Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bridges From Profit

Capitalism as we know it today encompasses the core economic concept of private employers hiring workers to produce products and services that the employers own and then sell with the intention of making a profit.  But it also includes competitive markets, the price mechanism, the modern corporation as its principle institution, the consumer society and the materialistic values that sustain it, and the administrative state activity promoting economic strength and growth for a variety of reasons.  

Inherent in the dynamics of capitalism is a  powerful drive to earn profits, invest them, innovate, and thus grow the economy, typically at exponential rates, with the result that the capitalist era has in fact been characterized by a remarkable exponential expansion of the world economy.  (…).

These features of capitalism, as they are constituted today, work together to produce an economic and political reality that is highly destructive to the environment.   

The excerpt from James Gustave Speth book, THE BRIDGE AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD,  has been instrumental in helping me to understand the frustration I have had in trying to protect our environment through environmental regulations.  The root of this frustration comes from the reality that no matter how well the regulated community complies with environmental regulations, economic growth eventually results in more and more pollution being dumped into our ecosystems.  As long as the profit motive and materialism dominate us, we pretty much seem doomed.  Most days lately, this domination makes it tough to be motivated to do my work.

Once in a while though, I receive some hope, that not everyone has succumbed to these drives of destruction.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with a woman about environmental air regulations that affect the auto body shop her husband and son operate.  I informed her that based on their current paint usage; they would not need to get a permit to cover their air pollutant emissions.  I advised her that if they planned to increase business in the coming years and therefore use more paint, that they would likely need to get a permit.  The woman said she did not think that that would be an issue, because their goal in operating the business was not to make more money, but rather to simply do enough business to make a living.  

It is that attitude of working to live that gives me hope that we can find a better way to do business that doesn’t have to result in the destruction of our environment – it is the prophets like this woman, who give me hope that there is more to motivating people then simple profit.   

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