One of the greatest catalysts of the environmental movement in Michigan was the rise of the middle class working family as our state industrialized in the early 1900s. Forty-hour-a-week workers with good pay and benefits sought out clean rivers, streams, lakes and parks for recreation and relaxation during their weekends and vacations. Many industries that created the jobs soon realized they had to provide their employees a clean environment as well.
Now as we struggle through a prolonged period of economic malaise in America, economists and politicians focus on what is needed to stimulate growth in the U.S. and world economies. They appear to worship at the altar of economic expansion, few seeming to question if our planet can sustain the growth rates they pursue. What price to our environment does a robust economy extract?
Of course, it is easier for a person with a job, insured benefits and a retirement program to question the obsession with economic growth; but a job without clean air to breathe and water to drink will not be satisfying for long. So a healthy dose of skepticism about economic growth is needed.
As I read the scathing indictment of corruption in college sports in the October issue of The Atlantic Magazine, I kept thinking that a healthier dose of skepticism about ever-increasing hype might have avoided the crass commercialism and exploitation of what once was but may no longer be justifiably connected to institutions of higher learning.
And of course, a healthy dose of skepticism must be maintained by those in charge of school sports as we trend during difficult economic times in directions more commercial than our founding principles may have envisioned.