Two-bit Guru | Environment vs Economy | Black and white photo of pine trees.

No doubt that sustainability is a good idea blossoming these days, and not any too soon. More and more of us are becoming aware of the need to make peace with the earth, to stop our polluting ways, maybe even to stop bashing each other over the head, literally and figuratively, to have our way. As with every coin, there’s another side. I’m talking environment vs economy.

When I decided to stop blowing my nose in a tissue and use a good old-fashioned hanky, I didn’t expect to be given an award for doing the right thing, didn’t expect to get praise over it, and that was a good thing because I didn’t get any. I didn’t do it as a demonstration. I did it as a small gesture of awareness that wasting trees to blow my nose isn’t a sensible exchange. So much for the environment, how about the economy?

A relative recently lost his job because the paper mill where he worked shut down. I don’t think it was because the owners decided they’d made enough money and could just as well quit. I think it’s because a lot of culprits like me are blowing their noses elsewhere. My relative will be okay. He and his wife own rental property and he’s not that many years from retirement. Some of his coworkers aren’t faring quite as well.

All of which brings up the awkward position of being damned if we do and damned if we don’t. I wish life had been designed minus dilemmas.

If we go beyond tissues and move into any other field you can imagine, we’re going to find the same kind of predicaments. Any job that’s associated with making products is also associated with using up resources, unless it makes everything out of junk. We take resources out of the ground, make them into things, or rather get someone in a third world country to make them into things, ship the things to the good old USA, where we buy the things, cheap, and eventually or not so eventually, toss them into the landfill. And go buy more products. This ain’t the cycle mother nature intended.

Recycling is better than nothing, but the majority of recyclables don’t get recycled and to do anything with them takes another resource, energy, and the products we get from recycling are inferior to the ones made with fresh materials. Ouch.

Added on top of this growing trash pile is the concept that we must have constant economic growth, an ever-improving standard of living, more of this and more of that and more of what we haven’t even thought about yet. With this model, we have to keep digging up resources faster, and faster, and faster, and using up energy faster, and faster, and faster, to assure that we accumulate more and more and more dollars which are becoming more and more worthless, and on and on. Oh, dear.

Understand that I’m not on a holier-than thou-mountaintop hurling judgments down on the rest of you. I’m part of this system, too. We all are. Can we can find a way to have comfortable lives without destroying the earth in the process?

Certainly there must be an economic system that would work for the planet and for all the beings living on it. I’ve got some ideas about this, but they’re not ready to come out of the oven yet because they’re half-baked.

For now, I’ll go on using a hanky, remaining aware of sustainability, and also remaining aware that someone is likely out of work because of where I’m blowing my nose.