Every day brings another twist and turn in the phenomenon we have come to know as the Global Financial Crisis. Some days it looks contained. On others it leaps control lines and blazes on anew. Uncontrollable and fierce. All consuming. On top of that economic firestorm is the harm we do every minute to the planet itself and it’s overburdened ecology.
Where this will end is one unknown, the precise nature of just what is happening is another. To Kevin Rudd there’s a sh-tstorm on one hand and the chance to fob off concerns over the climate with politically savvy but ineffectual glibness on the other. Elsewhere, slightly subtler minds are wondering whether we need to recast the entire discussion, moving away from the almost comforting thought that this is merely a momentary and correctible aberration of an otherwise effective system of manageable markets. It may be more than that. It may be that we are watching, from the narrow, constrained perspective of the immediate present, something beyond our understanding that is changing everything and forever.
Columnist and author Thomas Friedman is no soft-left fruitcake. This is what he wrote this week in the New York Times:
Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more US T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …
We can’t do this anymore …
Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.
“Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”
It’s perhaps time we all took a broader view.