Economics vs. the Environment through the Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo by tarsandsaction |

The news is often filled with controversial topics that lead to public outcry. Recently, some in-depth reading led me to realize that individuals categorize under two distinct teams: they are often either Economists or Environmentalists.

Like all sport teams, these societal teams also have active players, sideline supporters, and opposing goals. In this case, one team strives for a stronger economy, while the other roots for a healthy environment. While you, personally, may not be actively thrashing protest signs on the street, or sitting in a CEO chair, your priorities indicate which team you are on.

Steven Harper, Canadian Prime Minister, was recently interviewed about the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, proposed by TransCanada Corp in 2008. This endeavour is planned to transfer crude oil from the oil sands of Alberta down to Texas, USA. Obviously this is a profitable project and a great boost to Canada’s economy; hence why Harper stated that he is getting anxious for the Obama administration to give their go-ahead. Just as obviously, this project also has the potential to greatly harm the environment and the nation of the United States; hence why Obama is stalling. It’s clear which “E” team these leaders belong to concerning this topic.

I understand that Harper wants what is best for his nation; he wants to ameliorate our economy. He stated that if USA doesn’t hurry up with a decision that the oil would be sold to China. But what are those environmental concerns that Obama (among all other environmentalists) fear? Essentially, the 2,740 km pipeline is planned to run underneath any farmland and lakes en its route to Texas. Any malfunctions (such as leaks or spills) run the risk of dangerously contaminating our food, water, and all local wildlife.

I am not naïve, and Economists have a good shot at winning this game. To be fair, I would like to say that both are equally important perspectives – but are they really? Money is simply a man-made phenomenon; one that, in my opinion, only creates feelings of superiority and inequality between mankind. So how can that be more important than the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil from which our food comes from?

Our only solution is to create a hybrid team: the “Econvironmentalists”! Alright, so the name needs some fine-tuning, but the multi-disciplinary concept is key. If professional engineers, businessmen, and politicians were taught about environmental care during their studies, then they would be motivated to develop better and healthier projects. These professionals would have the ability to turn idealistic ideas into realistic innovations.

Lastly, here is my final thought about money vs. the environment: The world does not belong to anyone; it is simply shared by all. So how does someone claim propriety over it? How does someone claim ownership of the world’s riches? How does someone earn money by selling what is all ours?