Here is to hoping that Greece will get through its current financial problems. We all deserve better. OK, it may require some downsizing and a lot less consumption, and no certain outcomes. We have all lived at levels way above what this planet can sustain, especially in the so-called developed world. Turns out, we need to develop other skills, such as humility, compassion, love.
Image from The Telegraph, of an ad placed in The Wall Street Journal, by a consortium of leading Greek business people who have launched an advertising campaign titled Give Greece a Chance. Note: this could happen to any country. It could happen to you. It could happen to Japan.
The advert reads:
Greece has committed to the toughest austerity program in modern history. Hefty tax hikes, pension and wage cuts have reduced the primary budget deficit from €24.7 billion to €5.2 billion in just two years... but with a dramatic impact on the life of every Greek.
A new set of measures was recently voted in by the Greek Parliament. With a focus on structural reform, we have a chance to create a new Greece. A modern, productive and creative Greece with a sustainable future in Europe.
Further hardship is inevitable. Unemployment has already reached 21pc. This is a high price to pay and it should not go in vain.
We are entering the fifth year of recession. Our European partners have stood by us. But we need continued support and the breathing space to get out of this vicious cycle. And we deserve to know that there is a fair chance of success.
We are hardworking, tax paying citizens unfairly labelled with stereotypes so easily handed out to Greeks today. We are Europeans who aspire to a constructive role within Europe. We will deliver on our commitment. We have already made sacrifices. We are ready to do more. We are betting our future on this. All we are saying is give Greece a chance.
We can all learn a lot from this "canary in the mine" situation. Greece is experiencing some terrific changes that most nations may have to go through, sooner or later. How we treat the people there will also say something about how we will be treated. What if our pensions are no longer secure? What about our banking system...? Are your deposits safe? Noone wants to doubt that the "system" works.
What is worse, we are degrading the environment, not protecting water resources, destroying farm fields, not encouraging young people in the rural areas to learn the skills, how to produce food in a sustainable way. How do we actually protect biological diversity? By farming more, not less, of a larger number of crops. What we survive on, what we consume, has a huge impact on the entire world.
Here is a map that has been around for a while, showing world consumption, calculated as:
Consumption = Appropriated National Biocapacity + Imports - Exports
Red is bad, Green is good.
From Hiroshima University
It basically means Japan is importing more than it can actually afford, from a global point of view. This is called a "negative" ecological footprint.
From an essay at Monthly Review: Looking Back for Insights into a New Paradigm
by Mark Lindley and James Farmelant:
1. Ecological footprint is a kind of index in ecological economics analogous to "gross national product" and per-capita "cost of living" in market economics. The ecological footprint of a given population is defined as the total area of ecologically productive land and water (cropland, pasture, forest, marsh, river, sea, etc.) that would with prevailing technologies be required in order to provide on a continuous basis the energy and materials consumed by that population, and to absorb its wastes. It is a reckoning in terms of area (different kinds of area on the surface of the Earth) and not of money. It summarizes several aspects of ecological economics in a way analogous to the ways in which "cost of living" and other such indices summarize certain aspects of market economics. A clever aspect of the ecological-footprint index is that for each nation it can be estimated from data that have already been gathered for market economics. For instance, the pasture component of a given nation's ecological footprint can be reckoned from the totals of how much money is being spent annually in that country for dairy products and from estimating, for that complex of dairy products, how much pasture (not necessarily in the same country) is needed to produce those goods.
It is also possible to reckon how much ecologically productive surface (of various types) is available within each nation. The term for this in relation to national ecological footprint is "national available bio-capacity." The "ecological footprint" minus the "available bio-capacity" is the "ecological surplus or deficit." And, by dividing each of these three numbers by the number of people living in the nation, one gets corresponding per-capita estimates. Here are some of them in hectares as of the mid-1990s:
Because the reckoning is in terms of two-dimensional surface area, it is inapplicable to aspects of depletion (for instance, of fossil fuels) or pollution (for instance, of air) which call for reckoning in terms of three-dimensional volume. But in spite of that lack of comprehensiveness and in spite of the rough nature of the estimates (though no more rough than some of those, such as for cost of living, that are commonly used in market economics), ecological footprint is a way of summarizing a lot of useful information in ecological economics. It shows that the average person living the USA was, in the 1990s, contributing more than ten times as much as the average person in, for instance, India was at that time to a related worldwide "ecological deficit" which is in turn a partial indication of the extent to which humankind was using up, for current consumption, the finite "natural capital" offered by the Earth.
(The ecological deficits for India and China are certainly higher today than they were then.)
The ecological-footprint concept suits the traditional economic theorist's taste for reducing complex realities to a single scale of values. However, ecological economics in our century will have to be of such a transdisciplinary nature, incorporating information from the natural sciences (as 20th-century medical science has done) as well as from other social sciences, that it will no more seek to describe an economy with a single number (such as ecological footprint or the current orthodox economist's GDP) than medical doctors seek to describe a patient's health with a single number.