...I think its more like a religious conversion really. Kind of like a biblical "take up your bed and follow me" moment. My husband and I went to see Bill McKibben speak at UNM yesterday. And all I can think about is how twisted our economy is. If the elementary rules of economics were true, then we wouldn't have such a demand for such useless stuff, right? In a free market economy our own deterministic forces would drive down the cost of excavation for raw materials, and locally produced goods would be cheaper than goods from afar right?

I know that what went wrong has to do with the bureaucratic process of reifying the corporation into the political monster that it is today... but what am I as an ordinary citizen supposed to do about watching it rape and pillage the earth and spreading the cancer that could kill mankind?

Should I become the weirdo hippie that my family suspects I might become someday?

Views: 1

Comment by Heaven on March 27, 2008 at 9:44am
Ah! I would if I knew how to define it. In fact, I don't think I've ever actually seen a hippie. From what I hear "hippies" are mythological creatures that used to roam southern California in the 1960's...
Comment by Heaven on March 27, 2008 at 10:14am
...you have more than one recipe for marijuana brownies
(come on people, join in!)
Comment by A3OT on March 27, 2008 at 11:18am
If the elementary rules of economics were true ... and locally produced goods would be cheaper than goods from afar right?
Comparative advantage
Comment by Mary Schmidt on March 27, 2008 at 11:24am
As I told Mr. McKibben after the talk, I think we're all doomed anyway, but I'm going down fighting.

Check out his new web site at www.350.org.

"350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.

We’re planning an international campaign to unite the world around the number 350, and we need your help."

P.S. Shop local at every opportunity - it's a small thing, but it's a start. Part of the good news McKibben noted is that Farmers Markets are growing faster than Wal-Mart.
Comment by statler and waldorf on March 27, 2008 at 11:44am
We can shop local and buy hybrid cars until we're blue in the face, but it is true we're all doomed unless humans stop reproducing. Which will never happen. But yeah, better to go down fighting than to just give up.
Comment by Heaven on March 27, 2008 at 12:05pm
I don't know about the extent to which I believe our demise is inevitable. I once struggled with "clinical" depression. I believe that most psychological sadists (including alcoholics) can verify the destructive cycle that is self-fulfilling prophesy. But some point, you just have to begin balancing your checkbook and repaying your debt. Not looking at the negative balance doesn't just make money appear. As countless recoveries from unemployment has shown me, good stewardship eventually builds wealth. I wish we could just shake up our economy to stop incentivizing highway expansion over transit, and scratching its head dumbly about the fuel crisis ...and other self-destructive ways of social thinking.
Comment by Tricross on March 27, 2008 at 12:51pm
Unfortunately environmentalism has been tagged as apolitical issue when in fact, as Al Gore says regarding global warming, it is a moral issue. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of our resources.
Comment by Dr Dan on March 27, 2008 at 1:49pm
many moons ago while I was a student at Anderson School of Management, a seminar class was taught by a man who would get angry whenever someone used the word "hippie" saying that only people from the Haight.Ashbury district in SF are truely hippies, all others are wanna-bes trying to get laid
Comment by brendisimo on March 27, 2008 at 6:06pm
I'm sorry I missed Bill McKibben's talk. I read Deep Economy last summer and was inspired. What about a large Albuquerque Farm in the valley that could feed our whole city! Tons of local produce that would end up being more affordable than buying from halfway across the world. The sun-cal land would have been perfect...oh well.
oh yeah, you know you're a hippie when your blog is filled with pipe dreams...
Comment by the boy on March 27, 2008 at 8:08pm
Comparative is a good example (thanks A30T!) about why producing everything local isn't necessarily in everyone's interest. If Albuquerque was to exist entirely as a self-sustained community in a ten mile radius of old town, it could probably support a few hundred people. Maybe a thousand. The city exists in part because of the comparative advantage Albuquerque's production has over elsewhere, and in turn this helps out other parts of the nation that benefit from goods and services produced cheaply here.

As for the economy being twisted, it isn't necessarily. People tend not to support twisted economies, and a system as flawed and harmful as (it seems) McKibbens made it out to be wouldn't be allowed to continue. (Michael Shermer has some good points about this.)

There are also ways to change the economy around - local foods are now grown and seen as a desirable commodity, where the higher prices of local production are justified by buyer preference. This goes against simple cost analysis, but the market is adapting to a need, and people are willing to pay the higher costs for the greater social value they place on more sustainable, less carbon-intensive food production. That's the market functioning as it should.

There are other ways to change the market to reflect social goods, and there's a whole school of economic thought on proper government intervention. For example, say that people are upset that food grown elsewhere for less (benefiting from the above-mentioned comparative advantage) combined with the fuel costs of shipping that to market is still cheaper, and makes it so that local food isn't competitive. Government can add taxes to either the imported food or the fuel costs, and make the local food artificially more valuable (subsides for local food would also do this). If the fuel costs and the associated carbon is the big deal, subsidized alternative energy and increased fuel taxes will affect how the market works, and will work to change the system so that what is local and what doesn't produce harmful carbon are what people will choose to buy based on cost alone.

The market is a wonderfully adaptable system, and while some skepticism is healthy, the potential for good the market can provide, especially when coupled with sensible government intervention to accommodate the social goods the market can ignore, is quite significant. There's still work to this, but encouraging legislatures to adapt to changing attitudes is a doable thing, and can be done effectively on the local level, without only a little bit of huge corporate opposition to worry about.

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