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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Sep 1, 2022

A recent headline in the Economist magazine states “In the world of greenery, no good deed goes unpunished”.  

This headline is a great place for an English lesson. Let’s start with the word ‘greenery’. In this case, the word ‘greenery’ refers to the future shift in the world towards using less fossil fuel for energy in the future. So, ‘greenery’ is environmental, green thinking.

“In the world of greenery, no good deed goes unpunished”.

So what is a ‘deed’? A deed is an action, an action that is done intentionally. So, a ‘good deed’ is a good action.

“In the world of greenery, no good deed goes unpunished”.

Saying ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ means that an action, even if it is a positive action –– a good deed –– it can still have an unfortunate consequence.

“In the world of greenery, no good deed goes unpunished”.

In this case, the article discusses how the reduction in our reliance on petroleum and natural gas, means that we will therefore need to refine less petroleum and natural gas.

That’s all good, right? But, the decrease in refining will lead to a decrease in an important by-product of that process. Sulfur. Exactly the type of sulfur required we use to produce products ranging from soap and food preservatives to fertilizer and batteries to power the electric cars of the future.

In other words, just as the supply of this sulfur is set to diminish (to decrease), there is going to be a rise in demand at the same time.

Before we finish this lesson, here is a spelling note for you. The word ‘sulfur’ is written as ‘sulfur’ in American English, and ‘sulphur’ in British English. The word fertilizer is also spelled differently. In the US with a ‘z’, and in the U.K. with an ‘s’.

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