Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Law of Give and Take

... If I remove a book from the shelf in my room and sell it somewhere, my library is slightly diminished, though I may gain a dollar or two for my wallet. Each time that I remove another book, the shelves grow more bare. Now suppose that thousands of books are being removed from thousands of shelves, for sale, and the ones not sold are being buried forever in massive piles outside the city limits.

When I see the glorious abundance piled up in my local grocery store these days, I sometimes think: Each apple, each cucumber, each banana, represents a little bit of vitality from the soil of some farm somewhere. Each one not sold will end up in a landfill, its quotient of biomass locked up indefinitely. Each one sold and eaten may fare somewhat better, spread as a bio-solid somewhere, but still, the farmland whence it originated is the poorer.

Will there come a day when our agricultural soils are impoverished beyond repair, our breadbasket lands as bare of nutrients for life as the blowing sands of a desert dune?

More and more as I grow older, I am recognizing there is no free lunch, no action without a consequence, no action without an equal and opposite reaction. It is natural law, whether in the wilderness or in the societies of humankind. Cutting down a forest to build a gas station has a consequence. Trees will be burned and carbon released. Those animals which cannot quickly flee, such as box turtles, will be killed and over their bodies and the soil a hard concrete shell will be poured, blocking the rain that for eons soaked into that ground and replenished life.

Passing laws to "give" everyone "free" health care has a consequence, too. When one receives, another must have given, somehow, somewhere, to make it happen ... by choice or by force.

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