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Economists team up to ‘shame’ society into cleaning up ‘River from Hell’

A new movement spearheaded by economists is afoot in a novel attempt to clean up Jalisco’s Rio Santiago, widely considered the most polluted river in Mexico.

pg8aOver the years there have been numerous cleanup campaigns launched by a variety of groups (the most recent one by the current Jalisco government), but in the end the river remains toxic and the people who live alongside it continue to pay the price. They breathe the aerosols generated by the moving water and they get sick, with incidences of cancer and kidney disease several times higher than elsewhere in Mexico.

So how is it that economists have now taken up the challenge?  I put the question to Salvador Peniche of the University of Guadalajara’s Center for Economic Sciences, who has teamed up with his colleagues in the International Society of Ecological Economics to issue a clarion call to governments, businesses and the public at large.

“We call this shame economics,” he told me. “Basically, we want to demonstrate with satellite maps and with local sensors the deplorable state of the river basin and how it’s affecting people’s health. Then we want to make this public and we want to calculate the cost of it all. That’s what shame economics is: the cost of the services we are not getting; the cost of the harm that is being done to nature; the cost of so many people losing their kidneys; the cost of conjunctivitis; the cost of cancer.”

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