The economy is a subset of ecology

The Atlantic magazine ran a cover story boldly proclaiming: “We Will Never Run Out of Oil”. While that certainly caught my eye, it was the subtitle that gave me extra pause. It proclaimed: “Why the fossil fuel boom is good for America… and scary for the planet”. Does America exist in isolation from the planet? Now, I understand a magazine’s desire to publish covers with attention-grabbing headlines; however, I think this subtitle captures a philosophical dichotomy that exists in the public’s perception of what sustainability even means.

There are those who are mistaken into thinking that the environment is something external to us (“out there”) that must yield to the economy; then, there are those who (correctly) understand that the economy is but a subset of the planet’s total environment – the global ecology. After all, what’s the point of creating conditions favourable to economic growth if, in the process, it also creates conditions that are unfavourable to life and our collective well-being?

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