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Quote of the day

January 15, 2009

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Chapter III (by Oscar Wilde)

Oscar Wilde’s observation of the decline of moral values in late nineteenth century Victorian English society resonates with even more force today. This aphorism is behind more of the world’s ills than one might initially suspect. Food is a prime example. How many of us make decisions in the supermarket based solely on cost? The truth is that monetary cost is a fairly one-dimensional abstraction of value and does not reflect in a broad sense the true, holistic cost of anything. Produce from industrial agriculture, for example, may be monetarily cheaper on the supermarket shelves but is in fact more expensive in a holistic sense when taking into account the cost to the environment of pesticides and artificial fertilizers along with the cost of long-term dependence on non-renewable resources (oil) to produce them. These costs are conveniently hidden from view when decisions are made in the supermarket.

As things stand today it is, alas, the responsibility of the consumer to keep the aforementioned costs in mind when purchasing. This extends to all forms of consumption on a daily basis. It creates a lot of extra work and requires a good deal more thought. In order for these true costs to be effectively represented the responsibility ought to be shared between producer, distributor and consumer. It should not fall solely on one or the other. We are all subject to the consequences of not taking these hidden costs into account, particularly with respect to the environment. To willfully inflict damage upon one’s own environment for the sake of monetary profit is sheer stupidity and should not be tolerated at any level.

Until we all make a genuine effort to trace and understand the true value of anything with a price tag we will continue to live out a colossal and costly lie.

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