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Oikos or It’s All Good Housekeeping

“A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.” ~Irish Saying

What do the words economics, ecology, and ecumenical have in common? They are all derived from the Greek work for household, house, or family: oikos.[i] In other words, they’re all about good housekeeping, whether the house in question is a single family home or the planet that is home to us all.

It is interesting that the words economics, ecology, and ecumenical also are somewhat analogous to the sustainable business categories comprising the “triple bottom line”—profit, planet, and people. The triple bottom line often is graphically represented as a three-legged stool, with the implication being that if you neglect any leg, the whole business topples.

This should also tell us that media and political polarizations, such as “environment vs. jobs,” are false dichotomies. The planet may get along just fine without humans, but human health and all economies are totally dependent upon a healthy and productive environment. Former U.S. Senator and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson expressed this eloquently as, “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.”

So what does good housekeeping for the planet entail? It can be as simple as changing a light bulb or as momentous as deciding to have fewer children. It does mean lifestyle changes, such as eating lower on the food chain and using energy and resources more efficiently. However, it does not mean that we have to return to the Dark Ages. A sustainable future is cleaner, greener, and brighter.

This brings us to household budgeting:

Fossil fuel reserves are like fixed assets that generate no interest. We’ve already gone through the easily accessible oil and coal accounts, akin to no-interest checking and savings accounts. With natural gas fracking and oil rigs dotting our coasts, we’re well into selling off our mutual funds and other harder-to-get-at assets. Now that we’re toying with tar sands, deep-water wells, and drilling in the melting Arctic permafrost, we’re beginning to cash in our IRAs, with the accompanying heavy penalties.

All the Earth’s interest-bearing energy accounts are derived from the sun (solar, wind, biomass, water flow and tides) or from temperature differences between our planet’s surface and its deeper layers of lava, rock, or water. The sooner we adapt our economies to run off interest-bearing accounts, rather than drawing down our planet’s natural capital, the better off our budget and our global household.

“God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.” ~Author Unknown

by Kyle Crider

Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America.