It’s the Economy, Stupid! Not Entirely

90% of the world’s goods are carried by sea and world trade is increasing all the time. Photograph: Macduff Everton/Corbis

“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.

3 thoughts on “It’s the Economy, Stupid! Not Entirely”

  1. Shipping may produce twice as much CO2 than airlines, but I think it is inappropriate to look at this way. Ships have way more room for cargo and one should think in terms of efficiency – how much CO2 is emitted per each cargo unit. I’m sure that ships will be a clear winner!

  2. Janel:
    Absolutely. A slow down in the economy, due to a decrease in consumption, will have a positive effect on the environment.

    Another way a person can have a positive impact on the environment – Retire. By retiring, you will reduce your consumption, of earth’s resources. I have developed a “Green” approach to retirement planning. One that allows people to retire earlier and with less savings – by practicing conservation.

    I came up with the idea while I was trying to save monkeys in Costa Rica, from becoming extinct as their habitat was being bulldozed, to create retirement homes for Americans.

    It’s worth checking out.


  3. Noelle dEstries

    Is there any difference between online shopping opposed to say going to the mall (if you had to buy an item) in terms of the environment?

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