I buy a Prius; you buy a Hummer. I start a business installing windmills on local farms. You invest in a firm building 4 coal fired electric plants. Norway levels off its emissions; the US and China increase theirs. Do we really think that these market choices will end, say, global warming? Don't we have to work with all three sectors, as donors, investors, consumers, but also as citizens? What role, then, does government play in making sure that every firm the world over accounts for its social impact, positive or negative, and that negative returns are penalized? Now, considering China, what role would diplomats, the UN, the WTO, the World Bank, or the US Marines play in bringing a second bottom line to their economy and forcing the line to curve upward, towards sustainability?
I once worked for a very old man, raking leaves on his 15 acre property. Bent over with age, his head down on his chest, he would take an hour or two raking a 10 foot perimeter completely clean, as leaves fell all about. When he was done, he would trudge back to his house, as the leaves blew over the small space he had cleared. That is how these second bottom line firms seem to me. They may do a little good, but so late, and to such little net effect. How can we begin to think bigger? About reducing expectations about growth? About living more simply? About our moral obligation to future generations not to lay waste to the ecosystems? About global accords? About political will? About using might - while we still have it - not only to endorse but to enforce second bottom lines on all firms and governments worldwide, whether they like it or not, however much they may resist, since our very survival is at stake? About reforming corporate legal structure to make it less impervious to the harms it may do? About reforming campaign finance to get polluters from winning the regulatory game behind closed doors by greasing outstretched palms? Instead, we eat Ben and Jerry's Rainforest Crunch, and fall asleep, satisfied at a job well done.