SHORT TERM VERSUS LONG TERM INTERESTS
A friend of mine brought a book with her when we met for coffee, “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner. She was impressed by it and read a passage to me, an aphorism the author discovered while traveling in Bhutan: “When the last tree is cut, when the last river is emptied, when the last fish is caught, only then will Man realize that he cannot eat money.”
The quote brought to mind a story that appeared a few years ago on the PBS news hour. The report was by Paul Solman. He had interviewed a scientist who was studying the human response to scarcity. What the scientist learned went against reason. In times of scarcity the response wasn’t to conserve and consume less, but a panic set in and people consumed more.
After a considerable discussion on this point, Solman went off to a part of the country where salmon were being over fished to the degree that the industry had become threatened. People who made their living off the sea understood the problem and naturally, were worried. On the day Solman taped his story, he was on a fishing boat at sea. The catch was light that afternoon and the fish were small. The boat owner was bemoaning the fate of his industry when he discovered a huge salmon among the smaller ones. He hadn’t seen a fish that size in years. Both men stared at it and then Solman asked the inevitable question: Was the owner going to return the large salmon back into the sea where it might spawn and replenish the species or was he going to keep it and sell on the open market?
The fisherman looked at his light catch and then at the large salmon. Slowly he answered, “Tossing it back would be good for the future of the industry, but I have to feed my family today.”
When the last tree is cut, when the last river emptied, when the last fish is caught, only then will Man realize that he cannot eat money.