Wednesday, November 07, 2007

For economy, read environment

The front page of today's Independent (see here) leads on the financial crisis that's engulfing US institutions and threatening to engulf our own. There are two ironies here - the first is that we're predicting a housing shortfall having given mortgages and loans to people who can't actually afford them. Had the banking institutions shown a little bit of common sense, house prices wouldn't be at the levels they are now because no one could afford to buy them at those prices. Demand would be less, and perhaps there'd be a sustainable growth (or better still, an acceptance on the part of people that there are finite resources and as such you'd better accept living in a flat instead of a semi-detached house - and yes, I've been as guilty of this as anyone else).

Instead, we've lived in a bubble for the past 15 years, increasingly isolated from reality and pretending that there'll never be another recession again. As a result people have effortlessly switched from savers to borrowers, with no thought for the wider consequences of loading up credit cards with purchases of goods we don't really need.

Of course, what goes for the economy goes for the environment too. People are so quick to jump on unsustainable bandwagons and then loudly proclaim - as if shouting makes one iota of difference - that the good times will never end. Just as the economy is about to face a sharp squeeze, so too the environment is reaching breaking point. Sadly, I suspect the bump from an environmental downturn is going to be a hell of a lot harder than the economic one. After all, when you stop kidding yourself that share prices, analysts and economists represent hard-headed universal reality, what use is money when you can't feed or shelter your family due to a chronic lack of resources that actually matter?

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