Economies and Environment

December 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Alex and I had been chatting about the environment and not being able to understand how politicians could continue coming up with lame excuses and ignoring serious environmental issues. We happened to catch a talk given by David Suzuki and part of the discussion centered around economics. His words triggered a memory about a story I had read long ago about an economist and a fisherman. I found a version of the story and a lot more.

“The Subsistence Perspective” is a theory of development that advocates that we abandon our Western definition of affluence as consuming as much as possible and replacing it with the traditional definition of being self sufficient.  The story kind of puts things in perspective. I know it’s idealistic and simplistic, but the idea is intriguing.

The economist sees a fisherman fishing for a few hours and then going back to shore. He asks the fisherman why he didn’t stay out and fish longer. The fisherman replies that he has enough to feed his family and pay his bills so he is going home to spend time with his family.

The economist explains that if he had stayed out longer, he could have caught more fish. The fisherman looks at him and asks “Then what ? “You would be have been able to sell the fish for extra money to invest in bigger nets and caught even more fish” replies the economist.  The fisherman asks again, “Then what ?”.

“Then you could have invested that money into a bigger boat with which to catch even more fish to make even more money” said the economist, and so on and so forth until he had as much money as he ever wanted and could buy whatever he desired. The fisherman asks him, “Then what?” and the economist replies, “You can retire and spend more time with your family.”

We’re constantly striving for the next best thing,  to buy a new toy, new house, new car, then bigger toy, bigger house, bigger car.  I think we forget about the true cost of that lifestyle. It seems we’re never content, I wonder if we spent less on  things that we imagine we need, what would happen?  Would we be more free, less stressed because of it or would our lives be lacking? Would the environment be impacted ?

I also wonder about the wealthy. What if they started living on only what they actually NEED. Buy one house instead of ten,  be content with smaller wardrobes or travel on commercial transport.? Stop trying to impress with all their wealth. We all end up in the same place at the end of our days and in a decade or so who really will remember or even care who you were. Yes, I know there are some who are VERY socially conscious but there is room for improvement. If they did all that, I wonder what would happen to society and our environment. Would we be less or would we be more equal, more content?

One thing for sure, there would be less suffering if we started to care about others and I don’t mean just our neighbours.

Entry filed under: Alan's Blog. Tags: , , , , .

Skeleton Lake Chuckles

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