Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers, and his views can be followed on a podcast: https://mortonjohn.libsyn.com.
The joy of the Internet is serendipity, the act of finding something of interest you were not looking for. It is the same joy we find in the public library or book store wandering the stacks.
Recently, I found a list of the Prettiest Towns in Every State presumably published by Architectural Digest. Since it was on the Internet, I could not be sure it was published by AD, a magazine that describes itself as “the international design authority.”
My suspicions were raised when I read that the prettiest town in Indiana was … wait for it… Porter in Porter County of Northwest Indiana. Porter is OK and popular with those who like the ribs and ambiance at Wagner’s. But prettiest town in Indiana? Not by a long short.
Yet, this got me thinking about the long battle for clean air and water in Northwest Indiana which led me to the current/future battles about climate change.
Whenever we talk about climate change, our focus is on the costs of preventing or repairing the damages associated with that change. How can we protect ourselves, our homes, businesses, and communities? What will preventive measures cost? How much will it cost to restore properties and lives from the floods, drought, storms, insect swarms, and invasive species of climate change?
That’s not how we might think if we were rationally attached to the past. A tornado or hurricane hits a town and we want to go back and rebuild what we had. Instead it is worth thinking about the benefits of climate change. How can we prosper from the environment in which we will be living and the opportunities it presents?
One impediment to forward thinking is our land tenure laws. We own slices of land. It may be that our homes were leveled, but we still own the land. So let’s get the insurance settlement, roll up our sleeves and rebuild. Only this time, we’ll make some improvements that would have reduced damages the last time.
We might, however, allow ourselves to rethink the built environment. If there is a tendency with a changing climate for frequent, heavy downpours, how could we benefit from an excess of water? Particularly if other regions are plagued by drought, could we find a market for our excess inventory of water?
If average temperatures are rising, what crops can we plant to increase revenues? After a tornado, could we give each land owner shares in a new corporation that would rebuild downtown in accord with today’s technologies and what we’ve learned from the past two centuries of urban life?
Our present policies with regard to the climate are pugnacious and reactionary. Where are the imaginative entrepreneurs who make the proverbial lemonade from lemons?