Guest Opinions

Healthy ecosystem necessary for economic growth

Dave Greegor
Dave Greegor

With this election, we see a strongly polarized nation, deluding us to believe we don’t have a common bond to unite us like we did during World War II. But we do: climate change.

The difference between the two “adversaries” is that the threat of climatic disaster does not have the drama and sense of immediacy that Hitler did. But if climate change continues unabated, the consequences of death and destruction are going to be every bit as real as the Holocaust. At some point, maybe already passed, climate change reversibility will be impossible, whereas with Nazism, we could not reverse the evil done, but we did rid the world of further damage.

Last November, I wrote a guest opinion titled “Climate change: Heads in sand” in which I made the point that while we are aware of climate change and its disastrous potential, we are afraid to confront it: the Ostrich Syndrome. Our country seems not to understand that having a healthy economy and jobs is 100 percent dependent on healthy ecosystems, and healthy ecosystems don’t remain healthy with a climate gone berserk. Evidence?

1. The Trump victory. We have elected a world leader who believes that climate change is a Chinese hoax and appoints Myron Ebell, a longtime climate change skeptic, to head his Environmental Protection Agency transition team.

2. Unhealthy economic ignorance. We believe: total employment = healthy economy = Great America. Only if these jobs allow us to maintain healthy ecosystems.

3. Disconnect between environmental disasters and climate change. How many monster fires, superstorm Sandys, melting glaciers and thawing tundra does it take to grasp they are not isolated events?

Problem/solution 1. We elected a climate change denier, so we must obstruct any actions that reverse progress made by President Barack Obama, e.g. the Paris Accord.

Problem/solution 2. Short-term economic gains, such as fossil fuel jobs, are not sustainable and cannot be made at the expense of healthy ecosystems and climatic stability. Folks clinging to Trump’s promises of jobs are the ones who, unfortunately, cannot see past their stomachs — for obvious reasons. Unsustainable (unhealthy) jobs will lead toward significantly more, not less, wretched lifestyles for more people. We have to resist allowing jobs dependent on destroying air, water and land ecosystems — these jobs only temporarily reduce the unemployment rate but leave behind further misery and climatic chaos.

Problem/solution 3. Many don’t see the climate connections. They need help from those who do. Editors, ecologists, economists, educators, therapists, meteorologists, climatologists, public health officials and sociologists have failed these people by not taking every opportunity to help them make the connections between their wretched living conditions and climate change. I especially blame traditional economists. The sociological partner of ecology is economics, and economists have ignored far too long the bond between a healthy economy and healthy ecosystems. Finally, physical and mental health deteriorates with rising oceans, superstorms and wildfires. Future superstorm Sandys will not be prescriptions for depression.

Dave Greegor Jr. is a retired ecologist and lives in Boise.