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September 9, 2012

Column: Ironies of life, politics never fail to amaze

Life is full of ironies. Politics is especially full of ironies. Here are a couple that are particularly relevant as we slog our way through election season.

Over the last month or so, I’ve listened to a couple of radio talk shows featuring environmentalists sounding the alarm on climate change. Within their various cataclysmic predictions of the Arctic ice melting, the seas rising, crops withering in new dust bowls and tropical diseases headed north, is a compelling theme:

The earth is not ours alone. We have inherited it from our ancestors, and we will be passing it along to our descendants. We must not be so selfish as to consume its resources to the point where they will not be available for the generations yet to come. We must not be so greedy with our energy use that we leave our descendants to cope with the oceans inundating their coastlines, polluted drinking water and weather extremes from droughts to floods.

In fact, economic growth is a bad thing. It means more businesses making more things that consume more resources and more energy, being bought by more people. Our aspirations must not be infinite, because the earth is finite. We need fewer people, fewer things and much more modest lifestyles.

I think some of that is a bit over the top – economic growth is what leads to the next great inventions. Who knows what kinds of energy efficiency might be achieved through technological advances?

But in general, they are correct that we should be good stewards of the earth and its resources, if we want to claim (as certain groups so often do) that we care so much about “the children.”

They are correct that being good stewards means that everybody needs to sacrifice. While there are income disparities here, compared to the rest of the world, even the poor in America are among the 1 percent – the most blessed people in history.

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