As we approach the nation’s 236th year of independence from England and thereby Europe, we find ourselves glued to the financial news out of Europe like we were still part of it. And we are, more than ever. We worry about the economies of China and Russia as if they were our own – regardless of our political differences. Why? Because our very livelihood depends on the world’s economic and environmental health.
We live on the Pacific Coast where debris from the Japanese tsunami is now just starting to wash up from a catastrophe clear across the world’s largest ocean. Beyond our human empathy for the brave people of Japan, many Japanese products we took for granted became scarce. We were confronted with how the damage to their infrastructure affected our marketplace.
If there’s even a hint of an interruption in the supply of oil from the Middle East, we feel it at the pump. That cost trickles up into everything we buy, including the food we eat.
On the West Coast, we’re now getting air pollution from China. If the developing world continues to copy our approach to “prosperity,” we will suffer the health and environmental consequences right here in the USA.
So yes, we wave the flag and celebrate our great nation. We are thankful for the opportunities and freedoms we enjoy. We are proud to be Americans. But independence? We are all here on the same planet, all interdependent and becoming more so every year.
The good news is that the superpowers all know that their customers and suppliers in the other superpowers are too important to allow anything that would hurt their infrastructure, economy, or the world atmosphere. The bad news is that we haven’t yet realized that our economies and health are ultimately dependent on the health of the environment.
But we as individuals are not completely powerless, especially in America. Over and over again we hear that the world economy depends largely on the health of the American consumer. We all know by now that we vote with our money. In our incessant desire to get everything at the very lowest price, we can inadvertently subsidize political, social, health and environmental practices we would never allow in our own country. Every purchase we make is a vote for how it was made, the working conditions and how it got to us.
It’s hard to blame the government when the lobbyists are financed by our choices. If all politics are local, as it is often said, we can start to make changes in the way we spend our money. We can shop at the local organic farmer’s market and try to buy as many goods and services from local merchants as possible. We can avoid the purchase of single use plastics and vote for cleaner beaches. We can vote for lower healthcare costs by making healthier food choices. Every time we fill up with gas we can at least recognize where those funds are going and hope the day will come soon when we will have cleaner alternatives. Car-pooling, biking, and just plain walking are great votes for a more sustainable future.
This Independence Day let’s recognize our interdependence and how our individual choices can shape the future of not only our great country, but also the world. We are free to make independent choices in how we spend our money, thereby casting our votes. We can yet bring in the “New Order” that our nation’s founders called for by recognizing our true power right here in our wallets.
Happy Birthday USA!