Sunday, March 9, 2008
When British economist Nicholas Stern released The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in October 2006, he convinced a whole lot of movers and shakers that the significant investment required in the short-term to retool global production in ways that would slow and then reverse global warming – 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) per year – was a great bargain compared to the degree to which the global economy would likely shrink in the not-too-distant future (the long-term) from the effects of ignoring climate change and its effects – a projected 20% reduction in annual GDP, worldwide.
Pay a penny more per dollar now, or see that dollar earned down the road shrink to 80 cents. Pay now, or boy oh boy will we pay later. The Stern Review is 700 pages of support for the position held by many that the there’s no time like the present to realign humans’ relationship with resources and with the planet that is our only home.
This is one part of the argument I use (and win) with myself for spending more to purchase organic milk and local produce, environmentally friendly products for my home, even clothing from organic fibers and sweatshop-free manufacturing when I can manage it: the additional cost now is a small investment in a healthier home and world, and it’s a modest contribution by my family – modest even when my wallet’s feeling pinched. Modest, because it is so easy for me to imagine the alternative as immeasurably more costly.
The other argument I use is that that extra penny is the expression of my power to be a change agent. The only way those higher prices are ever going to come down is if the alternative market grows, and I want to be a part of bringing that to be. It’s working – many of the mainstream producers, the big corporate players, are going green now and making products that cause less harm in their production and their use. And when legislators (please remind them every chance you get that they work for us) finally compel producers to factor in the true costs of environmental impacts of production and transportation, those harmful products that seem so ‘cheap’ now no longer will be. It will be the healthful, safe products that make sense, not just environmentally but economically as well. Be a part of that shift. Stop the destruction; employ saner alternatives; shift the consciousness.
So in a tight week, I’ll choose to buy the organic milk for twice the price of milk from the cow that’s fed heaven-knows-what, and find the extra pennies or dollars by dropping another item from my list, or taking my lunch in to work from home, or whatever way of economizing works just then. And I’ll buy higher-priced produce from a local organic farm stand, where I actually know the people who grow the food, because I know that the price of the ‘cheap’ romaine lettuce from California does not reflect the true cost of the truck trip across the country, or the petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides it was grown with, nor the nasty long-term effects of the runoff from those distant farm fields.
It’s that important – we must spend the money to change the ways things we do things now, so we can prevent terrible future costs to ourselves, to our descendants, to us all. We can also find ways to use saner alternatives that don’t cost more. Buy by bulk with a local food cooperative (and meet kindred spirits while you’re at it). Try growing a few rows of your own veggies, nourished by compost from your own food scraps. Replace harmful conventional cleansers or pricier eco-cleaners with the five miracle substances earlier generations relied upon: baking soda, borax, lemon, salt and white vinegar (see Michael de Jong’s Clean: the Humble Art of Zen Cleansing). Maybe the price of these includes some time and effort, but the reduced long-term cost is surely worth it.
Keep at it. Find the ways that work for you. Believe in the importance of your choices, your individual actions. These choices, these actions are our power, our hope, our contribution, our gift to our mother Earth and to our children.
Next time: A look at the costs of energy efficiency.
*Note: Check out Sara's last piece "Infinite Impact and the Consumer Effect" exposing the ultimate impact of consumer spending
Sara Gordon is the founder of Greener Days, a green coaching and buying service assisting businesses and homeowners with reduction of ecological footprints. Sara is a LEED® Accredited Professional through the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program. She is also one of 1,000 North American Climate Ambassadors of The Climate Project and trained with Al Gore, in a team of educators and scientists, to educate citizens on environmentalism. For more information on Greener Days go to www.greenerdays.net
*Note: This is an archive feature post - original post was on December 24, 2007.