The Necessity of a Scorched Economy

While going through old issues of National Geographic I came across the July 2008 issue in which was an article about wild fires in western United States. Prior to reading this article, I was under the impression (as many people seem to be) that wild fires are very destructive events — both for people and nature. But the article proved the contrary, at least for nature. It turns out that fires are a natural part of woodland ecosystems and are important because they speed up decomposition, release nutrients into the soil and clear out dead vegetation which makes room for new growth.  In the early 1900s, largely in response to the great fires of 1910, the U.S. started developing methods to control and quell wild fires. Now, half a  century later western forests are encumbered with dense vegetation. The article sites research that shows that from the late 1800s till now, the number of trees in a 2.5 acre plot of Arizona forest has gone from 50 to 1,700 — all because there have been no fires to clear it out.

The author of the article, Neil Shea says, “But we did not understand that fire, like rain, is necessary.”

So it got me thinking… Is an economic downturn much different than this? Before you call out your lynch mobs, hear me out. I know that the sour economy has many families across the U.S and world in a bad way, and I don’t mean to take that lightly, but there are many benefits of a depression – in the end, at least. A depression weeds out that which is unnecessary or is not working. Unsteady businesses like Baer Sterns go belly up. Destructive practices like sub-prime lending are called into question. Yes, job losses and home foreclosures are a terrible thing, but they are both a part of a necessary and natural process. Think of the end of the matter; from a business standpoint, the playing field has been leveled. Startups have all the room in the world to grow and thrive. New technology can be brought to the forefront without having to fight as much competition. 

Consider some of today’s business giants that got their start in a recession. Microsoft, for example, started in the ’73-’75 recession, General Electric started in 1876 in the middle of a six year recession.

The Nat. Geo. article made reference to a particular kind of pine tree whose “seed cones are coated in a waxy resin that must be melted off by heat to free the seeds.” Once the seeds are freed by the fire they find themselves in nutrient-rich soil and unchoked skies above.

In a way, I hope we don’t get too good at fighting economic declines. Certainly, there are things we should start and stop doing that will make life better for everyone and possibly reduce the impact of an economic slide in the future, but I personally believe that it’s inevitable, and possibly necessary.

So, while I don’t enjoy having to tighten the financial belt any more than you do, I look forward to the time when the fire dies out, the old, dead vegetation is cleared away and the economic soils have been infused with nutrients.

It’s a part of life.


Spring Resolve

It all occurred to me at once last week when we had a spell of 50 degree F temperatures after a long draught of bitter climate as cold as 2 degrees. It was a beautiful Saturday with snow melting everywhere. The sun was out and the air was unbelievably fresh. It was a day that really made you feel alive.

I got out of the apartment and took a nice long walk at Westerville, Ohio’s stunning Innis Woods Metro park and then drove out in the country with my windows down. This was a day of change. You could almost smell Life itself in the breeze as the earth thawed and the snow melted. You could almost hear the trees and grasses – like they were waking up from a long nap. It was like… Spring.

With all of this change and suggestions of growth and life that will be here in just a few short weeks, I had to wonder, why in the heck do we make our New Year’s resolutions in the dead of winter?

Seriously, what changes on the 2nd of January when you wake up after deciding to do ‘this’ or stop doing ‘that’? Nothing. Does anything in your environment give any hint that something has changed along with your decision or supports it in any way? Why not follow natures natural course and make these commitments of change in the Spring?

Come to think of it, why don’t we just make the first day of spring the First of the Year? Doesn’t that make sense and agree with everything else in life? You’re born (Spring), you grow up, become strong and do lots of things (Summer), you age and get slower but you’re a lot smarter (Fall), then your leaves drop, the cold comes and you die.  So, what is the reason for changing years in the middle of the dead of winter. What a ridiculous idea.

But, since you and I are not going to be able to change that small detail in our lifetime, the least we can do is to take the time to reflect and change things in our life in the Spring time, when all of God’s beautiful creation does.