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Ways of the World

Carol Stone, business economist & active Episcopalian, brings you "Ways of the World". Exploring business & consumers & stewardship, we'll discuss everyday issues: kids & finances, gas prices, & some larger issues: what if foreigners start dumping our debt? And so on. We can provide answers & seek out sources for others. We'll talk about current events & perhaps get different perspectives from what the media says. Write to Carol. Let her know what's important to you:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ecology: Why It Matters

From the Book of Common Prayer, Prayers of the People, Form IV

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

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From Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1999, page 4:

The climate debate is a public issue in which the assets at risk are not specific resources, like oil, fish, or timber, but a life-supporting system. One of nature's most critical cycles is the continual exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen among plants and animals. This "recycling service" is provided by nature free of charge. But today carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere, due in part to combustion of fossil fuels. In effect, the capacity of the natural system to recycle carbon dioxide has been exceeded, just as overfishing can exceed the capacity of a fishery to replenish stocks. But what is especially important to realize is that there is no known alternative to nature's carbon cycle service.

Besides climate, the changes in the biosphere are widespread. In the past half century, the world has lost a fourth of its topsoil and a third of its forest cover. At present rates of destruction, we will lose 70 percent of the world's coral reefs in our lifetime, host to 25 percent of marine life. In the past three decades, one-third of the planet's resources, its "natural wealth," has been consumed. We are losing freshwater ecosystems at the rate of 6 percent a year, marine ecosystems by 4 percent a year. There is no longer any serious scientific dispute that the decline in every living system in the world is reaching such levels that an increasing number of them are starting to lose often at a pace accelerated by the interactions of their decline, their assured ability to sustain the continuity of the life process.

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These paragraphs are frighteningly convincing and compelling for me. Fortunately, people and companies are taking constructive actions to deal with this ecological situation, and these innovations are finally getting some good publicity, from books such as this one and from widely read periodicals, such as Business Week. As with our "Energy Pledge" last week, we highlight here private sector initiatives, leaving the public policy debate to the politicians. We plan two more articles right away, one on new vehicles and another on business operations and practices. A friend asserted, "But businesses are just doing these things to be efficient!" Precisely. Improving the efficiency of operations and of materials is exactly what we need to do to "use [the earth's] resources rightly . . . to [God's] honor and glory".


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