THE COST OF MONEY
I suddenly wondered how much of an environmental issue it is to have money existing in the world. I typed into Google advanced search: “environmental cost of money” and only 3 results came up! And of those, only one had anything to say on the subject I was after – a somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece in the South China Morning Post (extract at the end of my post) that nonetheless had some new perspectives.
So, rather than spend the next 3 years of my life online researching the answers to my question, I jotted down a list of the things one would want to consider when exploring this subject. As I wrote, more and more issues of global and individual significance arose. Here’s my list:
Armoured cars, trucks, ships and planes transporting money – What’s their fuel economy? How many vehicles doing how many kilometers globally every day? What total fuel consumption and emission output and heat output?
Vehicles taking dead money for disposal – factors as above
Secondary costs: producing that fuel, money’s share of road construction and maintenance and vehicle manufacturing and repair (metals, plastics, electricity, water, pollution, etc)
Material resources used in money-related buildings, plus useage of electricity, water, gas and other fuels
Waste production (emissions, effluent, heat, solids etc) from creating the materials, building the buildings, and their everyday operation.
Demolition of old buildings – dust, noise, toxic releases, non-biodegradable materials
Secondary costs: money-related building’s share of habitat destruction, water, air and soil pollution from the use of land for buildings, servicing of roads, sewerage, water, gas and electricity for buildings, etc.
How many trees globally per day to make all the paper for:
All the paper money
All the financial documents in the world
How much water to make all that paper?
How much electricity to make all that paper?
Environmental costs to make all that paper: habitat destruction, deforestation, waterway destruction and pollution, air pollution, use of fossil fuels by machinery including transport of finished paper
How much of the paper is post-consumer waste or agricultural waste? How much is virgin timber or crops grown just to make the paper?
Disposal of old paper money notes and financial documents – transport, landfill, recycling, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.
Mining and production of metals
What’s the total electricity use globally by all the government financial departments, banks, insurance companies, brokers, internet sites, stock markets, accountants, book-keepers, lawyers, etc, devoted to monetary processes?
How much physical, 3-D space on the planet is taken up by all the buildings, vehicles, files (including files stored for 7 years for tax records in private homes!), plus the secondary share of space consumption by all the other industries involved?
How many terrabytes of internet space is taken up with money, moving it, reporting on it, filing information related to it, worrying about it, trying to earn it, etc.
ECONOMIC AND CORPORATE
How much more fulfilling would work be if we did not have or need money? If we worked because we love it, know that we are helping our fellows, and that we are supported equally without a price tag applied to what we do?
How much less competition would there be between companies, and how much more opportunity for co-operation so that all companies have a niche and can work without fear in what they do best?
What would the life of every child be like if parents did not have to work unacceptably long hours under stress and absent from home due to money?
How effective would our education be if students and their families were not in stress and trouble because of money?
And what about the fact that all we learn in school does not prepare us one whit for the gigantic subject of money that we have to deal with once we become independent adults? A huge schism between what we are taught, and what we need to know to survive in the world. What if what we learned in school matched how we are required to contribute later, and was enough to live and to work in our careers with joy and quality of life?
What’s the total cost to the global society of the illness flowing directly from fear and stress about money, either lack of it, or making it, managing it and keeping it?
What’s the total cost to the global society of sickness flowing from poverty and unequal distribution of money?
What’s the total contribution of money-related environmental degradation to global human illness?
What is the total social and environmental cost of gambling and all related industries and activities? There’s betting agencies, gambling machines, paper lottery tickets in the billions, race horses, tracks and studs, the almost obligatory tying in with alcohol consumption, the social cost of gambling-associated family breakdown, sickness and violence, the crime….
If there were no money, so therefore there could not be a huge global financial industry (both legal and illegal) based around addictive drugs, how much of them would be produced? And without financial stress, how much of them would people consume? How much “need” would there be for alcohol, cigarettes, illegal recreationals, prescription and non-prescription pharmaceuticals, coffee, chocolate, tea, sugar, etc, which lead to so much sickness and environmental degradation?
CRIME AND VIOLENCE
This hardly needs spelling out! What would the world be like if all the money-related crime and violence were removed?
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SPIRITUAL
How much less deceit, dishonesty, conflict, attachment, desire, expectation, disappointment, anger, frustration, helplessness and other problems in human relationships would there be if money were gone? How much reduction in marriage breakup and domestic violence and bullying? How much less competition? How many more people would find their path to inner and outer harmony easier? Or do we really need all this horror to force us to see our temporal existence as eternally unsatisfactory so that we will choose to strive for the higher way?
We hardly need the stats. I reckon if we deleted money completely and totally from our reality and focussed on true values, we’d free up huge amounts of space, need smaller houses, cities and roadways, need less vehicles, burn vastly less fossil fuels, have vast amounts of energy, metals and other raw materials to re-allocate to other purposes, save vast areas of forest, save vast amounts of water and catchment environments, reduce our solid, liquid and gaseous waste output, increase the area of productive agricultural land to feed the world population, improve the quality and functionality of our towns and cities, reduce the ever-present current of fear in global society, re-divert a huge army of workers into real and fulfilling work (instead of the empty, ‘virtual’ work of money-moving), free up a large proportion of everyone’s time in which to do much more productive things (meditate, discover who we really are, exercise, care for and nurture ourselves, families, communities and environment, grow food), improve the individual and collective health of humans and all life and open us up to a much more loving, harmonious, soulful life on Earth.
South China Morning Post
Sunday, July 25, 201
A new land of milk and money written by Jonathan Braude, Nov 29, 1997
“……It would be a new problem, created by the withdrawal of billions of Hong Kong dollars from circulation: what to do with the surplus paper? ‘Silly question!’ we hear you sniff. ‘Shred it and dump it on the landfill.’ We have to admit that is what the banks do now. When they take paper money out of circulation, they stick it through the shredder and dispose of it in much the same way as we householders dispose of our kitchen waste.
But isn’t our chief note-issuing bank supposed to be one of the leaders of the Private Sector Committee on the Environment, the business world’s leap into environmentalist New Ageism? Should Hong Kong not be pioneering new environmentally-friendly uses for old money, in much the same way it pioneers new speculator-friendly derivatives for risking other people’s money? The fact is, there are profits to be made in selling innovative ‘green’ processes which reduce the environmental costs of industrial production and waste. American and European companies have begun to tap into that market in a big way. Here’s an opportunity for Hong Kong, as the quintessential service economy, to get in on the act with a product designed to reduce the environmental cost of money…….”