Taking the so-called expert to task
Earlier this week, Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner was a guest on public radio’s Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal. Many of us listened in horror as this economics “expert” suggested that because imported flowers have such a huge carbon footprint, listeners should give their mothers PLASTIC FLOWERS for Mother’s Day. Here is a link to the entire interview, but I’ll just single out one of the stupidest things Dubner said:
They’re plastic flowers. And they’re beautiful, right? They do wonderful things with plastic these days. So here’s the thing, we may associate flowers with nature and plastic with the opposite, but is in fact a very simplistic view of how the world actually works.
I just had to respond to that crazy-making radio conversation in which Dubner almost got it right, but then went way, way wrong. I sent an email to Ryssdal’s producer yesterday. Here’s part of what I wrote:
I want to offer my friendly rebuttal to yesterday’s “Freakonomics” segment in which guest Stephen Dubner told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal that listeners should not buy flowers for Mother’s Day but instead give their moms PLASTIC FLOWERS.When I heard the opening lines of the segment, in which Stephen noted that 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the US are imported, my first thought was: “Oh, this is great…Stephen is going to advocate for consumers to support locally-grown, domestic cut flowers.”Instead, my jaw dropped when I listened to him offer the ill-informed suggestion that listeners give their mothers plastic (petroleum-based and certainly NOT sustainable) flowers.. . . there is a healthy, sustainable alternative to imported blooms; options that support the US cut flower industry (including the state of California, which accounts for 75 percent of all domestically-grown flowers – in your own backyard!)I think it’s doing a disservice to your listeners to let someone like Stephen Dubner give them only half of the story. He did not provide your listeners with a realistic, intelligent alternative to imported flowers.
I hope everyone who heard my comments was persuaded to give their Mom real flowers for Mother’s Day – local ones, preferably from a flower farmer in their own backyard.