I’m worried about the debt we’re accumulating. I think that we are going to leave our children so far in the red that they may never be able to get out from under our obligation. And I worry about this more and more as time goes by and we do nothing to solve it.
Yeah, the environmental debt we are leaving for future generations is a big deal to me.
Oh, sorry, did you think I was talking about monetary debt? No, I’m not nearly as worried about that. That kind of debt spending is intended to spur an economic recovery, and as the economy recovers we are (hopefully) earning money back on the debt incurred.
An environmental debt, however, is a much different thing. As I mentioned in my post on “responsible consumption” the other day, the Global Footprint Network estimates that it would require 1.5 Earths to sustain our current rate of consumption indefinitely. By overconsuming now, we will have to consume less later to put the Earth back on a path to sustainability.
This is especially troublesome because, unlike monetary debt, the environmental debt that we are accumulating now is only serving to decrease our ability to repay our obligation later. Because we as a society refuse to acknowledge the accumulating debt, we continue to invest technologies that only increase the rate at which our debt accumulates, rather than shifting our efforts towards developing technologies that will slow or maybe even reverse our current trajectory. It’s like a failing business investing in an Xbox for the office: it might keep the employees happy now, but the long-term effect will be to reduce productivity even further and make it harder to cover your debts.
If only Republicans and Tea Partiers would be as vocal about this environmental debt as they are about the fiscal debt, we might see some progress on it. Or maybe if Democrats could be vocal about it (or anything, for that matter), it might get some attention. Instead, we’re just silently accumulating this debt, pushing a growing problem off on to future generations. I’d like to believe that technological innovation will be our savior in the long term, but we’re making it harder with every year that passes and we fail to change the status quo.