Month 4, Day 20: Their Cash, Our Trash

A version of yesterday’s letter, this one to Harry Reid.

Dear Majority Leader Reid,

As financial reform legislation comes to the floor of the Senate, it’s important to recognize that the gutting of America’s economy is deeply and powerfully linked with the destruction of America’s environment. Irresponsible short-term thinking, motivated entirely by considerations of immediate profit, is at the root of both our financial crisis and our climate emergency.

Only a vigorous regulatory regime can keep giant corporate interests from exploiting legislative loopholes to the detriment of our financial and environmental health. Economically and environmentally destructive behavior is rooted in a systemic bias toward short-term economic thinking. As long as it is based on a model of unregulated consumption, our economy will remain unsustainable. Big banks buying and selling incomprehensible credit derivatives; cheap plastic junk that winds up in oceanic garbage patches — this is the face of unrestrained and short-sighted consumption, and it’s profoundly damaging to our country and to the world.

We need our corporations to focus on long-term thinking, something which is currently discouraged by the terms of corporate charters. We only have a little time left to determine whether we will leave our descendants a meaningful future or an exploitative dystopia. To fix the climate, we must transform our economy, making it essential that the largest economic forces in the country give back more to the Earth than they take out.

We can’t afford to lose this one.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 19: Turning Your Money Into Trash

Financial reform is very important, not only because Goldman Sachs and the rest of the shark pack have ripped the guts out of our economy, but because these mega-bankers care as much about the environment as they do about the people below them on the economic ladder. That is to say, not at all. Unsustainable environmental practices go hand in hand with unsustainable business practices, and it’s time to make sure that shit is absolutely never going to happen again.

Dear Senators Kerry and Dodd,

This letter is about the connection between climate legislation and financial reform.

Any reasonably robust climate bill will be fought tooth and nail by business interests in this country, which is a sure indication that environmental legislation needs to be coupled with financial reform. Ultimately, our destruction of the environment is rooted in a systemic problem in our economic thinking. Our economy is largely built on an unsustainable practice: buying things and turning them into trash as quickly as possible. This happens on Wall Street when the big banks buy and sell incomprehensible credit derivatives to one another, and it happens on Main Street when our stores sell us cheap plastic-wrapped junk that breaks and winds up in a landfill a week later.

An economic model based on turning things into trash will ultimately destroy our nation, and us along with it. We tell our children to contribute to society, to leave things better than we found them — but unless we can end our reliance on consumption as a way of life, our fine words are nothing more than hypocritical prating. The next few decades will determine whether we live in a world that offers our children and their children a meaningful future or a landscape clogged beyond recognition with toxic trash. We can’t fix the climate unless we transform our economy — until we focus our power and attention on living in ways that give back more to the Earth than we take out.

During the debate on the financial reform bill, it is my hope that you will point out to your colleagues in the Senate (and to the nation) that what unsustainable financial practices have done to our economic health, unsustainable consumption habits are doing to our environment. Our nation, and the world, can afford this no longer.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders