"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Saturday, 24 September 2011

World Economy in a mess - Spend Spend Spend our way out of trouble?

When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money...
Greenpeace message on one of their longest banners.

This notion of spiritless existence can be described as materialism. All is matter; land, forests, food, water, labour, literature and art are commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace - the world market, the stockmarket, the so-called free market… Business without spirit, trade without compassion, industry without ecology, finance without fairness, economics without equity can only bring the breakdown of society and destruction of the natural world. Only when spirit and business work together can humanity find coherent purpose.
Satish Kumar, “Spiritual Imperative,” Resurgence

We seem to be in such a mess in the world with our economy. Growth, growth and more growth seem to be the Holy Grail. Growth will solve all our problems. If only we can get everyone to spend, spend, spend, then the economy will grow and all will be well. Until the next time, that is. When are the powers that rule going to understand but more importantly do something about the fact that seems so obvious to me and to many others around me? Growth is unsustainable. Isn’t it common sense that the world and its resources are finite? As are its land-fill sites? Our economy is sick. We need a new, ethical style of economy, that is totally sustainable.

98% of the $2 trillion changing hands in the foreign exchange markets each day is purely speculative and has nothing to do with “wealth” creation, whatever that is! (see below). Only the remaining 2% relates to real goods and services. As Edward Cahn observes: ‘Money has taken on a life of its own: its function is to produce for the sake of reproducing – regardless of the impact on the health of the human community… increasingly what we are witnessing in the world’s money markets looks more and more like cancer.’ (Cahn, Edgar S., No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative Washington D.C.: Essential Books, 2000, p. 68.)
There is a beautifully sustainable cycle within nature. Dead bodies provide food for living creatures, plants photosynthesize and produce oxygen from carbon dioxide and animals use that oxygen in their respiration of which the by-product is carbon dioxide. At school we learnt all about this and called it the Carbon Cycle, little suspecting that 50 years later this would have such a fundamental significance for the future of the world!
If we can see the Earth as a single living entity involving complex interrelationships and a finely tuned balance of all life, as envisioned for example by James Lovelock, should it not be logical for a sustainable economy to mimic that natural world, indeed be a part of that world, where everything is recycled, everything has a further use elsewhere. We would then be able to build a system that is totally cyclical and sustainable and environmentally sound.
Evolution biologist and futurist Elisabet Sahtouris once posed the question: doesn’t it seem crazy and so obviously illogical that our household finances and the study of how we make a living (or economy) should be so totally divorced from the study of how other species make a living (or ecology)?
This seems so simple and obvious but we cannot see it!

Anyway, what is the purpose of all this growth? To preserve and sustain wealth. But what is wealth?
Real wealth is not about money: it is about spiritual wellbeing. It seems that we have largely lost sight of the spirit that is in all matter, as Satish Kumar so eloquently writes. As the human ecologist Alastair McIntosh observes in his inspirational book Soil and Soul, ‘We are materially richer than ever before and yet suffer a spiritual poverty…we live, but suffer spiritual death. Our very accomplishments cut us off further from the soul.’ Real security and happiness that we all seek, consciously or unconsciously, will be found in spiritual wealth, for which we have a great hunger.
And how powerful this human soul can become against the seeming odds of the twenty first century when it is sufficiently aroused. We should not underestimate that power, even in the context of our economy! McIntosh tells the tale of how in the last decade of the twentieth century the might of a great corporation was broken by spirituality and theology. Scientific and economic values clashed head on with spirituality. Against what seemed like overwhelming opposition the soul in the end prevailed.
The Community of the Isle of Harris, in the Western Isles of Scotland, was threatened by the development in their midst of a devastating super quarry, a wound and scar of massive proportions. With the assistance of a Native American Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney and what was said to be the first ever theological submission put before a public enquiry the islanders were able to prevent a large corporation (Redland Aggregates Plc) from going ahead with their plans. Overnight the share price of the company on the London Stock exchange fell a massive 8% or £160million pounds! If the project had gone ahead who would have gained from the cruel ravages inflicted on a finely balanced community such as Harris?

The divide between the materially wealthy and the hungry poor is massive and the gap is apparently widening. Statistics from the World Bank tell us that in 2005 26% of the developing world was living below US$1.25 a day, representing 1.4 billion people. If we look at the number living on less than $2 a day, that represented 48% of the world population, or around 2.5 billion men, women and children, a massive testament to human suffering.
Is it not disgusting, for example, that 43% of children under 5 in India are severely malnourished whilst the country’s leaders are having gastric band surgery for obesity?

I have written about this before in my blogs and make no apology for continually revisiting the theme. It is covered in more detail in my book, with ideas for change, change that we can all be a part of. I am going to a conference soon to find out more about how we can build a sustainable world with a sustainable economy. What we need is action, and influence in the highest echelons of power. You will be hearing more about this soon!

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