is pretty easy when the resources required to satisfy wants and needs are
Yes, the sun shines a little more brightly, it’s easy to put
a smile on your face, and hope springs eternal when assets dwarf liabilities.
Whether it’s having the money to buy the toys you desire, enough water to grow
endless blankets of bluegrass and still irrigate the crops, or unending
reserves of petroleum to power the vehicles and machines that take us where we
whim to go or aid in the manufacture of the material goods we’ve come to crave.
Life is not complex when you, in fact, can always get what you want.
The above statement holds true on a global
level when considering the natural resources needed to sustain life on Planet
Earth; on a national, state or citywide level, considering the resources needed
to sustain a desirable quality of life for residents of any particular
geographic entity; or at the hyper-local level, i.e., your family budget
– considering the resources needed to keep all familial members in good
health and spirits, and hearth and home functioning like a well-oiled machine.
Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace spoke last month in
Toronto at ideacity 2012, detailing the
problems facing our planet because mankind continues to use natural resources
– food, marine life, fossil fuels, trees, water, minerals, etc. –
at a pace far greater than those resource systems can be replenished. We are
powering our way through earth’s reserves at frightening rates. (To hear Mr. Weyler’s comments in their entirety, visit ideacityonline.com/talks/rex-weyler-at-ideacity-2012/.)
Americans share the same daunting
environmental challenges as the rest of our planetary chums. It is easily
argued that as one of the world community’s most highly charged economic
engines, we put a disproportionate strain on the planet’s resources when others
in places right over our border or far away take so little.
And at all levels, from the federal
government to our own living rooms, Americans are using up domestic financial
resources faster than those systems can be renewed.
The economic challenges we face as a nation
have our legislative and executive branches locked in a high-stakes game of chicken.
All sides agree we are on a break-neck
path to insolvency that could cripple our ability to defend our borders and
operate critical government programs. Still, in the face of such nightmares our
elected representatives are unable to arrive at a concensus
on how to change that perilous course. One side holds the military sacrosanct,
while the other holds social programs with equal passion. All sides cling to
pet programs they will not release.
Closer to home, Denverites
have watched the state and city budget wallow in red ink for the past several
years, with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. The state legislature
has made cuts totalling in the billions of dollars
– education for our children among the biggest targets – while our city leaders have
slashed nearly $500 million in salaries and reduced services.
And in many homes the pressures of the Great
Recession have forced families to alter the course of college educations,
summer vacations, household purchases and retirement plans. As banks have
tightened down on credit and unemployment has soared, many families have simply
been unable to meet their financial obligations and have been forced to the
streets as a last resort.
The era of forced-choice has arrived. We can
no longer offhandedly plunder the earth, water and sky with abandon, unaware of
the catastrophe we are helping to unleash on future generations. While the
first step is to turn boldly on our heels to face the problems we have been
running from, once we make that move there are difficult decisions we must
In order to play a real role in reversing
the environmental crises that face this third rock from the sun, Americans may
need to be willing to accept a standard of living far beneath the ultra comfort
level we have come to accept as our birthright. It is not inherently wrong to
be comfortable, to have toys, to live large. But it appears it is not a path to
Would you support a national commitment to
alternative energy, and the financial support that would require, if it meant
reducing the defense budget 40 percent? No? Well, would you accept a law
declaring that each household have only one motor vehicle, and that vehicle has
to get 80 miles per gallon, but only goes 45 miles per hour? How about watering
your lawns once a week? How about homes limited to 300 square feet per
Small changes aren’t going to make it,
folks. What are you willing to do?
What do you want life to look like in an
America where choice is imperative? How about we reduce the military 40 percent
and we reduce Medicare and Social Security an equal amount? Intolerable? OK,
what if we just don’t light the street lights at night? Or we don’t fix the
potholes? We deliver mail once a week? We pick up trash every three weeks? No
food stamps? No unemployment payments?
No good? OK, how much of a tax increase are
you willing to tolerate? 40 percent? 30 percent, 20 percent?
“No, no, no, no, no!” is not a satisfactory answer. We don’t have the dough to
do what we’ve been doing. We must prioritize.
As Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech pointed out on these pages last month, Denver faces
similar choices. Are you willing to pay for trash pickup? How about a per item
charge at the library? Do we really need to help the homeless? What about an
increase in the sales tax? How about the property tax? Remember, folks, “no,
no, no, no, no” is not an acceptable answer. Choice please. Priorities.
Denver Public Schools is most likely going
to propose a twin package of a mill levy increase to bring in another $49
million per year, and a bond issue to fund some $500 million in construction,
facilities upgrades, technology and other improvements critical to maintaining
a school district to which families will trust their children’s education. Are
you willing to pony up the extra couple/few hundred bucks per year to make that
It’s time for tough decisions, folks. Is it
better to spend those couple hundred bones to support the education system that
attracts businesses and families from around the globe, or would you rather
save the money for vacation or another iPad? Or groceries, if that’s what your budget declares?
What in the name of all that is holy and
sacred do we want to be as a planet, a nation, a
family? The magic lamp is gone. The ball is in your court.