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Reshape, Not Restore, Our Economy

2/17/2009 9:12:00 AM

Tags: economy, stimulus, Dan Chiras

The United States is struggling to restore its economy, when it should be working to reshape or rebuild it. There’s a profound difference between the two.

Unfortunately, in our panic to revive the economy many of our congressional representatives have failed to fully realize one fundamental fact: Not all dollars are created equal.

New highways, bridges, and economic stimuli that return the economy to its former state and end up putting more people back into gas-guzzling RVs or too-large or energy-stupid homes do not hold a candle to stimuli that promote home weatherization, new wind farms and green transportation.

Let’s be fair. The economic recovery package recently passed by Congress provides funds for jobs and businesses that promote sustainability like energy retrofits, renewable energy and green transportation. But I fear that much of the rest is meant to simply restore business as usual.

As many who have responded to my first blog realize (A Smart Road to Economic Recovery), we can’t solve the problems we’ve created with the same logic that created them. So what do we do?

I urge all readers to write or call their legislators and write editorials in their local newspapers emphasizing the need to promote sustainable economic activity. What should we be promoting?

How about a solar hot water system on every home in America? How about incentives or requirements that all new homes be built to exacting energy-efficiency standards? How about incentives or laws that require solar electric modules on every government building, office building and new home? How about moving forward the deadline on which auto manufacturers are to achieve higher fuel efficiency standards?  How about laws or incentives that promote the use of green building materials, recycled products in all aspects of society, organic farming, environmental education in K-12, water conservation, and restoration of damaged waterways, farm fields and forests?

Let’s be specific.

Let’s propose a list of action items that contributes to a truly sustainable society — one that makes sense for people, the economy and the environment now and over the long term. 

And as some of you have suggested, let’s vote with our dollars, too. Let’s take steps personally to promote these activities, starting in our own homes and businesses. We can’t wait for Washington to solve our problems. We must take action individually. If not us, who? If not now, when?


Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on .



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Post a comment below.

 

Joy Shepard_2
3/12/2009 3:28:45 PM
I say amen to this article. I think that instead of making easier for people to buy homes by giving tax deductions to them, they should be giving incentives and help to those people that want to take what they have and make it greener. I know that a lot of people are sick of hearing "go green" but if we look back at what our ancestors did, we would realize that a lot of what we use and abuse, we can do without. I think that if more people would look for ways to save and not just run out and buy or use something because "they can" we would ALL be a lot better off.

nathan_7
2/23/2009 8:30:20 AM
the scocilest comunist agenda that this magasen promotes is what got us in this mes. the govermint teling us what to do an when to do it. makeing lowns to people that can not pay it back started with the govermint preshring banks to do it or encour a discrimination investagition .that is one of the bigist problems or how about we have oil in the ground but cannot drill for it becous some wacio is wearied agout chang. ever hear of evolution things die an new things come in there place in responce to that chang. the reasioni started reading this magazean was gecous i wounted to be self safishint an live in a safe clean country.but wat you promote is not self safishincy but you promote just the opisit. sher you say grow your own food bild your own house but you alsow say that the govermint should make you do this or that that is caled slavery not self safishincy . i wount to be free to bild my house the way i wount to drive the vehical i wount whether it be a f350 or a electrick car whith out some one telling me that i have to do any thin or i will be punished in some way. ever here of the bill of right s it sead that we have the god given right to life liberty an the persute of happynes . not merdering hour chrildern an sick with abortion an youthanasa .not you hav freadon as long as you do what is politicly rorect .an not hapines as long as it is some comunists way of thinking. sary for my spelling but i am dislexic an a product of a govermint school that dose not care whether a kid kan spell but is very consurned agout making shure that i can put a condume on

Dena_1
2/23/2009 8:28:26 AM
I keep seeing all these comments in many publications about how, if we just had more freedom, the breakdown of the economy would have never happened. I'm sorry, but I see it from a totally different perspective. It was having all this freedom that caused the greed of man to run wild which caused the economy to tank. It is virtually impossible to turn people loose with no controls (i.e. the "free" market) and expect them to do the right thing with the common good in mind. Their ingrained greed will take over. The perfect example of this sits in the middle of Manhatten right at this moment. I grew up listening to Depression survivors who said that it could never happen again. I heard how there were too many checks and balances in place to ever allow anyone to take advantage of the system. Now we have the names of Madoff and Stanford splashed all over the media and the word that the SEC, the entity that was created for all the checks and balances, is the one who let them rape the American public. There has to be a system of laws in place that are constantly enforced to prevent the greed of people from taking the upper hand and that means government. Do we have a perfect government? Absolutely not! But did we suceed in our attempt at a "free" market? Absolutely not! As my ancestors were always saying, "you get nothing for free". Passing laws to protect the enviroment and requiring stringent enforcement of these same laws will get the same results as allowing a not-so-free market to reign over everyone. Laws will prevent what's happening in my own home city; depending on where you live, the zip code and the county dictates what you will pay for enviromental upgrades to your home. I cannot afford to make many upgrades to my home because, where I live, as soon as someone hears my address, my cost jumps into the stratosphere because I have a desirable zip code. Doesn't matter that I don't have the paycheck to match the

