I have been very interested these past few months in the economic crisis that has come to roost in the financial palaces of America. This is because for years now I have possessed a fundamental disagreement with our economic system.
What does economics have to do with the environment? Everything. I believe the root cause of environmental destruction is military industrial capitalism.
Now that system, after 200 years of plunder, is failing.
Capitalism’s motto is more, more, more. Its job is to grow endlessly. Because all production is based on natural resources, this has meant the nonstop and mostly unregulated destruction of nature. As I heard Bobby Kennedy say at an Ogeechee Riverkeeper fundraiser, we’re liquidating the planet, converting its resources to cash as quickly as we can. Environmental damage is deficit spending. We are not acknowledging a ballooning planetary debt congruent to our national debt.
There are a number of things we can do. We can return ethics to our financial system. We can regulate more and punish polluters and watchdog human and environmental health. We can take back our democracy from corporations (ending campaign contributions, for one thing.) We can make our accounting fair, and figure in the true but hidden costs of our business practices. Maybe we could even come up with another economic system. Sustainability?
Or, easiest and most exciting of all, we can continually remove ourselves from global industrial capitalism.
Let’s talk about what this looks like:
1. Get ourselves out of debt. Figure out how to educate our children at the college level without burying them in debt.
2. Produce and do as much for ourselves and our neighbors as possible. Grow a garden. Get chickens. Learn skills.
3. Buy local. Try not to shop at chain stores. Give money to our friends and not our enemies.
4. Move toward renewable energy. Use less fossil fuel. Bicycle more. Walk.
5. Reduce our desires. Tom Powers, economist at the University of Montana, said 11 percent of what is manufactured meets real needs; 89 percent is wants.
From this moment forward, I will do everything in my power — and my power is great — to see that each of my dollars does the least hurt possible and that through moderation and jurisprudent spending, I slow the destruction of creation.
Ray, an author, lectures nationally on issues of sustainability, wilderness and local economics. She lives in southern Georgia.