Local and national economic and management experts and pundits offer suggestions about what we should and shouldn’t do to handle the current economic crisis. Some suggest we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Some suggest we increase off-shore oil exploration while others tell us to reduce our carbon footprint (CO2 gases from burning coal and oil). We’re urged by some to buy local and by others to avoid protectionism by importing. Some recommend that we tighten immigration policies while others urge us to open our doors to innovative and creative immigrants. We must spend money, or save money.
Virtually all advisors seem to assume we must “stimulate growth.”
But stimulating growth seems incompatible with sustainability.
Until and unless we can imagine, perhaps like science fiction writers, what a perfectly sustainable community could look like, it is hard to expect that our efforts to handle this current financial crisis will foster such a goal, and they may inadvertently make it harder to achieve.
Can we imagine a perfectly sustainable community? One that is pleasantly livable for generations, indefinitely? A community that has challenging and well-paying jobs for citizens of all ability levels? Burning no wood, oil, gas or coal whatsoever? With zero net population growth? With affordable housing for persons of all income levels? With affordable if not exotic health care services for all? With affordable food, education, recreation and entertainment of stimulating variety and quality? With clean water and air? With oceans of stable pH levels and climate of stable average temperatures, so ecosystems do not deteriorate?
Until we can imagine such a community, are we likely to create it? If not, we can talk “green,” “recovery,” “fiscal responsibility,” “bigger government,” “reinvented government,” “change,” and “stimulus” until we’re blue in the face, or green in the face, but will our efforts lead to a community in which we and our children and grandchildren will be happy to live?
Stanford economist Paul Romer said “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Let us not waste this crisis on short term goals at the expense of important distant ones. We’ve recently celebrated the 200th birthdays of both Darwin and Lincoln. These men were great because they could see the big picture. Let us also work on a big canvas, with lofty and noble objectives.
PsySR member Bill McConochie is a psychologist in private practice with about 40 years of experience in school, clinical, industrial/organizational and political psychology (in that chronological sequence). He currently focuses primarily on political psychology, conducting research and sharing findings over his website Political Psychology Research and at professional conventions. Bill can be reached at Bill@Politicalpsychologyresearch.com.