“We must restore confidence to the economy, to consumers and to the markets,” declared The House Democratic Leadership on Friday.
Their solution? Tax rebates and relief, echoing George Bush and probably every other economic analyst. The Federal Reserve has been cutting interest rates for the past six months to achieve the same goal; to entice people to Buy! Buy! Buy!
Not only will this take money away from important public services, but increasing consumption has dire negative impacts. The process of extracting resources, manufacturing products, consuming them, and disposing of them is the very culprit of environmental degradation. And guess what? This consumption will ultimately take us down as well.
In an article entitled 10 Ways Recession Can Help the Environment the author writes:
Although air travel gets more press, shipping produces twice as much CO2 than airlines. In addition, ships use the lowest grade of oil available and are known to flush their tanks out at sea causing regular oil slicks. A reduction in shipping due to a decreased consumer demand will lead to less CO2 emissions and lower pollution of the seas.
Sure, buying those diamond earrings or that brand new sweater is going to “help the economy” and create jobs, but to what end? We need to stop buying things we don’t need, especially when many people don’t even have enough to eat.
We cannot continue to depend upon increasing public consumption to ensure a healthy economy. We need to make a sharp turn from past economic policies. One way to do this is to price products based on their true costs.
For instance, producing a can of soda currently does not take into account the costs of cleaning the waterways that have been polluted, or the costs of caring for those who are adversely affected by the air pollution it creates. If these externalities were taken into account, the price of the can would be much higher. So, companies would have some incentive to reduce their ecological footprint, or, polluting goods would cost more and be bought less. As a result, those who damage the environment would pay, and taxes would not have to be used to fix the problems, thereby reducing money paid to the government.
Also, making economic decisions with the well being of the environment in mind does not have to cost more. In fact, there are many businesses that are utilizing new technologies to improve their energy efficiency, decreasing their costs and helping the environment. Something called the E2 solution path expounds upon this idea that the environment and economy can work hand in hand.
Until we realize that some restructuring of our economy needs to take place, there are some things you can do to minimize your own footprint. Buy used goods, and those goods you need to buy new, be sure they have the least amount of packaging. Buy organic and reduce the amount of meat you consume. Be aware that each dollar you spend, you are voting for or against a positive future.