December 09, 2008

I have a new favorite quote:
Despite all our pretensions, we still are totally dependent on six inches of top soil and the fact that it rained.
-- Confucius
So the economy is falling apart, retailers are starting the post-holiday sales before the holidays in hopes that they actually make some money, the Toys for Tots warehouse is empty, food banks have slim pickings, the American auto industry wants a bailout (Who's next?!?! Is this the new consequence for making poor business choices, begging for taxpayer funds so that a failed business doesn't actually have to fail? When the corporations have taken all the taxpayer money to keep themselves in the black, can the taxpayers rely on the corporations to give individuals handouts when the average wage doesn't keep up with the cost of living? Yeah, that's what I thought...), and $700 billion in taxpayer money has gone to the finance sector, apparently where it continues to sit instead of unfreezing the credit markets as intended.

In times like these (a loaded statement if there ever was one), it's important to remember what's really important, and not in the some mushy holiday way. We don't really need all the things we claim we can't live without. Americans are so good at panicking over things that should be amenities and ignoring the essentials. The loss of healthy farmland, either to agribusiness and genetically modified crops, to over-dependence on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers so that the soil is stripped of life and blows away, or to shiny new subdivisions, is a far more tragic, far more impactful loss than fewer Christmas presents, a bad retail season or the collapse of the American auto industry. We can scale back our expectations, tighten our belts, appreciate the things we have instead of whining for the things we don't. The failure of one industry makes room for another, hopefully lighter on its feet and on the planet than the American auto industry has been.

But if we loose those six inches of topsoil, we don't eat. And if we don't eat, we die. And that seems a more significant impact than all the rest of it.

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