As America begins to think about the upcoming 2004 Presidential elections, it is already clear that both major political parties are thinking of promoting increased economic growth (and addition of more jobs) as the central focus of their appeal to voters. Both parties seek to accuse the other of not doing enough to create economic growth. In so doing, they tend to reflect the political strategy that got William Jefferson Clinton elected in one of the most unlikely unseating of an incumbent president in American history (It’s the economy, stupid!).
However, some Americans with ecological consciences are asking: When are the politicians going to wake up and smell the stench of degrading ecosystems and dying species, and say, “It’s the Stupid Economy!”
A modern, high-capacity ocean trawler cannot deplete an ocean of fish, but an economy that drives over consumption can deplete entire fisheries and oceans of edible and non-edible species for long periods of time.
The amount of wealth placed into bank accounts around the world from the exploitation of petroleum into human economies is huge. And yet, with global climate change, wars over increasing scarcity of resources, and the likelihood of increased pressure due to increasing population and consumption even as resources begin to dwindle, all that wealth has seemingly produced no answers, except for military ones. “Buddy, can you spare a bomb?”
The larger the economy of the United States has grown over time, the longer the list of endangered and threatened species has become. Likewise, the bigger the economy, the smaller the percentage of the Federal Budget devoted to wildlife and biodiversity protections tends to be. They say that there is one thing that money cannot buy (poverty) but it appears that wealth does buy ecological impoverishment.
At the same time, as the U.S. economy has grown, so has the disproportionate accumulation of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, causing the average citizen to have to work harder and harder for less and less. Some folks are wondering if the economy might not be plenty large enough, but the distribution of wealth may be disadvantageous to the majority of citizens.
While politicians from mayors to governors to Senators to the President argue for a larger economy, no one ever defines what the optimum size of the national economy should be. With all our advanced computational skills, one would think it might be possible to define an optimal economy — one that would preserve an adequate standard of living for people, while also allowing for simultaneous recovery of all endangered and threatened species, while eliminating waste, conserving energy and natural resources, and most importantly, being sustainable over time. That is the “Smart Economy” no one talks about. We need a “Smart Economy”, not a stupid one!
Is having a Smart Economy too much to ask?
The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.