Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 6-13-07
Professor Dan Warner teaches a class at WWU entitled “Business and the Environment”. You’d think from the class title that his focus would only touch upon global warming, biodiversity and the like. Instead environment for this class includes the numerous other stakeholders affected by business: stockholders, customers, coworkers and community.
Dan asked me to speak to his class, offering me some possible topics to touch upon but giving me the freedom to stress that which I might find compelling to share with his students. I’ve done this many a time for Professor Warner over the years and I continue to gravitate towards a specific challenge to his students: I ask them to consider the ecological implications of their career path as they juggle the numerous ways they might make their living.
Will their choice in making a living support life or hinder life?
Author Paul Hawken states that “… there’s no polite way to say that business is destroying the planet.” If he’s right, as I believe he is, then many of these business students may leave Western to earn their living while they consciously, or unconsciously, hinder life on the planet.
Not a good idea.
Did you consider this issue when you thought about your career path? What help or damage might your work impose on all the stakeholders affected by your work? How did you end up selecting your particular job?
All too often one’s path to choosing a career looks more like painting oneself into a corner. You may have gotten out of college with some educational debt. Perhaps a car loan for that cool vehicle you adored in your late teens or early twenties. Soon you might follow the normal stepping stones laid out before you, all the while seduced by the marketing prowess of mainstream media………. you might buy a home; get married; have kids; buy a boat.
Each stepping stone represents an increase in your income needs to support these decisions. It’s a bit like a funnel, isn’t it? Each responsibility you embrace decreases the freedom you have, so the walls of the funnel can tend to converge. Hence, the only careers you can consider must compensate you sufficiently to meet these expenses.
And unless your eyes are wide open you may find yourself seeking a certain level of compensation while you ignore, or deny, the affects your work will have upon the environment – your community, the planet, your coworkers.
It’s no wonder that it’s so very hard for someone, anyone, to consider embracing an idea that runs contrary to their means of earning their living. Try to convince someone who works at Intalco why strip mining may be wrong! Go ahead; knock yourself out!
Is it any wonder why it’s so hard to embrace the need to downsize one’s life, to decrease one’s ecological footprint, to decrease burning up our finite resources, when so many of our incomes rely upon sustaining this level of consumption?
Yes, it’s hard to give stuff up. And that’s why I ask Dan’s students to think about this before they create their own funnel. Think before you step down this path of increasing responsibilities. Start with the end in mind.
Sustaining a living that doesn’t sustain life does not a Mister Natural make.