Peter, Fiona et al
This is an economic argument generally referred to as internalising an
externality. Through non-price transfers such as pollution drifting on the
wind, plastic bags floating in the sea, the creation of intractable waste,
etc, some costs (or in some cases benefits) of a product can be imposed on
society in general rather than the producers (or consumers) of the products
that create the costs. These are known as external costs, and internalising
these involves making only the direct beneficiaries pay by compensating the
victims. The reverse is also true, where (for example) non RAOU or BOCA
members are allowed to use club funded bird hides. That is, the benefits of
the bird hide are allowed to go to those who haven't paid for them.
Internalising this externality would involve charging non-members for use.
Two points come to mind:
First, I think the problem is, as Fiona has already pointed out, that as
participants in a modern society, we all contribute to the production of
toxic waste (or pollution) to some extent, be it by driving cars (or indeed
taking the public bus), drinking water out of plastic bottles, going to the
hospital, turning on a light, using a computer or reading the newspaper.
Second, finding to what extent one person or another is responsible for the
production of different levels of waste, apart from a few stand out
examples, is a very difficult task, and one that is likely to be more costly
than it's worth. (It becomes what's also known as "analysis paralysis".)
So I think that it is reasonable that the taxpayer should pick up the tab
for disposal, probably along with some additional taxes imposed on
especially toxic products or processes. My personal belief is that we do
not pay enough taxes in Victoria (or Australia) so public benefit programs
don't get funded. Governments of both sides sell themselves to the
electorate as being "fiscally responsible" by cutting taxes, and it's become
an auction cycle that they can't get out of.
The argument of "I don't care what happens as long as I don't have to pay
for it" perpetuates this and is dangerously close to "I don't care where
they put it as long as it's not near me". It's another manifestation of our
"community" (which is a group of people who care for eachother) breaking
down into an "economy" (which is a group of people who care only for
The question is what we should do with it, not how we should pay for its
By the way, does anyone remember what happened to the option which was
discussed a few years back of disposing of toxic waste using a plasma torch?
This reduces the intractable waste to its component atoms, and there's
currently (I think) a plant operating in Laverton in Victoria which destroys
tonnes of CFCs and other halogens every day. From vague memory the plant
was to be in Wangaratta or Wodonga or somewhere around there and it was
rejected because the task of carrying the waste that far was then - clearly
not now - considered too risky.
PS sorry, I didn't mean to rant!
Sent: Tuesday, 5 October 2004 7:00 PM
To: Bill Stent
Cc: ; Fiona Murdoch
Subject: Mallee Emu-wren - Rally in Melbourne
An alternative would be to make those responsible for creating the toxic
waste, pay for the development of finding ways to process/treat/and reuse
toxic waste so that its not a burden on the environment and a landmine for
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