A green lining for the bad economy


Two headlines in my local paper today made me re-think the phrase, "silver lining." Because according to The Oregonian today, the bad economy has a green lining. Specifically, our landfills and our health can thank the falling GDP for better results. The health statistics, especially, surprised economics professor Christopher Ruhm, who'd expected to see the opposite effect in his 1-year study of death rates and unemployment rates. To whit: the two were a mirror image. The higher the unemployment rate, the fewer deaths from car accidents, heart attacks, industrial accidents and SIDS, as well as other causes of infant death.

Landfills, too, have a reverse correlation with economic indicators. As consumption falls, so does refuse. In Oregon, landfills were stuffed with 16 percent less trash in the last quarter of 2008 as the last quarter of 2007. Could it be that buying stuff is bad for us; and the reverse is also true? (A quiet echo in this question: should we -- if we were to be truly responsible about it -- actually desire a serious reduction in GDP?)