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What Hath Economics to Do with the Environment?

Having recently taken (and passed, I might add) an Ecological Economics course and in reading a couple of books namely McKibben's Deep Economy and currently Wendell Berry's Another Turn of the Crank has changed my thinking immensely. A few years years ago I wouldn't have made the connection between economics and the environment other than the usual tired arguments about jobs versus saving some particular place or ecosystem. The issue is deeper than that.
What is your view of the global ecosystem? Is it a subset of the economy or is our economy, both local and global, a subset of both kinds of ecosystems? As we move farther and farther away from living and having our being in and on the land we would probably choose the first option. I think, based on science and the Bible, that it is the second one.
Anyway, in thinking about these things nearly incessantly these days, I come across Berry's comments in his essay "Private Property and the Common Wealth" where he says "You cannot save the land apart from the people or the people apart from the land. To save either you must save both"(56).
Enough with the bifurcation, people! To want to develop a localist approach (that is, valuing those things that your community does and should offer--including a respectable level of self-sufficiency) means caring not just for the stands of jack and white pine in the UP (that's Upper Peninsula to the two non-Michigan readers) but for your yard, for the parks and greenspace in your town, the watershed, and so on. It means creating economic opportunity based in the community it is supposed to benefit. Not a colonial economic model as Berry writes elsewhere in the Crank. Not stripping the resources from a place and shipping the goods and the whale's share of the profits elsewhere, be it three counties away or to the East Coast or Taiwan.
We cannot go on pitting creation against livelihoods anymore. We must, MUST find ways to steward the land and provide jobs and, better yet, vocations for people.
Again W. Berry in the same essay:

We must quit thinking of our countryside piecemeal, in terms of separate products or enterprises: tobacco, [He's talking about his home of Kentucky--SM] timber, livestock, vegetables, feed grains, recreation, and so on. We must begin to think of the human use of each of our regions or localities as one economy, both rural and urban, involving all the local products. We must learn to see such local economies as the best and perhaps the only means we have of preserving that system of ecological and cultural connections that is, inescapably, our common wealth.

(Sorry about the blocking here. These are my poor words. I'm still trying to figure out the controls for this blog.) Those who care about environmental degradation must not simply focus on the rainforest or the mountains but also our local economies. And I'm not just talking about the goldfinch population, but what kinds of cultural and economic health is present in your town?
Until we exorcise this spirit of dualism, jobs vs. owls, we will never fully heal nor be
at rest in our homes.


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