Friday, September 5, 2008

TPH Presents: If "Ecology" Were to Replace "Economy" in McCain's Speech

The following is an independent, op-ed piece by Matthew H. Griffin, long-time sounding board and conscience of Hooper's. The opinions expressed in this piece are the author's, and they do not have to be yours. But he certainly wants you to think about them.

And you should. Please read on.

-The Management

Listening to McCain's speech on Thursday night, I repeatedly heard invoked "global economy." What I really long to hear is a politician that starts talking about "global ecology."

A global ecology envisions the benefits of letting the earth lie fallow, of cultivating inefficiencies in the hope that something will germinate because it has the time and positive conditions for growth. Unemployment benefits, state-supported universal access to excellent, affordable health care and education: the global economy that I heard so much about does not allow for such inefficiencies. The global economy holds true that there can be no end to the parade of commodities that ceaselessly stream into our homes and pass out just as quickly. The motto of the global economy is, "Drill, baby, drill."

I long for a politician who can make a convincing case for conservation and for preservation in all its myriad forms. The real candidate for change will formulate the problem thus: unfettered access to profit is resulting in our poisoning! The global economy is causing immeasurable degradation to our bodies, to our planet, and to the delicate web of wildlife about which we know so little and hear, see, and experience increasingly less.

I struggle with the fact that I can't bring this point home to those to whom it matters most. My friends will not hear me equate my father's poisoning and death by cancer with the machine behind, "drill, baby, drill." They will say that's liberal crazy talk.

Who now would stop to consider if his condition has been adversely affected by the lack of migratory birds that pass through Hinsdale, Illinois, because of the toxic sprays used fifty years ago in the campaigns against insects that killed Elm trees? Who would stop to consider if he has been hurt by the increasing indiscernibility between art and marketing. For surely art--which is using up and wasting a lot of paint to quote Monet--is one of those inefficiencies that has to go!

We need inefficiencies and fallow time to let the earth produce wonders that we can only come to appreciate in future generations. Otherwise, our constant demands on the finite resources of the planet will make deficiencies our only legacy.

-Matthew H. Griffin


Concerned Suburbanite said...

So would you be in favor of defict-spending to encourage social progams like Republicans like to do with the military?

And would you favor gov't-sponsored organic initiatives - or tax breaks - to stop the "global economy" inefficiencies to promote the "global ecology" inefficiencies?

How hazardous to you feel natural gas exploration is to our present and future?

Matthew Griffin said...

Dear concerned,

I don't like deficit spending--whether its for guns or organic butter.

I also don't like big government, which is not endemic to either party but rather to irresponsible leadership. Read on for how one young Obama supporter embraces capitalism and ecology in his daily life: alternative fuel tax credits, community-supported agriculture, and community organizing around public resources like the Great Lakes!

Big government can be wasteful but some government sponsored initiatives have the effect of encouraging investment and offsetting previous, ecologically harmful decisions. For example, the alternative fuel tax credit allows farmers to invest in wind power and grow wind as they would a cash crop. Such a tax credit begins to offset our monotonic investment in toxic fossil fuels and menacing nuclear power that past governments have subsidized.

In the United States we have mastered externalizing our costs, which means that the real cost of a commodity is a lot higher than what the consumer pays at point of sale. Food and fuel are prime examples. The cost of gasoline does not--for example--include the cost of rising seas, habitat decimation, climate change, etc. The price of food on the aisles of the supermarket also fails to represent its real costs: the stress on the public health system by uninsured farm workers, unfair labor practices in countries from which we may import food, environment degradation caused by pesticides and water diversion.

Instead of asking the government to sponsor more organic food in grocery stores, I encourage you to leave the supermarket altogether--at least for your veggies. For just a few hundred dollars a season, you can get fresh, organic produce from farm within 100 miles of your home from a community-supported farm. Check out Angelic Organics, outside of Rockford, IL, where I own a share of the crop-yield. Community-supported agriculture is capitalism at its finest. The farmer sets the price, so he makes a profit. You use your dollars to pay for something you value: you can ask the farmer if he pays his interns, provides health insurance to his workers, or whatever else is on your mind! No government intervention necessary.

As for the natural gas question you ask, I refer you to today's (Sept. 7) page 4 article of the Chicago Tribune, "Louisiana losing ground in fight against storms." The Gulf Coast of the United States is home to a great number of oil refineries. Transportation to these refineries has been facilitated by dredging channels, which in turn have destroyed wetlands. The Tribune article notes how Louisiana's wetlands have historically shielded that state's infrastructure from storms, but dredging has destroyed those wetlands. A responsible oil and gas policy (not to mention national defense) might be to protect America's existing refinery infrastructure by restoring nature's protective barrier--the Wetlands. This is homeland security that is ecologically sound, yet we don't hear this argument coming from the "drill baby drill" camp. I'm not in favor of natural gas exploration. Energy giants are masters of externalizing costs--and must be reigned in not given more leash. Here's an example from our own back yard: just last year BP wanted to dump more toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan to increase the capacity at a NW Indiana plant. Am I supposed to drink that water, play in that water, eat fish from that water? BP assumed that the people of the great lakes states would pay the price to cover its expansion. They were wrong. We protested.

Thank you for the great questions.