Thursday, February 20, 2014

Charles Kenny's "The Upside of Down"

Charles Kenny is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Good for the West, and reported the following:
The Upside of Down is mainly about tackling all of the bad reasons for America fearing growth in emerging markets –that they’re going to take our jobs, that the US will lose out when it is no longer the largest economy, that the relative success of the rest of the world is because of something we’ve done wrong. Page 99 of the book is in the middle of a chapter about the one comparatively legitimate reason countries in the West has to fear economic progress in the Rest: that if they grow like we do, the planet won’t be able to bear the environmental cost. The page is tackling the idea that growing global wealth will lead to excess demand for limited resources.

Page 99 argues that growing and increasingly wealthy global populations will not lead to mass starvation in the future. It quotes Amartya Sen that famines are “so easy to prevent that it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all,” notes that recent Food and Agriculture Organization estimates suggest hunger dropped during the recent food price spikes, and reports that one-third of food production is simply wasted worldwide—spoiled before it reaches consumers or thrown away after it does. That all suggests significant slack in the global food system. Again, a growing proportion of crops are used to feed the animals that end up as special-sauced patties between sesame seed buns. If those crops were eaten directly, the global food challenge would be over today.

The chapter goes on to discuss the more significant risk of over-consumption, and in particular the risk of carbon emissions and climate change. It suggests that if we stay on our present course, Atlanta in the summer will have all the charm of an easy-bake oven. But even here, the book suggests some hope: not least, China, India and other emerging markets are already responding to climate change with policies that favor renewable energy. The chapter suggests that the costs of moving to a low-carbon global economy are considerably less than the benefits, and that with even limited leadership from the West, the world can enjoy continued global economic growth that leads to a sustainable future for the planet. And the book goes on to explain the huge benefits the US and Europe could enjoy from such a scenario.
Visit Charles Kenny's blog and learn about his six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue