A Cautionary Tale: Good Idea, Disastrous Results
By Kip Hansen – March 11, 2022
Exotic Ceylon, once a colony of the British Empire and after 1948, an independent country, in 1972, became a republic within the Commonwealth and changed its name to Sri Lanka.
Its location in the warm Indian Ocean made it a haven for scuba divers seeking the best reef diving. That feature attracted the science fiction visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke who made it his home.
Like many of the newly independent British colonies, it suffered political divisions and unrest for many years. A 26-year civil war involving the Tamil ethnic minority finally ended in 2009.
With peace came relative prosperity until they had a Good Idea.
For the least 50 years, certain segments of the world’s population have been abuzz with the concept of Organic Farming. While there are a lot of different definitions of organic farming, the basic concept is to limit or eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.). In general, this is a good idea – using the natural environment to supply agricultural inputs and more natural methods of controlling pests are net positives when they can be done in a sensible and practical way.
When my wife and I were in our homesteading phase, we utilized basic organic methods in our gardens and with our animals to produce about 75-80% of our own food for our growing family, with a bit to sell or trade on the side. Our advantage, of course, is that our health, livelihoods and lives did not depend on our gardening or husbandry success. If our lettuce crop failed, we could buy lettuce or eat something else, as we live in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth.
Sri Lanka is not a rich nation, but neither is it a strikingly poor nation. The economic situation there has greatly improved since the end of the civil war (2009). However, a large percentage of the population lives on the proceeds of smallholder agricultural.
In 2019, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised in his election campaign “to transition the country’s farmers to organic agriculture over a period of 10 years. Last April, Rajapaksa’s government made good on that promise, imposing a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic.” [ source ]
Apparently, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed to understand the concept of “transitioning” which should be “undergoing or causing to undergo a process or period of transition” or a shift of one state or condition to another. No gentle or gradual transition in Sri Lanka from the decades of modern agricultural methods which had brought about relative prosperity for smallholding farmers, but an abrupt forced shift to new and untried and unfamiliar methods.
Quoting Ted Nordhaus, the executive director of the Breakthrough Institute, and Saloni Shah, a food and agriculture analyst at the Breakthrough Institute:
“The result was brutal and swift. Against claims that organic methods can produce comparable yields to conventional farming, domestic rice production fell 20 percent in just the first six months. Sri Lanka, long self-sufficient in rice production, has been forced to import $450 million worth of rice even as domestic prices for this staple of the national diet surged by around 50 percent. The ban also devastated the nation’s tea crop, its primary export and source of foreign exchange.”
“By November 2021, with tea production falling, the government partially lifted its fertilizer ban on key export crops, including tea, rubber, and coconut. Faced with angry protests, soaring inflation, and the collapse of Sri Lanka’s currency, the government finally suspended the policy for several key crops—including tea, rubber, and coconut—last month, although it continues for some others. The government is also offering $200 million to farmers as direct compensation and an additional $149 million in price subsidies to rice farmers who incurred losses. That hardly made up for the damage and suffering the ban produced. Farmers have widely criticized the payments for being massively insufficient and excluding many farmers, most notably tea producers, who offer one of the main sources of employment in rural Sri Lanka. The drop in tea production alone is estimated to result in economic losses of $425 million.”
“Human costs have been even greater. Prior to the pandemic’s outbreak, the country had proudly achieved upper-middle-income status. Today, half a million people have sunk back into poverty. Soaring inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency have forced Sri Lankans to cut down on food and fuel purchases as prices surge. The country’s economists have called on the government to default on its debt repayments to buy essential supplies for its people.” [ source ]
Nordhaus and Shah call this a “farrago of magical thinking, technocratic hubris, ideological delusion, self-dealing, and sheer shortsightedness”. And they are certainly correct.
The Rest of the World is being set up for an even greater fall, an even greater disaster, by the misguided mandates of governments who have blindly jumped onto the NetZero bandwagon with no thought of where it is headed and where it will take them and their countries. Wildly mandating, paralleling what Sri Lanka did with agriculture, near-time abandonment of long-term successful transportation methods and energy sources and their replacement with the as-yet-unproven Good Idea of all-electric automobiles and all-renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Only after several grid disasters have the most strident advocates finally begun to come around to the indisputable fact that nuclear must be a part of any transition to less polluting energy production.
Already all too evident in Europe and at the gas pumps of North America, rapid shifts away from fossil fuels to renewables leave entire nations at risk of energy blackmail from their enemies. With a border dispute in the old Soviet Union ramping up to a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, energy supplies to Europe have been hugely disrupted. And they find they have closed nuclear power plants and shuttered coal electrical generating plants that have kept the lights on and the occupants of millions of homes heated by abundant Russian natural gas find themselves at risk. The UK had already suicidally ordered its domestic natural gas supply wells to be cemented over forever – which has been narrowly avoided this week by their Prime Minister.
Championed by rabid misanthropic environmental advocacy groups, the United Nations and its many entities like the IPCC, and the European Union, NetZero madness threatens to destroy the prosperity of modern society.
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We see in Sri Lanka’s mis-step with organic farming a cautionary tale for the rest of the world, which is charging blindly ahead with NetZero policies seemingly without even a tiny bit of forethought or understanding what the results will be for everyday people – their citizens — in the real world.
Already, in the United States, people working low paying jobs in grocery stores, mini-marts and dollar stores are finding it hard to pay for the gasoline their cars need to get them to their jobs – spending an extra $25 or more per week just to travel to work. Those same $25 are nothing to the elite who have caused the problem – that’s just the cost of a visit to Starbucks for them which they pay for with their “tap to pay” credit card without even glancing at the total.
Those who know the dangers of NetZero need to speak up and speak out. The war in Ukraine is giving you – us – a break in the cloud cover and lifting the fog that has been preventing the general public from seeing what is happening and where NetZero will lead us.
Thanks for whatever you are doing to help.
and Thanks for Reading.
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This commentary was first published on March 11, 2022 at Wattsupwiththat.com