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Each year my wife and I destroy an acre of open space. Do we go to some untrammeled piece of land and dump chemicals on it, or pour cement on it or otherwise desecrate it? Of course not. But what we actually do is not much different. We have season tickets to the Rochester Americans hockey games (half season actually). By the time we deal with parking, tickets, food, etc. we probably spend something close to $600 for the year to attend these games. We love them – the game is fast paced, the arena is old school, and it’s fun getting to know the people who sit around us.

So how does this make us wilderness killers? In many places, that $600 would be enough to purchase an acre of land, or more. And by our choice in going to the hockey game, we are also making a (subconscious?) choice to not purchase and protect an acre of pristine land. And since the price of the land is a one-time price (ignore taxes and other costs associated with ownership) every single year we purchase hockey tickets, or take family vacations, subscribe to cable televisions, etc. we are allowing for the destruction of yet one more acre of land each and every year.

Is this inconsistent with what I claim to be environmental values that I hold dear? Not at all. Our choices reveal our values for sure – and given our current incomes and living situations, our actions simply reflect the fact that right now our family enjoys the chance to camp for a week on state park lands, or going to a hockey game every two weeks, more than we value saving yet one more acre of land. But make no mistake – if our income were higher our values for conservation would clearly move higher up the list. And make no mistake, that we choose to watch hockey instead of purchasing land is no different than if we had purchased the land ourselves and turned it into a parking lot.

That we might be publicly scorned for making an acre of Adirondack woods into a parking lot, and not scorned for the purchase of our hockey tickets does not alter the basic facts of the situation. In each case, an acre of woods is destroyed. In each case, my voluntary choices are responsible. Just because you can see me acting in one case and not the other doesn’t change a thing. In fact, it is precisely because we often forget about the “unseen” — the implications of our choices — that we need to emphasize the equality of the two cases.

1. seen du,p into river … unseen destroy forest

2 Responses to “Neither Moral Nor Economic Difference”

  1. chuck martel says:

    Really? You going to a hockey game means an acre of the Adirondacks is going to be paved over? Perhaps some acre of the Adirondacks is going to be paved over, but do you know what particular acre it might be? If it hasn’t been seized through eminent domain, purchased by the government for public use or required to be turned into a parking lot in order to satisfy zoning requirements, then what? Usually there’s a reason for creating a parking lot. At the same time, the purchase of that acre and its conversion to a parking lot means that someone valued that expense more than a “wilderness experience”. We’ll just forget about the fact that automobiles have to have access to the acre, meaning the prior existence of a road and a reason to park there, implying a business or other attraction, a hockey rink, for instance. The parking lot developer decided that instead of investing in publishing a new edition of “Babbitt” or pork belly futures, it was more profitable for him to pave an acre of upstate New York, making it less likely that someone might be exposed to the dated prose of Sinclair Lewis and that some Iowa farmer might not be able to buy his wife a new microwave, every economic decision being fraught with unseen effects. What’s really important is that, at least for a moment, you feel a twinge of guilt when you settle into your seat as the Amerks skate out onto the ice, knowing that not only will some hapless Canadian forward soon get a face wash from Marcus Foligno but some trees will die because of it.

  2. RIT-Rich says:

    RIT hockey tickets cost $4. Save the earth! Support RIT Hockey!

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