The Eco-Debate: How Much Do Environmental Issues Matter?

Leslie Garrett by Leslie Garrett | August 20th, 2010 | 3 Comments
topic: Green Living

Some people ask me why I’m so passionate about “environmental issues.” Well, these “environmental issues” I’m so concerned about aren’t just about the environment. In fact, I haven’t thought about them as environmental issues for some time. They’re about everything else that’s inevitably on people’s agenda — economy, health care, politics …

The economics of the environment

It was interesting for me (the way watching a train wreck is interesting) to see so many sustainability initiatives, which were really gaining ground in the past decade, suddenly go off the rails when the economy tanked in 2008.

We can’t afford to worry about the environment, everyone seemed to be the thinking, when the economy is in such bad shape.

What? Since when were the two not intertwined?

I don’t have an MBA, but many of those who do see exactly what I see: a future global economy that must embrace sustainability or cede to those who do. And a past that reveals the way we’ve been going just can’t hold.

I know it isn’t simple. But I also know it’s imperative that we move toward an economy that “floats all boats,” as the saying goes.

Paul Hawken, whose book The Ecology of Commerce was voted No. 1 college text by business professors, put it this way at a University of Portland commencement address: “At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product … We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation.”

Pretty hard to argue with that.

Healthy people, healthy planet

It’s also hard to dispute that the environment is about health care. Yet many view environmentalism as feel-good treehugging and health care as important.

And yet how can we remove the health of a community, of a society, from the health of our planet? If our air is not clean, what does that say for those who breathe it? If our water is dirty or scarce, what does that reveal for those of us who rely on it? If our food is the product of laboratories and technology instead of nature and sweat equity, what will that mean for those of us who consume it? And produce it?

I, for one, refuse to be marginalized by those who prefer to cast environmental issues as something they don’t need to worry about. As something that’s the product of graphs and Earth core samples. Not economics and politics.

Environmentalism encompasses issues that every sentient being should be concerned with and indeed must concern himself with in order to respond to them as part of the mainstream agenda, where we can finally expect positive change.


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    Relationship | August 31st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. I think all environmentalists struggle with this problem. How do we get people to see that doing things environmentally is better in the long run?

    Sure, there may be some transition costs, but in the long run it will be better.

    Do we even have a government agency looking to see how much of the many resources we need we still have left. Wood, metals, fish stocks. What a help that would be to investors if they knew how much of different stuff was left!

    Geoff | September 1st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
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    Blog for YOuth | September 9th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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