Upside of the downturn

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What do we do now that money no longer makes the world go round?

While many are fearing pink slips, dealing with thinning resources or adjusting to other insecurities of the moment, it seems strange to be talking about upsides to the hard times. But, believe it or not, there are a few. Here are 10 of the positives of living through this money meltdown:

1. Less pressure on the natural world

We may be hurtin', but Mother Nature is definitely better off, at least for now. Take the oil patch. Even before plunging global demand depressed oil prices, the financial melt-down had dried up billions in new investment dollars slated for the tar sands. It's ironic that while the boreal forest is getting a bit of a break, so are we. Less price pressure at the gas pump has made life a little easier for a lot of people. Who ever thought those two things could happen at the same time?

2. Less development pressure on cities

The credit crunch is good news for city-lovers facing gentrification. Housing mayhem has taken its toll on the condo boom as stalled financing accomplishes what the grassroots and city planners could not. And there's a fair possibility that by the time this downturn is over, building standards will ensure that new developments are constructed with energy efficiency and environmental impact in mind. Yes, we're losing construction jobs, but we need to employ these folks to do infrastructure and green retrofits, right?

3. Home-growing opportunity

Those who haven't yet bought a house but have managed to hold on to a decent job may be able to get themselves a good deal on a first house over the next while. And even people who have to sell should be able to cancel their loss if they're able to buy low as well. Current interest rates mean a good deal on the mortgage for those who have the nerve to go for a variable rate when they sign up. I know. There isn't much on the market right now. But if you are among this lucky group, take your time and just be grateful.

4. Financial regulation is back in style

I mean even Canadian finance execs have to give thanks for the government regulations that used to make them curse with envy as they gazed to the south during the boom time. Those regulations saved them and us from the worst of what's going on in the global financial sector. Now how about we get to work on all the other areas that need attention, like killer chemicals (bisphenol A is the tip of the iceberg), food inspection, energy efficiency and more. Knowing what we know, we can never let government oversight and regulation go out of fashion again. Ever.

5. What's yours is mine

Now that money is tight, we can see that universal access to health care, schools, garbage collection and water treatment, community centres, libraries, skating rinks and parks, however imperfect, is an important part of the richness of our lives. It is now obvious that what we share, be it through government oversight, infrastructure, services or institutions, is critical to our personal well-being. It's time for the taxman to get some respect.

6. We are not islands unto ourselves

Each person who slips out of the spending pool makes recovery more difficult. That's why there's a global consensus to engage in stimulus spending to keep people employed and employing. So sustaining each other as best we can through these hard times is the fast track to regaining prosperity. Isn't that refreshing? This money mess is compost for altruism.

7. New things to explore

Whether we like it or not, this is no time for business as usual. Yes, this is harsh and stressful, but it's also creative and clarifying. If we at least try to imagine a best-case scenario even in the worst of times, it could take us personally closer to knowing what we actually want to be doing. And it could get some good volunteerism going, since that's often a good way to augment the resumé or contacts that might lead in a new direction. Warning: new ideas can change your life.

8. Embracing paradox

Nearsightedness killed our economy and the financial sector. Greed, after all, is just an extreme form of that disease. We need to be working toward the long term. But life is also in the now, and any solutions have to work that way, too. So it's no longer about choosing either/or. We need both. We need new employees with good jobs working for new green employers. We need to reduce toxic emissions and the toxic mindsets that permit them. We may have to reinvent politics to get this right.

9. Hope in the U.S.A.

C'mon. The Obama factor casts a little shine on our gloomy economic hit parade.

10. Solutions are almost there

Our present global warming was accurately predicted more than 30 years ago. As a result, we've had decades to find the solutions we need to detox the planetary atmosphere. Now, our economic woes have marshalled a good-sized pot of government spending gold. Knowledge and money: that could be a match made in heaven. All we need is political punch to bind them together. Surely, we will figure out a way.

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