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A New Day, A New Crisis

Frank Atkins

It seems each new day brings a fresh new crisis. These take the form of problems that the progressives believe must be dealt with, or the consequences will be extremely dire. Recently it was plastic straws. Apparently, plastic harms wildlife and ecosystems. It is interesting to me that nobody asks the questions of how plastic straws get into wildlife habitats and ecosystems. Perhaps instead of banning plastic straws, we should educate people on how to reuse and/or properly dispose of plastic straws.

The left wing is at the top of their marketing game when they can tie a new crisis to an existing crisis. The latest hot-button issue to do this is food waste. The Suzuki Foundation jumped all over this one, tying food waste to global warming. On their web page, they declared, “Besides being a waste of money, time and energy, unused food that ends up in landfills is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.” My goodness, for a long period of time the Suzuki Foundation has been telling us that the Alberta oilsands were the main culprit. Further, most communities in Canada now have separate garbage pickups for left-over food, so I do not see how a lot of this food ends up in landfills. Clearly, thinking a problem through to the end is not a strong point of the Suzuki Foundation.

In a similar sort of crisis marketing game, in a recent Policy Options article – Solving Canada’s Food Waste Problem – Tammara Soma ties food waste to food insecurity. You have to read this article carefully, as Ms. Soma simply states, “Another shocking statistic is that an estimated four million Canadians live in food insecure households,” without actually offering any causality. However, adding this clearly implies that somehow food waste is tied to food insecurity.

Now, let me state that I am all for reducing pollution of all sorts, and as an economist, I would say that waste of any sort may be inefficient. However, the solutions to these problems are complex, and there is a tendency to seek simple quick solutions, as these problems are always deemed to be a crisis. The problem is that left-wing approaches to potential solutions inevitably degenerate into gobbledygook that always involves more government intervention in the economy.

Ms. Soma, to her credit, actually states that there are no simple solutions to the problem of food waste. However, she then goes on to state, “We need to convert our paradigm of wastefulness into a paradigm that is based on the principles of the circular economy.” Now to an economist this is an odd statement. For those of you who have suffered through a first-year macroeconomics course, you may remember the dreaded circular economy diagram, which describes how a free market economy is supposed to work. Perhaps Ms. Soma is suggesting that there are free market solutions to this food-waste problem. I am all for that.

I eagerly await the next crisis de jour.

Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.