24 October 2010


The usual calculus for industrial efficiency leaves out the "externalities" such as hidden environmental costs--to human health, local and global ecosystems, and to other productive enterprises.

How efficient is a coal-fired power plant if the total gamut of costs is excluded? Costs such as the ecological destruction to the strip-mined areas and to lives of the people living there; acidification of lakes and streams, with loss of fish stocks and recreation; acid-rain damage to forests and crops; the increase in lung ailments (such as lung cancer, emphysema, and asthma); and additions to the build-up of greenhouse gases which is altering global climate and which will cause unfathomable human and ecological disruption and costs?

The true costs of using my computer and the light bulb above it are not solely the bill I pay to the power company. Economic costs to the producer and the monetary costs to the user are not the whole picture of accrued costs.

So-called "efficiency" depends on how it is measured, for whom, and why.

It seems to me that part of the spiritual crisis in America is not comprehending our impact upon the Earth. To the extent that we think it is somehow godly or biblical, and make it part of of our theology, to willingly, gladly, participate in a system that has as its very basis the destruction of Creation seems terribly wrong. It is a theology of (over)production and (over)consumption--and Earth be damned.

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