As we all know – for we can observe this – we have ever more fools trying to work out what is sustainable and then to impose their vision of this upon the rest of us. The foolery is partly because their definitions of sustainable aren’t in fact correct. They worry about entirely renewable economic resources like water – we have a recycling system, it’s called clouds – and not about entirely unrecyclable items like human labour. We don’t, despite Hindu beliefs, get a mulligan on the time wasted in some activity designed to worship Mother Gaia like ripping the plastic windows out of envelopes.
But there’s another problem, one that wouldn’t in fact be solved by correct definitions. This one courtesy of our old friend Freddy Hayek. The information to know what is, or is not, done in a particular manner isn’t available:
This is in part because polyester manufacturers can afford to fund more studies, something Storey and his peers are trying to rectify by providing technical papers to the European Commission. But it is also because nuances in agriculture are difficult to account for.
Climate expert Professor Mark Howden says the sustainability of wool farming can come down to the “management that’s used in a particular farm, or even a particular paddock”. This variation means, in many ways, using the Higg Index to measure the environmental impact of global wool production is like asking for the length of a piece of string.
As Freddy went to great pains to point out. It’s simply not possible to gather the information about something as complex as an entire economy to make decisions at this level of granularity.
So, we shouldn’t do so.
The only thing we do have which can process all this information is the economy itself. So, that’s what we need to use to process the information. Prices tell us what works, nothing else. So, use prices then.
If wool from Oz makes clothing at a price acceptable then use wool from Oz. If it doesn’t then don’t. You know, exactly the same test we use about wool from Greenland and Mali. That test that wool from Oz passes and wool from Greenland and Mali doesn’t….