This is a slightly edited version of my comment on Andy Revkin’s NY Times Dot Earth blog, on “Rationalization masquerades as reason”
The odd rationalization of them all is that what we ask the economy to do by spending money has no environmental impact… if we don’t see it. It’s illogical, but is actually how nearly everyone thinks, that you have no responsibility if you have no information about it.
For example, the real total impacts of using money are naturally going to be an equal share of the world total per dollar, on average. That’s just a mathematical tautology. Everyone will agree in principle, but most then still count the impacts of *their* spending as “0″, instead of “average”, because they don’t see what to count.
The total is indeed mostly not from the impacts you see, but from the ones you don’t see, of course, but the math says average dollars will cause an average share of the total, and we CAN see the total, more painfully every day. People, though, just want the world to do more of everything for them, having ever more money to get the world to do ever bigger and more complicated things, with their growing unseen impacts seen as being someone else’s problem.
But if we don’t acknowledge what we know to be true, though, and keep trusting our obvious lack information about the scale of the effects we have, we also won’t see where they are going. An economy that doubles in size about every 20 years, about the historical rate, also doubles its impacts too. So with growth we add as much new impacts on the earth every 20 years as the accumulative total of past impacts since growth began, each time it doubles.
It’s that basic physical proportionality between the scale of what we ask the world to do for us and the multiplying complexity of ever bigger impact problems we face, that is what’s causing our struggle and confusion over the issues.
Trying to manage increasingly overwhelming problems is not a solution. It’s the increasing complexity and cost of these “natural” environmental impacts, that we get from our using money to convey our desires as instructions, for the world to do ever more for us, while maintaining ignorance of our share.
It’s both invisible to most people, and rapidly causing our world to become completely unmanageable.