Ecology debt

A few days ago, the newest issue of Le Monde diplomatique (Latin American edition) arrived. It had an interesting article about ecology debt ¿What’s that?
According to the author it’s “The debt that the north, specially the industrialized countries, owes to the third world for the exploitation of their natural resources, for buying their products at under valuated prices. Also for the free usage of their genetic resources, or the free usage of their environmental space for deposit of waste, like the ozone layer gases”
The author claims that the industrialized world produces a disproportionate quantity of contamination and exerts a huge pressure in order to get also a disproportionate quantity of natural resources. In order to be able to compete against the protectionism, to pay the external debt, pay for the manufacture products, etc the third world is forced to an over production of natural resources with the known consequences: Health damages produced by the used of agro quimics prohibited in their countries of origin, degradation of the fertilized regions, the ozone layer hole (which happens to be over the Antarctica , Chile and Argentina only), or the case of the nonrenewable products like oil, in which price, that quality is not reflected ( I am not so sure about this last claim). Other example aborigine cultures of the Andes have known for centuries about the beneficial properties of certain plants, minerals, etc but the legal rights now belong to the corporations that sent expeditions to investigate those claims and subsequently patent them. Also the “gene scandal” when those same Indians found out that “humanitarian expeditions” were being sent with the purpose of stealing their genes.
The author, Walter Alberto Pengue also speaks of the “ecologic print” (sorry about the translation) he says that a fifth of the world population lives in Europe, Japan, U.S.A, Australia but they use more space and resources that their territories can provide. The “print” (the quantity of space required for housing, timber, agriculture, fishing, etc) is in the industrialized world more or less 8 hectares per inhabitant (10000 square meters equals to one hectares or 2,5 acres) for the underdeveloped world the space for each inhabitant is less than 2 hectares.
In conclusion he claims that the only way to speak with the richest countries about these problems is using a concept they understand very well… money. The compensation of this debt with the external debt, will not only help the poorest of this planet but also force the industrialized countries to use the resources in a prudent way. In this way our grand- children will be able to inherit the earth and not a dessert.


walks in from stage left

what a bunch of drek…
walks off stage right

Wouldn’t most children opt for dessert if presented this choice?


  1. ecology debt…a made-up term that can be then defined at will

  2. under-valuated [sic] prices? …what methods did he use for this claim?

  3. hi, Opal!

  4. free usage of their environmental spaces…huh??

  5. the third world is FORCED to an overproduction of resources…huh???

  6. agro quimics…huh??? …again…

and on and on…

And when you look at the over-all message, it seems to be: my country isn’t rich, and that’s because the industrialized countries have taken unfair advantage of us and they need to correct that by sending us more money…
…like I said…what a bunch of drek…that’s my opinion…

I’ll go out on a limb here, keeping in mind that Estilicon’s native language is Spanish, and guess he meant “agricultural chemicals.”

The one that makes me go “huh?”, is this:

To which I would say…cite?

I found this two links,

First sorry for the double post.

  1. I cited the source, Le monde Dyplomatique is a well respected one. The term is new but not made up, problems regarding the over production and over consume of the first world an it’s effect on the envioroment are not new (see kyoto treaty)

  2. Protectionism, subsides are also well known, the effect they have is the under valuation of prices. Third world countries can not compete with the spokemen of free trade (U.S.A. E.U and japan)

  3. It’s not as if they have choice, they need the money. Low prices, fierce and unlawfull competition force the to over produce in order to keep the money flowing.

  4. Agro chemicals (agro quimicos) I though it right. Many that we import are prohibited in the first world, the same happen with a lot of other things. It seems some humans are more humans than others.

My country has the potential to be rich, we don’t need more money, we need a fair deal. You prefer to give us money.

How does one country pay an ecological debt? You say you do not want money. I certainly agree that there are a lot of environmental problems caused in large part (directly or indirectly) by industrialized countries…and those problems need to be fixed. But those countries are not the only ones at fault. Every country generates some level of environmental pollution.

In the end, your country will be what you make of it. If you see a problem, work toward changing it. Sure, it won’t be easy, but it seems that many problems are due to short-term thinking rather than pursuing long-term goals (or considering long-term consequences).

So, I agree with you that there’s a problem, but what do you (or that author) propose as a solution? You mentioned “compensating the debt with the external debt”…what does that entail?

This idea may not be implementable, but I’ll post it any way.

IIRC, US power companies currently use an “air pollution voucher” system. The EPA sets an amount each plant can produce based on a goal of reducing total polution. If a company is operating an older, dirtier plant it can go over it’s allowable emmisions by buying vouchers from companies operating newer, cleaner plants. It’s a free market system with built in economic incentives to pollute less. The companies with the lowest emissions maximize their profits by selling their vouchers to those who “need” to pollute more.

I don’t agree with what Mr. Pengue seems to be implying - it seems too much like “eat the rich”. However, perhaps a similar system to EPA pollution vouchers could be implemented on an international scale? Conservation could not be acre for acre (how much wetlands are worth compared to tropical rain forests I have no idea), but air pollution should be easier. I’m just brainstorming here, but there may be something to the idea of creating an international market for “ecololgy debt”.

Heh, speaking of eat the rich. If we implemented a system where we would feed the 1000 richest people to the poorest people, then there would be a mad dash to make sure you are not one of the 1000 richest people and then the dissemination of the top tier of cash would trickle down at a very fast rate without having to put a cap on how much money a person can have.


I was using a legal word when I said “Compensation”: when two persons have two debts (in one A) is the creditor and B) the debitor and on the other A)is the debitor and B) the creditor) both debts are extinguished till the extent of the lower one. Example: A) owes $500 to B), and B) owes $1000 to A), then B) owes $500. It was created to avoid litigation

That is exactly the idea Beeblebrox, you can’t argue the majority of the resources of this planet are used by the minority (the first world) they also produce the greatest amount of contamination. That has to be solved. It goes beyond the field of economy, eventhough it is inmoral how a minority lives at the expense of the majority (resources are limited). Anyone really thinks that all the planet can have the same quality of live than the first world?

Alright, alright, I give, spill it. Vot is zees ‘hi Opal’ inside joke?