The cost of building canals

Building a canal from a river or a stream has its advantages, but always comes at a cost.

Diverting a river to build a canal has its utilitarian advantages – it can be used for to irrigate farms while supplying villages and towns with water. Yet, every canal damages ecosystems that have been stable for centuries – a cost that is often hidden from plain sight.

We are all asked to ‘find our own path’ in our lives. Like a river, we are gifted a natural path. While we are on this path, we are intrinsically motivated – our work is done for its own sake rather than for an external reward or due to the fear of punishment.

Yet, in a utilitarian society, we are forced to build compromises in favour of utility – to examine the viability and the social acceptability of our choices. All of those compromises are canals that cut through our lives – beneficial in the short run, but at the cost of self-worth and self-motivation in the long run.

I am not against building canals – some of them are invaluable. It is just that we must also account for their hidden costs when we pick up our shovels.

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