Oftentimes policies designed to protect the environment involve difficult tradeoffs with economic growth. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we have bad policies in place that encourage people to use space or energy wastefully, and these policies are both bad for the environment and bad for economic growth — waste is bad. When confronted with such policies, politicians have an aggravating tendency to gesture in the direction of local culture suggesting that people in their jurisdictions just happen to have, as quirk, a strong desire to see resources used poorly. Thus via Robert Farley, we get Houston Mayor Bill White explaining why his city has such a low recycling rate:
“We have an independent streak that rebels against mandates or anything that seems trendy or hyped up,” said Mayor Bill White, who favors expanding the city’s recycling efforts. “Houstonians are skeptical of anything that appears to be oversold or exaggerated. But Houstonians can change, and change fast.”
As Farley says, when you read things like “25,000 Houston residents have been waiting as long as 10 years to get recycling bins from the city . . . the city says it cannot afford more bins” you start to wonder if an independent streak and an aversion to hype is really to blame here. Like maybe if the city provided bins to people who ask for bins, then more people would recycle. Or maybe we’re supposed to believe that Houston’s independent streak extends to a desire to have government services provided ineptly.
Photo by Flickr user dnorman used under a Creative Commons license