Economics vs Ecosystems
Our society constantly puts economics before ecosystems, resulting in our high standard of living. I wonder, "At what cost?"
Over-exploitation of resources (timber, soil, air, people,...) may increase our standard of living for the short term but eventually the party ends and someone has to clean up the mess. We will pay not only financially (super-fund sites, medical bills, water filters, bail-out of resource dependent communities,...) but also ecologically (fragmented ecosystems, species extinction, water and air pollution,...)
Our "Cadilac desert" mentality is a good example. Our federal government has poured billions of dollars into irrigation projects so that we can grow food in the desert. This highly subdsidized farming may allow us to grow food in marginal soils, but its still a money loser. At the same time, we are destroying priceless ecosystems which in the long term may be more costly than the building of the initial infrastructure.
Case in point: Salmon are the only creature that bring nutrients from the ocean to the land in large quantitities, feeding dozens of species and fertilizing our forests. If the Snake River salmon go extinct, we lose this crucial nutrient cycling system. What affects does this have on forest health?
At what cost?!
The National Marine Fisheries Service, after a many year intensive study, points to the dams as the main cause for these salmons demise. This is why we are considering breeching the dams.
The four lower Snake River dams produce 5% of the regions electricity, a miniscule amount which could be compensated through conservation. If not, rate analyses predict that monthly bills would increase a few dollars more a month for the average household.
Eleven farms use irragaton water from these dams. The pipes could be moved closer to the river, allowing water to be extracted.
Barging of grain is highly subsidized by taxpayers. We are losing money to ship grain to Asia. When price supports are removed, analyses indicate railroad shipping costs the same.
We have signed treaties with Indian tribes guaranteeing them salmon. If the salmon go extinct, the tribes will sue and likely win, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in retribution.
These dams are an economic drain because we did not consider their affects on ecosystems. This symbolizes our short-sighted consumptive mentatlity.
It doesn't make seses to put economics before ecology. That is old school thought. Why should we destroy the ecological fabric that holds the whole system intact (the real world infrastructure), just for the sake of progress and GDP? Real progressive thought is social and ecological justice, ensuring stability in the long term. Why should one species, even one race, decide the fate of our only home's health anyways?!
Conservation and recycling are two ecological concepts that make economic sense. They are very easy to practice as well.
Though people seem selfish and greedy, we are still ingeinious. I have faith that with a little altruism, compassion and long term planning we can still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle while leaving a legacy our grand children will be proud of.