Why The Economic Downturn Is Good For The Environment

In conversation with friends recently I’ve been saying that the economic downturn could be the best thing that has happened for the chance to stop the destruction of the environment.

I want to take a moment to say that there is a tremendous danger in arguing that the reason to stop polluting the Earth is to prevent the kinds of catastrophe that global warming is likely to bring about. Of course that is a very potent reason.

But let us suppose that someone came up with a sky-scrubber that sat ten miles up in the atmosphere and pulled all the hydrocarbons and excess CO2 out of the system. Let us suppose it was up there, chugging away and cleaning up the mess. Would that be a reason to treat the Earth like a toilet and keep on pumping rubbish into it?

No it wouldn’t.

Treating The Earth With Respect

Treating the Earth with respect requires no more reason than a tree needs a reason to be there and to go on growing.

Having got that out of the way, I have been arguing that the economic downturn (a phrase I prefer to ‘going off a cliff’) presents the best opportunity we could hope for in order that responsible government would have the power to force big business to clean up its act.

And big business is more likely to be in a frame of mind to listen, quite apart from being weak and having to listen.

Psychologically, when you are running at 100 miles per hour, making money and the world is full of smiles, you are least likely to listen to that still small voice inside telling you that you are destroying everything around you.

But when things turn bad, you are more likely to listen.

Which brings me to the report by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. President Obama is said to have required the automakers to build a ‘company of the future’ with clean and energy-efficient vehicles as a condition of giving financial aid.

The political administration would have had a much harder time bringing this about if everything business was doing well.

And this carries into every other field where government is strong. This decade could be just what is needed for the tipping point to tip the right way.