It's Not Just The Economy Stupid
By Bill Henderson

08 December, 2008


If there is one thing that everyone agrees upon it is that the deteriorating economy requires attention from government. Where you are on the political spectrum and how the economic downturn is effecting you personally determines what you think government should be doing for Americans. Various types of government stimulus are possible - What should our government do? What's the plan?

But the economy is just one of a multiplying series of crises that each need urgent action from governments. The economy is just our major preoccupation. Overwhelming preoccupation with the need for government action on the economy is clearly interfering with government action on climate change, peak oil, the global food crisis, ecosystem and biodiversity loss, and the deteriorating international rule of law (aggression, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, failed states, etc.).

The proposed stimulus packages to reverse the downward economic spiral may not include urgent action to mitigate any of these other building crises - the end of cheap energy and the need to move to a post carbon economy, for example - and could in fact hasten the spiraling down speed of the biodiversity crisis, for example, as reinflating the consumer driven economy requires more ecosystem destruction to produce stuff.

Government action is needed to halt the downward economic spiral, but the present self-centered, myopic, Church of Business, overwhelming consensus is ignoring these other far more important crises that promise far greater danger to Americans.

Climate change is the most pressing example:

The Arctic is melting; James Hansen and many more climate scientists are trying to tell Americans that climate change is an emergency requiring immediate action NOW. Substantial emission reduction is required now before the ice cap is gone for good and before other latent positive feedbacks are triggered leading to runaway climate change threatening humanities very existence.

Not just slumping sales and markets, lost jobs and bankruptcies, but no economy period, and even no people at all, extinct along with most of the flora and fauna with which we presently share creation.

Government leadership and spending upon renewable energy development and electrification of transport, for example, could provide jobs in building a post carbon economy. Car industry bailouts and government spending on highways and bridges just helps to dig a deeper carbon footprint hole. Retooling of the auto sector can be aided by government in many different ways, with different probabilities of success, and to very different end results. Careful what you ask for.

Government stimulus to halt the economic downturn is presently seen within the conventional wisdom of re-inflating the consumer economy, but as well as protecting and providing jobs, government leadership could open up pathways to a much more sustainable economy; an economy that would be far more resilient to coming shocks and which would not be adding fuel to these other global scale crises which we are presently ignoring.

President elect Obama has pledged strong government action, government stimulus not seen since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago. Let's hope he doesn't send us down a path to a living arrangement with no future.

We need a Green New Deal. Obama has promised to go deep downfield on energy - How far can we go? And in what direction?

Instead of merely trying to prop up and constantly reinflate the economy against the just beginning shocks caused by too big a footprint in a finite world - economic dislocation, resource wars, famine, degraded ecosystems and otherwise deteriorating natural systems including climate, etc. - Does he have a plan to escape the deathtrap of a consumer driven, service sector dominated economy?

"There are many things we do not know about the future. But one thing we do know is that business as usual will not continue for much longer. Massive change is inevitable. Will the change come because we move quickly to restructure the economy or because we fail to act and civilization begins to unravel?" Lester Brown


Green Thoughts


Sustained Yield