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A Smart Road to Economic Recovery

2/10/2009 10:20:00 AM

Tags: Dan Chiras, saving

As the U.S. economy continues its downward spiral, the media’s role in promoting growth and consumption become blatantly obvious.  Newscaster after newscaster and analyst remind us that roots of our downturn are weak consumer spending brought on in large part by the subprime mortgage fiasco.  Some in government propose tax cuts to prop up spending. The central theme in the discussion is that if consumer spending can be sparked once again, all will be well.

Not-too-subtly, we (the spending public) are enjoined to perform our “duty” as good citizens of the economy — to consume more. We’re told that we can pull a nation out of the crisis and restore economic prosperity by simply prying open our wallets.

It’s no surprise that citizens of this country are no longer referred to as such, but as “consumers,” a term that emphasizes our vital role in a consumer culture led by corporations and advertising firms paid to do their bidding 

Over the years, we’ve become a nation of consumers addicted to growth. We uncritically subscribe to the notion that “growth is good, indeed essential.”  Growth is predicated on the consumption of goods and services, some essential, many not, by good citizens like you and me.

Now spending is seen as the salve for this wounded economy. No matter that our continued acts of consumption could very likely lessen the chances of our long-term survival on the planet. What is even more distressing is that we’re raising our children on the same logic.

In recent days, we’ve learned that citizens are saving more. Some economists view that as bad for the economy, even though saving rates in the United States have previously plummeted into the negative range (we’re spending more than we make).

As we reshape our economy, not only must we restore jobs, but we must restore sanity: careful buying, judicious saving and living within our means. My hope is that we can create an economy that also focuses on sustainable activities, like renewable energy and long hikes in the wilderness, not big screen TVs and monster SUVs.

My fear is that to create a recovery, we’ll embrace any idea that puts people back to work, regardless of its impact on the environment, our long-term economic health and environmental sustainability.

Contributing editor Dan Chiras is the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design, Inc.


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.

 

Carol Dunning, MSW_2
3/16/2009 5:50:31 PM
Dear Chris, I have recently wandered over to your web area and am happily perusing the info within. What really resonated with me was the idea that we need to "restore sanity" to move forward with a sustainable future. I totally agree. My thought is that the people of this world have been systematically cut-off from their life support system(food, energy, communication, health) for the profit minded. So to restore a collective sanity we will need to reconnect to those systems. I think that is part of what you are doing with your rebuilding ventures. Best Wishes. Carol Dunning, MSW

Guy_1
2/20/2009 12:09:50 PM
I wish you would take your Socalist ideas and move to Sweeden. If the government would stop blocking energy exploration and nuclear expansion we would move along a lot faster. It is no time for government and Environmental idiots to deside the allocation of resources!

Edward J Peters
2/18/2009 11:00:39 AM
I remember my uncle and cousin debating something as fundamental is growth necessary in an economy ,specifics aside ,the fundamental argument raged in good hearted fun. Now one is gone and the other I am sure wouldn't recall and I am here weighing in. In these times this economy demands real solutions.One asks what are they and the answer complicates things.Every valley and every hill are interplaying with immediacy . Alienation comes home to roost.A thin line is crossed and it is time to act.How on earth can an auto industry sell a product that burns with regularity in the suburbs of Paris? A sanitation man asks did you find anything good as someone leaves a dumpster. This time things are really interesting times and the vision our leader must have is our greatest need . Things are what they are and that it has been said there will be missteps almost has me scared. A little change is going to take things far. For me I have a few pet peeves and projects. Weed wackers have got to at least go hemp Particle board anything dissolves into the dump heap of poorly thought cuts. Boy scout manuals and California driving manuals save lives and encourage good habits. Rent is a play I never saw,and a thing to avoid, and a return on investment with undeniably good returns for many with wealth.

Dan Chiras
2/16/2009 11:58:25 AM
Hi Folks... Several people have responded to my blog "A Smart Road to Economic Recovery." I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Rather than respond to each one individually, I have posted a new blog entitled "Rebuild not Restore our Economy" that reflects my thoughts and many of yours on the subject of what we need to do to build a truly sustainable society. Please take a look at it and let me know your thoughts. Best wishes to all of you... Dan

becki
2/16/2009 12:22:01 AM
true as it maybe that our government wants us to do our "civic duty" to help stimulate the economy ( spend money)it seems that everyone overlooks the fact that right now is the perfect time to send the message of green living to washington by voting with our dollars. we can use this oppertunity to spend our money with companies that use green energy, make earth friendly/ low impact products instead of the major companies that don't embrace those goals/ ideals. over the last few years my husband and i have worked in just about every idea to make our simple lives even simpler. we now live in a travel trailer ( powered by solar panels) on property where we can grow an organic garden and preserve our food supply. we don't buy anything unless we have to and only through companies with a green focus whether it be our cleaning products or our clothing. we only drive our old truck when we have to and that is usually once or twice a month, unless an emergency crops up.

Justin_2
2/14/2009 12:50:05 AM
Personally I embrace the idea of creating a sustainable energy; however i am also someone who is more mindful of ideas that solve more than one problem at a time. For instance there is a local guy (to me..) who is working on a project that can put people to work, improve the way we think about travel, and return a valuable resource at the same time: electricity. He wants to take the roads we drive on and change them from a simple Oil Soaked flat place to drive and turn them into a modern electrical generation and delivery system. It would create high tech jobs, provide a renewable source of energy, reduce our oil consumption (asphalt is made using a lot of oil) while still providing the same flat spot to drive on. Projects like this and others like it would be much more likely to stimulate the economy. Think of it: lower electric bills, lower fuel prices, new jobs... Americans can have more money in their pockets to legitimately spend thus... stimulating the economy. oh... the project i mentioned is at http:\\www.solarroadways.com

Dan Chiras
2/11/2009 9:21:55 AM
Joy, You are absolutely right. The central theme in Washington and the rest of the country is that all dollars are created equal. They are not, when the goal is to create a sustainable economy and a sustainable society. What we really need to be doing is focusing on work that leads to a sustainable society, including efforts to boost recycling and the use of recycled materials, energy efficiency, efficient use of water, renewable energy of all kinds to heat our homes, power our cars, run our businesses. We need to restore and better manage our land, too. We need to promote green building, green transportation, and green products of all kinds. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on monetary green, not sustainable green. What can we do as citizens to make the green revolution happen?

Dan Chiras
2/11/2009 9:12:13 AM
Kay, You are absolutely right. The central theme in Washington, and throughout the nation these days is that all dollars are created equal. They're not. We should be emphasizing sustainable economics -- businesses that promote recycling, renewable resources (at least that one is on peoples' minds), restoration of habitats and farmland, efficiency in energy and all other resources, green building, green transportation. Unfortunately, in the panic to get the economy rolling again, all business is viewed as a good thing. My fear is with this attitude we'll end up right back where we started from. Thanks for commenting. Dan

Kay-hh
2/10/2009 5:49:25 PM
Wise words. It occurs to me that those who want us to spend our way out of this down-turn (both as individuals and via our tax dollars) do not themselves want to be realistic with their own assets. Capitalism works. Businesses that provide quality goods and services excel, those that don't will roll over and fade away. We should be allowed to invest in the companies we choose. These spending bills allow a bunch of politicians to virtually steal our money and spend it in whatever way buys them favors and votes, all the while telling us it is for our own good. I just heard Shumar (sp?) say that "the people don't care" how they spend the money. Kay.

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