Posts Tagged ‘external costs’

I was remembering a statement made once by one of my teachers in social work grad school, something to the effect that we are all a product of our culture. What is it about the American culture that makes it so hard for me to lead a green lifestyle? There are the obvious culprits: advertising, easy access to credit, merchandising, convenience, . . . But what about the more insidious factors, all the subtle messages that condone consumerism, and go contrary to the three Rs of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle? Listening to NPR business hour the other day, I was struck by the journalist’s excitement as he mentioned ‘Consumer Spending is Up’, as if it was a good thing. Of course, we live in a capitalist economy, that depends in large part on consumer spending for its well-being. What is missing though, is the other half of the story. This is the story I heard from Bobby Kennedy Jr., during one of his brilliant speeches on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance. Bobby’s take is that we ought to have a different kind of accounting, one that takes into account the external costs imposed upon our environment, as a result of our capitalist endeavors. If there was another economic indicator, that measured how well we are doing in terms of our carbon emissions, this factor could then be used to adjust our overall economic index. I, as a citizen would get the message, and would be more inclined to think twice before buying yet one more thing. What is needed is a paradigm shift, that reflects the new priorities for the 21st century.

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