A Cost Worth Bearing: Sustainability and the Democratic National Convention

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    At this year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, considerable efforts have been made to “green” the event . From low-toxin paints to increased recycling, the convention and its organizers have taken on the immense challenge of putting their money where their political mouth is.

    But as is sometimes the case, going green isn’t easy logistically or financially. When asked about the additional costs incurred by greening the Democratic Convention, Chief Operating Officer Theo LeCompte responded that “moderate” additional costs were created.  

    For those of us who don’t believe the earth has an infinite amount of resources, additional costs are not a major deterrent. For many on the conservative side though, “additional costs” related to efforts at sustainability are unacceptable and a further indication that the “libs” are attempting to bankrupt the U.S.

    Until the present, many advocates of sustainability have gone on the defensive, claiming that up-front costs of going green will be trumped by the long-term economic payoffs. Unfortunately, this argument in particular hasn’t appeared to win over the hearts or minds of conservative nay-sayers.  

    The more forceful argument I’ve not seen made often enough is the following: yes, sustainable practices will cost more in the short-run, but it’s a small price to pay to save money down the road and ultimately, our planet. We’re going to keep promoting these practices until you learn to live with them, period.

    Yes, this argument is modeled after the forcefulness of many conservative policy positions (i.e. we’re doing x, like it or not).

    What great advancements in history have come without a cost? The way many conservatives argue, all great ideas have floated to the mainstream in a free-market paradise that has since been eclipsed by socialists. But those of us not drowned in conservative rhetoric know better. We know that great ideas still have to be helped along the way to be sustained. And by help, I mean financially in particular.

    So yes, sustainability practices did cost extra money for the Democratic Convention. Deal with it! What is our country’s and our planet’s future worth? If we listen to economists, the answer is, not as much as the present. But for myself, extending the good life well into the future for others to enjoy is worth a little sacrifice in the now. I believe that somewhere inside most people, they feel the same too.  

    • kindler

      GNP counts goods and services sold, no matter how destructive the impact.  If a country mows down its rain forest to turn it into furniture and toothpicks, that’s graded as an A+!  We reward the short term personal gain but not the long term overall effects.

      If a factory disgorges obscene amounts of pollution, but it is not regulated, then the company gets the profit but sticks the rest of us with the costs — in health care and cleanup.  We rate those factors as “externalities” — not included in economic calculations.

      What enviros are starting to learn is how to better account for the impacts of our action, both positive and negative, to bring their real value out into the open.  So yes, a slightly greater upfront cost, which brings long term greater benefits — be it a home, a light bulb, a car, etc. — is worth it and we need to show, in detail and with numbers, exactly why that is.