Tonight on Smackdown: Nature v. Business

Who will emerge the reigning champ?

I realize that most of my posts so far come off quite liberal, and although that is the direction in which I tend to lean, on many issues I’m pretty stumped.

Like business and nature, for example. I love the environment, and I’ve been pretty clear on that, but business is important, too. We need a strong economy as a crucial keystone for just about everything else. If we want to end poverty, we need a good economy. If we want to keep jobs in the U.S., we need a good economy. If we want to help fight AIDS in Africa, well, we need a good economy. Everything we do depends on our revenues. Even nature depends on it! Keeping our environment safe is not a cheap cause. We need money to fund alternative fuel research, cleaning our lakes, oceans, and rivers, and the saving of endangered species It all costs something. However, the loss of a healthy ecosystem would be hundreds of times more costly than anything we can ever imagine. Food, wood, cotton, steel, makeup, gym shoes, baseball mitts, everything from A-Z depends on nature….and on business.

Understandably so, we face quite the dilemma: Where do our priorities lie? In the thing that governs our very livelihood, or… the other thing that governs our very livelihood?

In a really neat series of articles that the Washington Post did on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency (June 27, 2007), an incident of nature v. business was cited. While farmers faced droughts in Oregon, they were prohibited from irrigation in 2004/2005 because of the trauma it would cause to two types of threatened fish in the area. Due to VP Cheney’s work, the law was changed, and farmers were allowed to irrigate. Following the reversal of this law, tens of thousands of fish were found dead along the banks of the Klamath River.

Business won.
But at what expense?

Whether it is because of selfishness, ignorance, or just the difficulty of the subject, humans have a tough time seeing how important the interrelations of nature are. So what if we lose two types of fish?

Well, let’s say that those two types of fish feed off of smaller types, and those smaller types eat plant organisms that grow in rivers. When you eliminate the fish at the top of that food chain, the population of the next fish in line grows exponentially because they no longer have anything to keep their numbers “in check”. In turn, these fish consume all plant life in the river, lowering oxygen levels. The fish starve or suffocate, leave mass amounts of corpses, and create a river full of fungus/algae. The destruction of the entire ecosystem occurs because of the loss of the higher fish. When any one piece of an ecosystem is changed too drastically, it can very easily cause the destruction of the whole thing. (If you want to take that scenario a step further… Animals around the area no longer have a clean body of water from which to drink. Now where will that take us?)

However, not only was the ecosystem lost, Oregon lost the fishing business. Fishermen (er… fisherpeople to be politically correct I suppose) have lost their jobs, and people have less fish to eat directly from the area, causing them to shell out more money to get the fish from areas that are further away.

It seems that there is a strong interrelation between business and the environment, and it’s one that we can’t afford to ignore. We cannot function in a world without a healthy environment, nor can we function in a country without a healthy economy. Look to any example, and if you think hard enough, it is not so difficult to see the ways in which the two rely on each other.

The problem now becomes this: in the U.S., one cannot be “pro business” and “pro nature”. It’s just not possible. Politicians will be condemned for flip-flopping or being soft and won’t stand a chance in the next election. Ah, the two-party system: You are only one or the other, never both, and always neither.

I’m all about compromise- maybe it’s because I’m young and I’m still lost in a land of ideals and “what-could-be’s”, but for the sake of this country, for the sake of the world, and for the sake of the future, we have to find a way to reconcile business with nature, or nature with business. If we do not, there is no telling what could lie in store for us.

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2 Responses to “Tonight on Smackdown: Nature v. Business”

  1. Sam Carson Says:

    Good post.
    The way this has debate has been framed in the US seems really strange, and probably has a lot to do with the power of Oil. In the UK, and largely across Europe there is a different approach. The UK has a lot to benefit by developing alternative fuels, we can develop an energy sector that we do not have, and establish new technology markets and businesses that relates to carbon neutral concepts.

    There seems to be this weird notion that environmentalism requires everyone to stop being productive. There may be people on the fringe saying this stuff, but what most people are interested in is innovating toward a carbon neutral economy. This means developing new ideas, new technology, new markets, new businesses. It is progressive.

    The “what could be”‘s are important. Because they are possible.

  2. 06jk Says:

    Wow. I definitely could not have said it better myself.

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