How the economic downturn is good for the environmental movement.

While listening to the Planet Money podcast, I learned that there’s very few places in the world that are unaffected by the ongoing economic crisis.

Ecologically minded folks should welcome this as a Good Thing.

Just to be clear, that’s my concept, not theirs. And I’m not exactly saying that our financial crisis is worth it, or necessary. But it’s here – and we’d better get what understanding we can out of it… especially before the next big crisis – an environmental one – hits us.

Think about it. The two biggest problems that the environmental movement has had were:

  1. Convincing people that the problems were real
  2. Convincing people that the problems were global, and required a global solution.

The global economic crisis has explicitly and obviously shown that the well-being of one person is tied to the well-being of another half the world away. It has clearly shown that our fates are not separate, but that there are very real (and sometimes unexpected) connections between us all.
That we must all hang together, or hang separately.

In some ways, the economic crisis is more real. It has happened more quickly, it has had a very measurable and dramatic impact on people’s lives. Yet… it is just economics. It’s all fiat money, just a consensual illusion of worth. Yet the shopping patterns of someone in Middle America has a very real and measurable impact on the lives of people living in Asia.

The environment, on the other hand, gives less than a rat’s ass whether or not we think it’s worth anything. It will continue, and change – whether it’s good for our species or not. But that change is slow, and debatable. It’s sometimes difficult to imagine the effect that a person in Middle America has on a person living in Asia.

I wish that the global economic crisis were not here. But since it is, let us use it for as much good as possible.

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