Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] 60 Mins

Kate Parker Adams kate@dnki.net
Sun, 17 Nov 2002 14:33:01 -0500

At 10:59 AM 11/17/02 -0800, Jim Macdonald wrote:
>His argument is basically that the money is better spent on other risks 
>that we have
>more knowledge of, and so it's not so much, I think he would say, that he's a
>reductionist about the precautionary principle, so much as he thinks there 
>are other
>more pressing risks for which the evidence is more clearly known.

Ahhh, crass reductionism in a fashionably palatable social package.  Gotta 
love it.

Its such an appealing argument this "now lets solve the current problems" 
business.  So appealing that even Voodoo Risk Assessment Guru John Graham 
and his bastard stepchild Ropeik are pumping it into every corner they can, 
the topic depending on who is currently funding them to study something 
into controlled submission (Ropeik's "antibiotic resistance is a much 
bigger problem than pesticides and kids" in an article not remotely about 
pesticides is one example of this ... never mind that the corporately 
funded risk assessment machine was in high gear to tell us not to worry 
about profligate antibiotic use in agriculture just a couple of years ago 

Problem number one is that the two approaches are not mutually 
exclusive.  You can address current problems and ward off future problems 
as well because prevention is very inexpensive by comparison.  Problem 
number two with this approach is that anyone with any knowledge of 
exponentiation or the common wisdom of our elders will know that "a stitch 
in time saves nine".

Uh-oh.  One stitch given what we know about a small rip is much less 
resource intensive than nine stitches in a big gash.  And the restoration 
effort that prevents the big scar from showing will employ even more people 
and resources. There we precautionists go ruining the economy again!

But at least we know that our beds our burning ...