Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Known unknowns?

photo of moon with ring around it
© harrington
The evening before the snow storm earlier this week, the moon over most of My Minnesota had a ring around it. I remember my mother and grandmother telling me that a ring around the moon means it's going to rain (or snow in the winter). I recently finished reading a book on the colors of nature that explains the physics behind "red sun in morning, sailors take warning--red sun at night, sailors' delight." I'm not sure at the moment if I'm pleased having acquired that additional knowledge. Sometimes, I think we may be better off just accepting that the world is the way it is. On the other hand, there's always Will Rogers recognition that "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." I think that the whole question of economic growth, and the necessity for it, is conventional wisdom that's out of date. Ron Meador, in a yesterday's Earth Journal, writes about Gus Speth and Gus's perspective that more growth isn't the answer to our current problems. As Ron states "It's hard to gain ground in the arena of public opinion by pitching higher prices for energy, food and vehicles as positive values." I usually find myself more than agreeing with Ron. This time I'm not so sure. Higher prices for energy, food and vehicles are what the global economy usually strives for. It's called profit maximization. Another way to maximize profits is to externalize costs, such as environmental protection. Let the public's tax dollars pay for clean air. We've been following this philosophy at least since the industrial revolution and look where it's gotten us. There are growing studies that indicate that, after a certain level of economic security has been reached, more money or material goods doesn't make people more happy. Isn't the point of the economy supposed to be to serve people, not the other way around? Herman Daly and Jeffrey Sachs have some interesting thoughts on this topic. Sometimes, just because something's hard to achieve is all the more reason we should work toward it.