>the footprint we work


Several years ago I read a great little book on personal finance called Your Money or Your Life. In that book I was captivated by the idea that money represents one’s “life energy.” The idea is that much of the time we work for counterproductive reasons – we falsely trade our life energy for something that feels like life but is something much less. By working more (giving up more and more of our life energy) we end up wasting more trying to maintenance our busy lives. We eat more fast food, pay for dry cleaners, pay for child care, lack time to cut out coupons or shop frugally, drive more rather than bike or take public transportation, and generally have less time for our families. Our modern lives are increasingly lives of diminishing returns.

Recently I came across a somewhat related quote in Bill McKibben’s book Deep Economy. It is as follows:

The more hours you work, the bigger your ecological footprint too. That’s because you’re spending more money and spending it carelessly: with no time to go to the farmers’ market, let alone to cook what you buy there, you drive through the drive-through instead. The numbers are substantial: an American working twenty to forty hours a week requires about twenty-three acres of the earth to support him; someone working more than forty hours requires nearly twenty-eight acres.(1)

I have not been someone to get on the environmentalist bandwagon as much as I probably should, though I have been at the fringes for years. However, if what McKibben says is true I feel I have to take note. If my goal is to love my neighbor as myself then I need to ask how requiring my person acreage, as it were, to be more than the American average, or even more than the global average, is helping me to love my neighbor. One of the great ironies is that the U.S., a country that has claimed Christian roots, praises itself for being such a great help and example to the world while it far outstrips the world in consumption of just about everything. In other words, we puff ourselves with pride for how much we love our neighbors yet we live as though what belongs to others is more rightfully ours. That’s not the way I want to live.

1. McKibben, Bill. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, pp. 114-115.

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