The old thinking, as author and thinker Bill McKibben explains in today’s LA Times, goes like this: bigger is always better, growth is good no matter what, and a booming stock market is the ultimate measure of our success.
McKibben illustrates the kind of lopsided priorities that naturally flow when we’re ruled by the bottom line, pointing to a scarcely-reported White House report that said the US would be pumping out almost 20 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than we did in 2000, our contribution to climate change going steadily up—against all warnings to the contrary.
That’s a pretty stunning piece of information—a hundred times more important than, say, the jittery Dow Jones industrial average that garnered a hundred times the attention. How is it even possible? How, faced with the largest crisis humans have yet created for themselves, have we simply continued with business as usual?
New thinking, by contrast, might go something like this: measure what matters. (Have we mentioned that before?)
When you start to do that, the bottom line looks a little different.
In fact, it’s not all about sacrifice and set backs as the old thinking would have you believe. Part of the work to be done to combat global warming is the work of rebuilding what McKibben calls our “broken communities.”
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Here’s a convincing reason to shift attitudes:
…material prosperity has yielded little, if any, increase in humans’ satisfaction…our dissatisfaction is, in fact, linked to economic growth…[With increased wealth] we have far fewer friends nearby; we eat fewer meals with family, friends and neighbors. Our network of social connections has shrunk.
So, we’re bowling alone. We’re driving instead of walking. We’re eating food that’s been shipped around the world instead of supporting local farmers. And, even as so-called standards of living rise, carbon dioxide, unlike many other pollutants, consistently tracks economic growth.
McKibben tells us that one of the best ways to reduce “that endless flow of carbon that’s breaking our planet” is to restablish our communities—drive less, buy local products, support local economies, walk and ride more. The beauty of this approach is that strong communities don’t just help us keep climate change in check. Strong communities can keep people healthier and happier.
Shouldn’t that be the bottom line?
Put it in more concrete terms:
Academics who followed shoppers found that those in farmers markets had 10 times as many conversations as those in supermarkets.
Not a bad way to make a difference.
Bill McKibben will present his latest book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, in Seattle tonight at Town Hall.
McKibben is behind the Step It Up, Congress! campaign, a “national day of climate action,” with over 1000 rallies planned so far in all 50 US states on April 14—Earth Day—calling for an 80 percent reduction in global warming emissions by 2050. Here’s the Seattle website. Here’sPortland, Eugene, Bend. Ten events in Idaho. Seven in Alaska. Look for one in your neck of the woods—or start organizing one.
There’s consequences to everything man does on this planet. The minute Neolithic man stepped out of the cave and began optimize his food supply by farming as opposed to nomadic harvesting and hunting, the world has been changing. Man will always have a seerious impact on his environment. The development of science and its application through technology and distribution through a variety of economic systems have lead to where we are today. And you have to be careful on attacking materialism, it’s brought us good as well as bad. McKibbin’s alluding to slower times, when we could smell the roses and enjoy the conviviality of parlor games and swing rides on the front porch are looking at but a carefully cut slice of the ‘good ‘ol days’ Can Cascadia survive without personal transportation, polluting industries, air travel, modern agriculture, medicines, central heating and sanitation? Surely. All we have to look at is history. We’ve already been there and now we’re smarter with a whole new bag of tools. And if we took that knowledge back to the future, with the comparatively tiny populations back then and started over, I’m sure some things could have turned out differently. I always find it fascinating to look at time lines of man’s existence on the planet and track the various growth milestones and achievements in science, technology, energy, medicine, transportation, finance, government, etc. etc. and look at their inter-relationship. But there’s no going backwards on that timeline. And our cultures and existence are so intertwined with one another both technologically and economically that the ‘materialism’ that McKibbin’s faults most likely contains the ‘seeds’ of our salvation. But how do we separate the ‘seed’ from the ‘chaff’ or the diamonds from the clinkers. It’ll take leadership and vision and a real understanding of science, technology, government and economic engines with application on a global basis; something that we, as a global community are just beginning to realize. We can’t point to ‘trends’ in say wind power, solar power, hybrid cars, organic farming and claim progress let alone solutions. These may be rallying points but I can only look at them as little more than novelties that will be fortunate to secure sustainable niche markets, particularly w/o subsidy. Our present economy and lifestyle are so heavily dependent on massive distributions of nearly commodity from power to transportation to communication, that it’s utterly bizarre to think that one can take the teachings of Foxfire, Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening and achieve a sustainable, health and fulfilling life style for all but a determined and chosen few. How many ‘strong communities’ do you think we could craft along the densely populated I-5 corridor? With their micro-distribution systems and self-sustaining, closed loop service and utility systems, how many could keep the climate system in check while keeping folks healthy and happy. We have to focus, be realistic and keep our eye on the prize and keep our naÃ¯ve biases and judgments in check. But my hat is off to McKibbin and Durning and even Fahey, at least they’re in the fray, fighting the good fight. Ha zah.
Triple Bottom Line
Energy has become one of the most significant concerns in the 21st century. The need for energy has continued to increase and it has become difficult to meet this demand. Coal is poised to be one of the most important sources of energy but it is facing the challenge of environmental impact. To ensure that coal becomes an important source of energy in the world, it is important to put in place a framework for sustainable coal mining. The government should play bigger roles in regulation of coal mining and ensure environmental impact assessment is carried out first. The government should shut down mines if they continuously ignore the law. Fines are not sufficient deterrents for coal mines to supply with safety standards and protect the people and the planet.For more information visit http://www.triplebottomlineapproach.com and http://www.democracyandconflict.com