Sen on Poverty, Energy, and the Environment


I would like to comment on two quite different, but ultimately related, areas of neglected environmental analyses that demand immediate attention. The first is the general problem of not having anything like an overall normative framework, involving ethics as well as science, that could serve as the basis of debates and discussions on policy recommendations. Despite the ubiquity and the reach of environmental dangers, a general normative framework for the evaluation of these dangers has yet to emerge. The second is a much more specific problem: the failure to develop a framework for assessing the comparative costs of different sources of energy (from fossil fuels and nuclear power to solar and renewable energy), inclusive of the externalities involved, which can take many different forms.

Amartya Sen (Harvard) has a long and wide-ranging article in the New Republic discussing issues related to the environment, energy, and poverty.

UPDATE: In the comments, dmf points us to a response by Wes Alwan at The Partially Examined Life, describing Sen’s piece as “a lengthy and repetitious series of platitudes… [that] doesn’t possess any substantive merits or demerits. What interests me is how terrible this article is as an attempt by an intellectual to communicate with the general public.”

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