Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What Poor Economies Crave


Henry Payne, tanned and refreshed after a cruise in the Caribbean, is ready to apply himself anew to the problems of our time.

Greens, of course, use the world’s islands as poster-children for the destructive effects of rising sea waters, but climate change is the least of the Caribbean islands’ worries. What these poor economies crave is more fossil fuel, not less.
If you know Payne at all, you know that this is his answer to everything. Is your house on fire? You need more fossil fuels! Do you suffer from the suppurating gleet? More fossil fuels! Are you puzzling over the status of diachronic contingency in post-Scotist ontology? Fossil fuels!

Here are the symptoms of the Caribbean's fossil-fuel craving:
Walk the streets of Samana, Dominican Republic or St. John’s, Antigua and you are quickly confronted with families huddled in road-side shacks, small children with no clothes, and stray dogs and chickens everywhere. In Samana, utility poles stop at the small town’s edge, starving its suburbs — much less the countryside — of electricity. In Antigua, Barbados, Tortola, and other Caribbean islands, two-cycle motorbikes are a common form of transportation.
And here's the cure:
And yet these islands are growing thanks to an influx of massive, 3000-berth, 120,000-ton, five-diesel-engine cruise ships (consuming 2,800 gallons of fuel per hour) like the one aboard which my family traveled.
Now, cruise ships have been visiting these islands for many, many years, and they've disgorged tourists by the millions, and these tourists have spent an astronomical amount of money on lodging and food and entertainment and booze and prostitution and what have you. And yet, Payne was jolted out of his tropical reverie by the sight of desperately poor people who were doing without basic amenities.

These are small islands, with small populations; surely the wealth deposited by tourists should at least have paid for reliable island-wide electricity by now. The fact that it hasn't suggests that this is not, in fact, a good way to improve the lot of poor Caribbeans, regardless of whether they're in danger of having their homes submerged by rising seas.

The reason is simple enough: Very little of the money spent in a place like Antigua stays in the country; most resorts are foreign-owned, and most "authentic" souvenirs are manufactured in places like China or the Marianas. The tourist industry doesn't do much good for local agriculture, either; almost all food served to tourists is imported.

Next, Payne explains that cruise ships require a huge amount of fuel:
[I]n order to transport these masses to their diesel ships, other forms of fossil-fuel transportation are also growing — from airplane flights to Miami (the largest port of embarkation), to islands teeming with rental cars, to thousands of boats transporting tourists to beaches and coral reefs, to more coal plants under construction to feed hotels and investment properties....
How this demonstrates that the Caribbean "craves" fossil fuels is no more obvious to me than why Payne imagines that this situation can continue indefinitely. But these mysteries are child's play compared to what comes next:
And who are the tourists driving all this growth? The same rich Baby Boomers that Gore claims support him in his moral mission to dramatically curtail our energy use.
Like Henry Payne and his family, for instance. So there!

To make a long story short, all of this proves that the solution to the Caribbean's problems is more tourism and less fretting over rising seas, and that any regulation of the cruise industry will plunge the world into poverty and chaos.

Next week: Payne visits Saipan, and finds that what contract workers really need is for Big Government to get off their backs!

8 comments:

P. Drāno said...

I wonder if the denial industry will ever run out of raw materials? Probably not, as long as someone is trying to talk sense somewhere.

Anthony McCarthy said...

The Nazional Review is still the brain trust of American conservatism, isn't it? His column should be called "The Daffy Traveler". Those boring, elite travel logs are getting worse all the time. There's nothing worse than an establishment hack who thinks they can think. The surplus of those in the media seem to be leading to ever sillier junk being the normal form of the decaying discourse, or so the media would like it to be so.

Phila said...

IIRC, Payne's a Michigan-based apologist for the auto industry. He moonlights at Planet Gore, which is dedicated to the proposition that Al Gore invented climate change. It's not about travel per se.

MikeJ said...

Even if you buy his argument (tourism is a way to injecte money into island economies and allow locals to have better lives), it *still* doesn't follow that fossil fuels are the way to get there. He argues for expending energy to bring tourists (and their dollars) to places where the locals want to expend more energy on lighting and clean water.

He never explains why waiting 20 million years for a dinosaur to decompose is the best energy production method to base your economy on.

Phila said...

MikeJ,

You could probably make a killing selling sail-powered Caribbean cruises. Hell, I'd be tempted to go at that point.

Plus, all the space you save on fuel could be used to store sewage, instead of discharging it in the open ocean.

Woody (Tokin' Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella!) said...

"Are you puzzling over the status of diachronic contingency in post-Scotist ontology? Fossil fuels!"

Even THAT? E-GADS, MAN! Why, it's almost miraculous!!!

Woody (Tokin' Lib'rul/Rogue Scholar & O'erall Helluvafella!) said...

As to the tourism, permit me to recommend Jamaica Kincaid's lapidary short book, A Small Place.

Phila said...

Thanks, WGG!