EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey
are we to make of the world financial crisis? Some analysts are
comparing it to the Crash of 1929, which triggered The Great Depression
of the 1930s. Almost without exception, they assume it to be a bad
thing. Pension funds are evaporating into thin air, people are losing
their jobs and businesses are failing. If we picture the economy
as a speeding vehicle carrying people to growth and prosperity,
and the vehicle suddenly goes into a ditch, then, yes, clearly its
a bad thing.
But what if the vehicle was accelerating down a road that led over
a cliff? Might we not say, Wow! That was a close one,
and be amazed that fortune should smile on us? The metaphor is not
far-fetched, for our economy is rushing to disaster of an ecological
kind and when Natures ecosystems collapse, we all collapse.
Our economy is a bundle of activities through which we take Natures
resources, add intelligence and use them to add comfort and pleasure
to our lives. It is like a bubble that sucks in the real world of
trees, fish, animals, plants, minerals, fossil fuels, land, water
and topsoil and rolls on regardless, without accounting for what
it leaves behind. The bubble can roll right over a beautiful ancient
forest and grow fat on its fibre, declaring it a good thing
in its annual accounts.
If the trees do not speak or explain their value in terms the bubble
can understand, it is as if they have no existence. Humans who love
the trees for what they are may organize to protect them, and sometimes
they may win, causing parks and wilderness areas to be created,
but apart from that the bubble rolls on consuming everything it
And if the bubble discovers an amazing source of energy called fossil
fuels, which allows it to move faster and more furiously, is this
not a good thing? And if a group of people begins warning that fossil
fuels leave a dangerous residue in the sky that traps the suns
heat and if this is allowed to continue that all human existence
will grind to a halt, will this not cause the drivers of the bubble
to ask if they should stop? No for they prefer voices that
tell them not to worry, that the fears are probably a scam dreamed
up by people who never liked the bubble anyway.
And if the drivers of the bubble are told that they really must
stop because they are chewing up so much of Nature that if everyone
lived the way people do in Vancouver, we would need three more entire
planets to support us, would that cause the bubble to pause, and
stop? No, for the bubble is guided by its own internal messages
of growth, profit and gain and all other messages are simply programmed
When this bubble crashes, should we not then give thanks for the
blessings of a fortunate accident? The mortgage funds tumble over
the derivatives and hedge funds and the bubbles financial
hyperdrive lands on its knees while the regulators, who were supposed
to prevent such a crash, were reciting their mantras in the Temple
of Economic Growth, chanting, Do not regulate. Let the
market decide. The market knows best.
This crash, then, while it is cruel and troubling for individuals
and their families, may be the best thing that could have happened
to our civilization. It gives us a chance to step out of the bubble
and turn in a new direction towards ecological sustainability, to
change the economys ruling principles so that Nature is never
again left out of the picture.
It gives us a chance to invest the billions that will flow in economic
stimulus packages in measures that will unhook our dependency on
fossil fuels; make our homes and buildings more efficient; develop
transit, high-speed trains, cycle routes and renewable energy; and
restore our forests, grasslands and farmlands. It gives us a chance
to breathe and move towards a different future.
Guy Dauncey is the author of nine books, including After
the Crash: The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy. He is president
of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.