants to pump water, the spring drives a pump.

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