Posted in Current Events, Issues

Secret Fear

I have been an environmentalist for a long time. I say that most advisedly, since I own an internal combustion automobile, and I live in the US of A, and at least twice this year I have left the grocery store with the kind of bag that is generally banned in places like Europe and San Francisco.

My secret fear is that the current problem with the economy is that the the jig is up. By that I mean that we have tapped out the environment, and the economy will never fully recover.


1. There is a direct, if intricate, relationship between the environment and the ability of businesses to make money.

2. The environment has its own regenerative capacity, but aggressive human activity has pushed it over the line (earth = pair of old knees).

3. Scientists predict environmental changes, but cannot agree on them. Freeman Dyson not withstanding, it is clear that the climate is changing more rapidly than it has in the past. I’ve recommended that you go to Montana before (before it’s too late, that is)—in one of the earliest posts on this blather. Some photos by The Scout here.

Change is constant. Dealing with change is difficult. Some things change for the better, some for the worse. Sometimes we think something is changing for the worse, but it actually changing for the better.

If the current economic slowdown catastrophe results in our treating the environment like our pas-de-deux partner rather than our ho, that’s a change for the better.

The economy, the environment – such gigantic problems. No wonder infotainment is a growth industry. If you are going to face the news of the day, wouldn’t you rather have Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s writers have a go at it first and drag it through their humor mill?

I want to do the things I can do to be a responsible consumer, to be at least a fair-to-middling environmentalist. Is it really going to make a difference if I take the bus once or twice a week? Give up my car completely? Is it going to make any difference whether I recycle the church bulletins or not?

I want and need to believe that even small things will make a difference. I don’t want to be holier-than-thou about them. I need encouragement to do those things that seem infinitesimal in the broader context, because if I continue to do them consistently and repeatedly, it will make a (teeny-tiny) difference. And if you do some of the three R’s too, our cumulative effort will make a (slightly less small) difference. We need more emphasis on reduce and reuse. Perhaps all these things will work together to give the earth longevity (3 R’s for earth = knee reconstruction surgery?).

How can we use the current economic crisis to build the future economy on a model that sustains the earth’s resources? Do humans even have the capacity to do this?

In the meantime, I’ll be the one who carries a glass container for her restaurant leftovers. Something is better than nothing. The acknowledged illusion of control appeals to me more than the despair that comes from resigning myself to being a pawn of forces beyond my control. Call it my one last middle class luxury.