Bernanke backpacking?

Chairman Bernanke in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

I couldn’t get past this photograph when I started reading “Fed Ready to Dig Deeper to Aid Growth, Chief Says,” in the Business section of the New York Times on August 27, 2010. I realize that this article is now “old news” (I’ve been a bit busy, but have been thinking about it, nonetheless), but the imagery is enduring in its importance.

The stark contrast: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, articulating his latest plans to bolster the “lagging” U.S. economy, standing against the backdrop of craggy, granite peaks in Grand Teton National Park near the ski town of Jackson, Wyoming. Some of the United States’ most classically beautiful and iconic mountains “hosting” a convention for meditating on how best to rejuvenate the American economy, whose relative decline in the past year has proved a boon to the environment. Paper green might be suffering, but the Earth is certainly experiencing an upturn. A Reuters article from May 2010 reported that the 2009 recession resulted in a 7% decline in carbon dioxide emissions. We can extrapolate a reliable, inverse relationship from this statistic: the economy thrives, the Earth doesn’t (and vice versa).

There’s so much at stake here, and I won’t even attempt to delve into all of the issues (especially in my first official post, I’ll try to leave my audience curious). But I’ll dip a toe in, and try to offer some food for thought. While Bernanke and his cohorts explore options for economic revitalization, experts, environmentalists, politicians, and passionate laymen, alike, power an even more forceful storm: how to ___insert verb of choice here___ the environment. My buzz words of choice include the following: save, preserve, conserve, restore, sustain, and/or revitalize. I would also go so far as to suggest “revere.” So, the crux of the matter: is a “thriving” U.S. economy compatible with a happy and healthy environment? That much we know. But it certainly grows more complicated when we attempt the question of whether we are capable of adjusting and adapting our lives to new, “lesser” economic standards, which are still significantly more comfortable than those experienced in much of the non-western world. I’m confident in our collective ability to redefine and reestablish ourselves in changing times.

Revering the environment in the Dolomites of Italy

I’m also compelled to challenge one of our most commonly held reflexes: equating economic prowess with human vitality–physical, psychological, spiritual, and otherwise. Let me return, briefly, to my buzz word of choice for the environment: “revere.” We have so much to learn and gain by reconnecting with and re-experiencing our natural environment. On a tangible level, let’s consider the potential health benefits reaped by healthier land and skies, both for ourselves and for the wellbeing of the next generation. And on slightly higher ground: at the end of the day, what is it to truly “thrive” as individuals, as a people, and as a nation? Should we measure ourselves interminably by statistics that chart raw economic growth? Or is there something more powerful, something more eternal, something that transcends numbers and the whims of Wall Street? I’ll come clean: I like good food, comfortable shelter, and plenty of creature comforts, but I would also consider myself a devotee in the temple of the Tetons. Let’s break new trail: for the living Earth, our living selves, and our shared future. I’ll bring the PB & J.

Access the original Times article by this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/business/economy/28fed.html.

Access the original Reuters article by this link: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6445XD20100505.

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