The SL is hijacked from something I heard on the radio the other day, and it seems to fit the subject at hand. The other evening Dulcie launched into a tirade about the amount of money people spend on pointless "crap" (as she refers to it) at Christmas. "Why are they doing this?" she rails. When in these moods, Dulcie can become a terrifying figure; grown men have been known to crumple into gibbering ruins before her onslaught. Fortunately I am largely immune, partly because I am not a fully grown man.
Anyway, her tirade brought me round to something I had been thinking about regarding carbon footprints: "virtual" carbon and its significance. If the carbon footprint of America was adjusted for all the carbon that was emitted in the production of the goods purchased by Americans, then it would be colossally higher. Concomitantly, the footprint of China, adjusted for the carbon emissions involved in producing goods for export to America, would be something like 30 % lower.
So, this means that America is even badder than generally thought environmentally wise. But wait, is this really fair? I mean, the analysis suggests that somehow the poor Chinese are being exploited by the nasty Americans and being forced to manufacture all that stuff against their will. Surely they derive some benefit from all this manufacturing? Like earning tons of money and becoming a fantastically wealthy nation that has totally transformed itself from the nation of "re-educated" peasants that Maoism had created.
So, I put the point to Dulcie about what would happen if we (collectively the nation, not just us two for we buy no crap) stopped buying stuff. What would all the Chinese do then. Oh, they could just go back to doing what they used to do and be happy she returned cheerfully. I don't think so.
The radio discussion from which I stole the SL was very much along the same lines, though perhaps a little more intellectually profound than ours. The dilemma is one of personal financial responsibility versus the needs of the larger economy. In difficult times it is individually fiscally responsible to leave the elephant-shaped teapot (the crap in Dulcie's more Saxon vernacular) on the store shelf. However, if everyone did the same, the economy would (has) frozen up. In other words, we should all do our bit and buy elephant-shaped teapots by the truck-load. Even better if said teapots were fabrice en U.S.A. Fat chance there though.
In an even bigger picture, the dilemma of the SL is probing the prevailing philosophy of society depending on economic growth. Ultimately, growth and sustainability are on a collision course. To achieve the latter, at some point the former goal must be moderated. We could start by not buying the elephant-shaped teapot.