Setting Our Houses Straight

ECONOMY: Middle English yconomye, management of a household, from Latin oeconomia, from Greek oikonomia-, from oikonomos, manager of a household : oikos, house + nemein, to allot, manage.

ECOLOGY: German Ökologie : Greek oikos, house + German -logie, study (from Greek -logia-, -logy).

Both words much in the news these days come from the Greek root OIKOS for house. Ecology: to study the house. Economy: to manage the house.

We’ve so far mis-managed and mis-understood the workings of our one and only house, the oikos that is our Commons, the basic stock of necessary supplies from which we draw our living.

We’ve failed to bring humankind in any active way into the economy of the ecology. Our economies have been short-sighted, linear, and for the relative few with no consideration of their impact on the other house within which, rich and poor, now and centuries hence, we must all live. We have imperiled our ecology in a thousand ways by a mistaken dualism that sees economy as something separate, other, and independent. It is not.

I encourage you to read how Kentuckian Wendell Berry appraises the relative values of forest, soil and water of the OIKOS against coal extraction. We are selling our birthright for a pot of soup.