Karl_2
2/20/2009 4:40:37 PM
Necessity is the mother of invention, also of adaptation. Possibly what we are seeing is not a meltdown, but a push in a necessary direction. I agree that we must set the example and wait for others to notice and follow. As to the term "public servants", see also the comments Robert Heinlein made prior to his death about the ascension of public servant to public master.

benjamin_1
2/20/2009 12:41:48 PM
I agree that our economy is in need of a direction in change. I am all for wind, solar and over unity devices and the such. that would give us some power and some travel options but that is not all that we need to consider. I believe that most if not all of our health issues are due to chemicals not only the pesticides and herbicides but our pharmaceutical industry. they say that the amount of chemicals in our water (lakes, streams and drinking water) are too low to affect our health. maybe so but we would be better off with out them in there at all. I am under the opinion that hemp can fill the gap the the sun and wind can not fulfill. everything except glass and steel can be made from hemp. we could produce all of our fuel, paper, clothing and plastics with it and be totally out of the crude business all together. It almost happened in the 1940's but the powers that be did not want this multifaceted plant competing with their profit. the same has happened with most of the over unity devices. Hemp is in the schedule 1 category of illegal drugs but has none of the effect of drugs in this schedule. Marijuana (hemp's cousin) is legal in 8 states but hemp is still forbidden. what is wrong with this picture. Henry Ford made a cars body out of hemp. we could replace the entire lumber industry by using hemp, hemp is stronger and lighter than an equivalent wood board made from a tree and none of the petrochemicals used to process trees are used in processing hemp, especially paper. hemp was once thought to be "a Billion dollar crop". cera 1942. Let us put hemp back where it belongs. In our economic uprightness. I believe that with hemp at the helm that our economy we would never again be in the red. hemp is also a very nutritious food and has been used as a food by many indigenous people for thousands of years and still is in some cultures. hemp is legal in Canada and imports many products it to the U S. but we can not grow it, pr

Rachel Weaver_1
2/20/2009 11:51:57 AM
Amen to Vines and Cattle! More freedom, not more mandates and government control, is what is needed. Too many people today have given up trying to do anything innovative because they are thwarted by regulation and a pervasive attitude that whatever they are endeavoring to change is the purview of some government agency and therefore not open to input from the individual/community. Anything outside of established "policy" is treated with disdain or mistrust. Let people try stuff and accept the consequences. We're not even allowed to accept failure, which is the only way we learn. No wonder we're not innovative! Freedom to try, freedom to fail, freedom to succeed, freedom of the individual is the only thing that leads to prosperity. Anything else is slavery in disguise.

drotterman
2/20/2009 11:22:58 AM
I agree with Dan completely. I don't see it in Washington's self interest to create a paradigm shift. The system has become a burgeoning bureaucracy lumbering with entitlements and stepping to the whims of lobbyists representing the special interests of the "Corporate Oligarchy." Those behind the veil of government, the same group of Monarch minded thugs that have been running things for over a thousand years, have only feudalism on their minds. This doesn't bode well for an ecologically thinking, small footprint, earth loving, community based society. Since the average citizen has been stripped of the small amount of wealth he has tried to accumulate in this down turned economic situation, we must come together as like minded folks and form our own financial groups that have the power to make our own changes. Let's forget about the "government" (wasn't that name supposed to be "public servants?") It's time for us to make an 'end run' around the whole system and do what's right in our local communities.

josephn801
2/20/2009 9:46:54 AM
There is a paradigm shift coming which will force us to simplify our lives to amplify our living. The road of 'sameness' does nothing but point us in the direction of continued ego based existance.

Irishize
2/20/2009 9:29:36 AM
Greed is what got us into this in the first place. I agree 100% with this article, but I think people respond better to incentives rather than new laws. We need to start taking action individually. And, while we work to restore the economy, let's restore our thinking. Rather than spending time blaming others, how about looking inside ourselves to discover what action we can take as individuals to help. Good article!

Vines & Cattle
2/20/2009 7:24:41 AM
Hmmmm, mandates, laws and using tax payer funds to shape society the way some see fit. Isn't that what got us into this mess in the first place?







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