Sunday, January 24, 2010

Economics and Ethics

"For an ethic is not an ethic, and a value not a value, without some sacrifice for it, something given up, something not taken, something not gained, . We do it in exchange for a greater good, for something worth more than just money and power and position." - Paul Hawken, Ecology of Commerce.

There is a line in sustainability where people rush like mad to reach then they spot cold in their tracks, cold in their hearts. This line is a master of men and has many names: breakeven point, point of diminishing returns, equilibrium point, cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Money makes a poor master and makes for a poorer environment.

The line ... she is imaginary. Those that cross it find themselves walking through a new world of ethics-based decisions. When we sell environmentalism on an economic argument, that is no great sale for it is no accomplishment to entice people to make money by avoiding expenses or waste. It allows us to bypass the ethics conversation, the conversation that is awkward but necessary to sustain the human species.

We do many thing in our lives that have no monetary motivation and in fact, actually costs us money. I shower daily though it is an expense; the intangible hygiene seems worth it. I do not sell my children into slavery though that would be an economically justified action. Ethics are not pesky, they are necessary for all that is good. It is time to expand that thought process to the larger decisions about the environment that our world faces..or more accurately too often neglects to face.

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