Columnists
The painful prioritizing between two issues: health/life and economics/livelihood
By Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Faculty Emeritus in Humanities, Austin College
Aug 2, 2020
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Many of our citizens, especially among workers with low wages, have often faced the painful choice between  paying for food or prescription medicines if it means postponing bills for rent. Would not eviction be worse than failing health without a roof overhead? This personal/family dilemma has gone national with the COVID-19 pandemic. Every family in this nation has seen the “health/life versus economics/livelihood” dilemma headlined in our media. The dilemma is frustrating because both are so interconnected that both must ultimately be satisfied to insure the pursuit of as much happiness and sanity as possible.

Families with school-aged children are prioritizing health. With our elections in November, politicians are putting more emphasis on economics. While the issues of opening or closing of public schools has been left to local school systems, parents in throughout the country are frustrated because they all want their children in school this fall, but take seriously the old Boy Scout manual warnings of “Safety First,” and “Be Prepared.”

Many yearn for an effective vaccine, but some will resist any vaccine, others will say it will be fake, and more will question whether we can have enough for the rising need. This past week, most of our nation has celebrated the life of the late John Lewis, while our president has focused on sending troops to Portland and offering racist tweets.

The painful prioritizing between health and economics is a personal and national issue in many nations. These same issues have had universal priority for fifty years from ecologist and all who have been warning us that climate change is advancing even faster than predicted; that humanity is choosing immediate “economics/livelihood” over the health of our planet and the lives of billions of people and one million species in danger of extinction. Will our focus on the personal and national dangers of COVID-19 draw out attention away from the potential drastic consequences of our warming planet?

With the words ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’ appearing more often in our media when discussing the personal, national and global prioritizing of issues dealing with ‘health versus economics’, it underscores their interrelatedness when we note that both come from a Greek word meaning house or home—oikos.! “There is no place like home,” especially if growing numbers of people don’t have one!

Henry H. Bucher, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus of Humanities (1985–2019)
Chaplain Emeritus (1985-2004)