Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Up Side of Down

When gas prices went up, then when everything went down, I thought that less consumption of fossil fuels and less of everything eating up resources would be a quiet "plus," but the job losses incurred would mean much pain. An essay in the current Newsweek provided some data that showed this is indeed happening:
- trucking is down, and Mexican cargo crossing the border decreased 40%
- CO2 emissions have dropped in Europe and the U.S.
- the global recession shut a paper mill on the shores of Russia's Lake Baikal which environmentalists had failed to budge. Fish and crabs as well as fresh air have returned, and tourism has increased fivefold
- around Delhi, small steel mills closed and sulfur dioxide levels dropped 85%
- a 50% decline in beef prices and a shortage of credit has given the Brazilian rainforest a reprieve; the rate of deforestation has dropped 70%. Again, nothing environmental activism could have accomplished

As Leonard Cohen put it, and this applies to everything I can think of -- "It did some good, it did some harm..."

But hardly anyone chose to limit their consumption beforehand, voluntarily, or chose to put science on full tilt to discover better ways to make paper and steel instead of better ways to "shock and awe."

People have woken up with that hangover that tells them they way overdid it: no more cashing out insanely inflated home equity, living on 8 credit cards, loading up their business with debt just to buy more businesses (that's what is killing the Chicago Tribune), or thinking they're masters of "investing." Rats are smarter than people; they can see a trap, and would probably learn something from a hangover.

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