Ecology vs. corporate bottom lines: Who wins?


Here it is, tax season again! If you figure out your own taxes like I do, it takes a while to collect all the data, add and subtract the figures, fill out the forms. Usually I plan a day or two for all the preparation and math work to find the bottom line. 

I’m thinking about that phrase “bottom line” this morning. It’s used to refer to the profits of a business or the taxes I have to pay the government, once all the figures are in. Little did I know until now it is also the name of a newsletter publishing company, a service to help students with college, an investment firm, a bar and grill and a tax preparation agency. 

But I’m most concerned about a broader and more critical bottom line that is being sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit. There is an ecological bottom line that makes life on this planet possible. It includes our dependence on the elements of air, water, earth and fire. It includes our interdependence with plants and animals, fish and fowl, streams and seas, sunshine and rain. In the final analysis, we’re more dependent on creation than on the cash in our pocket or bank account, although some seem to believe they can buy their way into a heaven on earth, even if the rest be damned.

The latest book to shock our ecological consciousness, “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, is bleak indeed. He has coined a whole new vocabulary, using words like “Airpocolypse” for the noxious air choking cities in China and India and causing an estimated 9 million deaths worldwide in 2015. He writesthat , as the levels of carbon increase in the atmosphere and oxygen levels decrease, it messes with our brains. Cognition goes down. 

Or try on the term “Wet Bulb Temperature,” the combination of heat and humidity, the complement I suppose of “wind chill.” Then there’s the term “Climate Caste System,” recognizing that some have to live next door to the oil refinery spouting toxic fumes or drink water downstream from the broken pipeline. “Hidden Hunger” is the name for nutrient deficient plant life as carbon levels in the atmosphere increase. Higher CO2 levels mean less protein, calcium, iron, etc. in the crops we eat. About 600 million people in the world would be at risk from the nutrient collapse of rice. 

One of the dangerous, even criminal aspects of the present administration in Washington is the emphasis on the corporate bottom line, without regard for the ecological bottom line. Since the president took office, he has made a point of rolling back every regulation that has protected the health and safety of the population in favor of corporate profits. When it comes to air pollution and emissions, drilling and extraction industries, toxic substances and safety, water pollution, endangered species and infrastructure and planning, there have been 78 rollbacks so far under this administration. We have a former coal lobbyist running the EPA; a former CEO of a pharmaceutical company running Health and Human Services and an oil lobbyist as Secretary of the Interior. 

Don’t think for one minute decisions are being made for the benefit of the bottom line of the average citizen, or our ecological bottom line. Decisions aren’t even being made for the government’s bottom line, given our ballooning national debt, the result of the tax windfall given the wealthy and corporations.

Perhaps one of the more symbolic and illustrative examples of the priorities of this administration took place in 2018, when we stunned the rest of the world with our opposition to a breast feeding resolution. 

Hundreds of delegates had gathered at the World Health Assembly to affirm mother’s milk as the healthiest for children and work “to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.” The U.S. delegation worked to modify the resolution and then began to threaten sponsoring countries with aid and trade problems. The baby food industry is a $60 billion a year industry and sales have fallen off as more and more women turn back to breast feeding. Mothers, this administration would say, keep your breasts covered and keep the economy booming!

The latest scientific reports say we have 12 years to keep catastrophic levels of climate change from occurring. That has become the rallying cry of the Sunshine Movement and of other young people all around the globe. They will have a global climate strike on March 15. Adults had better get out of the way. That includes Dianne Feinstein, who lectured children in her office about how after 30 years, she knows what she’s doing. That includes Senator Thune, who recently wrote an article in this paper against the “Green New Deal.” If that is not the way forward, what is, and how much will he spend on “security” for God’s good Creation? Half the military budget? 

The young know what’s at stake. It’s their future. The rest of us had better get on board or get out of the way. That’s the bottom line.