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Cameron's House of Fun

Fatherhood, politics, education, random thoughts (heavy on the random thoughts) and stuff (always stuff).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Per capita, and why it matters to the environment not at all (mostly)

I had dinner guests over on Saturday, relatives that I love to bits, and we got talking about the Environmental Plan That Wasn't, and at some point my Uncle made the point that on a per capita basis the US was doing better than Canada.

This is a point I've heard before, and I responded better to him (because being polite and reasonable to a relative is a lot easier than to some tighty whitey wearing asshole on the internets) than I ever had online.

The simple reality is that per capita is fine for comparing certain things between disparate population groups, costs of things, out puts of things etc etc, and it's certainly an interesting way to gauge how much pollution (for example) Canadians are putting out individually in comparison with other countries.

But it breaks down quickly when you move away from the academic into the reality: Canada pollutes less than the US. Period. Now, it can be pointed out that we've increased our pollution per capita to show how little progress we've made as citizens and a country to decrease our out put of crap. But in a global sense, in the only sense that matters to the actual environment, less bad stuff comes out of Canada and more bad stuff comes out of the US (and other places as well it must be pointed out - just to head off the people who think that anything that isn't "USA USA USA" is anti-American).

And that, in the end, is all that matters.


At 11:39 a.m., Blogger Leatherhands said...

Cameron, don't we have climate issues here as well? ie, compared to the US, we're cold as shit most of the time, ergo our per capita emissions are destined to be higher...seeing as we're a cutting age industrial nation and all.
BTW, too bad you're not at Chuckers anymore. I completely understand your reasoning, but you were my favourite/wittiest shit-flinger there.
(You have coined some very original and biting phrases.)

At 12:07 p.m., Blogger Cameron Campbell said...

Leatherhands, that's true, but I wonder if that's not offset by their need to run their AC a lot more - my buddy Mike was here a few weeks ago from Florida and, in between wincing due to the cold, he was telling me that the period where his AC is off is shrinking every year.

But I wonder if heating doesn't create more direct output of emissions...

As for Charles' place, it's the shit flinging and the lack of introspection and the slavish knob shining. And yeah, it was fun to be witty but ultimately counter productive.

At 6:06 p.m., Blogger Joe Blow said...

I believe I know that uncle you refer to. I see your point on per capita but will bring up this counterpoint. In order to guage output and reduction one must start from a common denominator of comparison. Considering that the US population and GDP are roughly 10 times our own; comparing straight tonnage output of pollutants paints a different picture than reality. By the same token if we were to compare standards of living in the US and Canada by National GDP, the results would be way out of wack. However if compare this data expressed per capita it makes much more sense.

How else are we to compare unless we start from a common frame of reference?

At 6:39 p.m., Blogger Cameron Campbell said...

So we're in partial agreement, it's fine for comparing apples and oranges.

In the end though, they (and many others) pollute more than us.


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