If the markets are up, why is everything else down?

April 12, 2019
Rick Kool

Most mornings as I wake up, I’m listening to CBC Victoria. Sometime around 645 am or so, every weekday morning, as sure as the sun is going to come up, there is the ‘business report’, a few minutes of things being up, things being down, and some thing not moving at all.

In our world, ‘up’ is usually associated with ‘good’ while ‘down’ is bad. Our moods fit this categorization… we might say ‘I’m on top of the world’ when happy, or ‘I’m in the pits’ when feeling ‘low’. Saying ‘I’m up’ or ‘I’m down’ needs no further explanation.

The market report is telling us two things each morning: the state of the economy, and how we should feel about it.

When the markets are up, we should feel good; the economy is good and things are looking up! When the market is not moving, well, there is always tomorrow for some growth. When the market is down, that’s not good. And when the market stays down, that is really not good at all.

But not everything that grows is good. Cancer cells are truly exemplars of growth, and when cancer cells are ‘up’, that’s not good for the patient. Many of us struggle with weight gain, but heavier is not usually better for our health! When interest rates are up, that’s great for those with money in the bank, but terrible if you’re paying off a large mortgage.

So what about a major issue in Canada right now; the growth of the oil and gas industry? The world’s economy seems to be driven by the burning of carbon; Canada today seems to be driven by the issue of whether we should encourage the burning of carbon, or not. Our economy, some premiers tell us, is going to be ‘down’ unless we put more carbon ‘up’ into the atmosphere; burning more carbon will ‘lift’ the economy (more up-language) and if we don’t, we’re heading for a ‘depression’ (more down-language).

The continued use of the atmosphere as a cesspool for carbon is only revealed to us through the daily recording of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured since the late 1950s at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. While the Mauna Loa data is nothing like the Dow Jones or TSX indices, I think we can use the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere as an indicator of how we are doing in managing the global commons. When the daily carbon dioxide report is ‘up’, the quality of the world’s environment is ‘down’.

When beauty is ‘up’, that’s great… when ‘equality’; is up, wonderful… when wisdom is ‘up’, the world will be a better place. When carbon dioxide is ‘up’, this is not good.

We can hope and work for growth in the domains of beauty, equality and wisdom with no worry. However, the endless pursuit of economic growth is a fool’s mission; globally, when the economy is ‘up’, the environment is ‘down’.

So in the morning when CBC and other news media report the stock markets, they need to also give the daily level of carbon in the atmosphere, compare it to the same day in the previous year, and make sure that they clearly say that when carbon is up, everything is in trouble.