Sunday, December 21, 2008

Environmental plundering exacerbates economic woes

January 2009 Four Corners Free Press

Environmental plundering exacerbates economic woes

Listening to the current parade of "experts" discussing our economic crisis I’m struck with how consistently they admit to being surprised: “we didn’t see this coming” is a favorite refrain. Then they go on to assure us that a rebound is only a couple seasons away.

Why didn’t or couldn’t they see this coming? Why is a rebound inevitable? More importantly, rebound to what? The same standard of living and dreams that have carried this nation since World War II?

The talking heads consistently focus on the “financial crisis,” as though finances were all there are to our economy and its functioning. Why don’t they discuss the state of our Earth’s ill health, or question some of the basic assumptions that have driven Wall Street, our economy, and our politics these past decades?

One item worth re-examining is the businessman’s canon of “fiduciary responsibility” run amok. Fiduciary responsibility roughly means that in handling someone else’s money or business: “the utmost degree of good faith, honesty, integrity, loyalty and undivided service of the beneficiaries interest" is demanded.

On the face of it a good thing. But in the hands of single minded corporate giants it takes on an ugly twist. Corporate fiduciary responsibility mandates the maximum profit, no matter what the real world fallout. All responsibilities and liabilities to the outside world are rejected whenever possible. "Profits Über Alles" succeeds for the individual corporation but, it’s to the detriment of all others. There’s no future in it, as the current financial upheaval is showing us.

Then, there’s the impression that it’s OK for business, and the rest of us, to continue ignoring what we’re doing to our Earth. Don't forget, the Great Depression was triggered by a combination of financial and manmade environmental breakdowns. But back then, our population was still small and our footprint upon the land wasn’t as extensive. The same was true of the world at large. This meant that vast areas of unblemished resources both above and below ground existed, just waiting to be plucked.

Look at our planet today - humanity has encircled it and closed in on itself. Resources are consumed with reckless ravenous intensity. There is no more new frontier on this planet, and vast swaths of land and water have been severely plundered and damaged. Yet, the business/media world still acts as though Earth remains the cornucopia it once was.

Obviously the lesson of the sun is lost on our movers & shapers: The larger the sun, the faster it burns itself up. We exist on this planet because our sun is of modest size, therefore consuming its fuel at a moderate rate. Our economic, political brain trust never thinks beyond burning the flame as hot as possible.

A century of corporate contempt toward our environment has left us a battered and prematurely aged Earth. The environment that so many continue to dismiss is actually the life support system that all of humanity depends upon, our biosphere. Why doesn’t the media report on that in realistic detail?

Society is at a crossroads. Insatiable consumption - “having the most toys,” “bigger is better” - have held paramount sway in our collective imaginations. If we cling to that conviction the days ahead will be harsh indeed, because Earth simply cannot support it any longer. Any sort of semi healthy future for our kids and their kids depends on our ability to understand and adopt a sustainability mindset.

The first step should be getting to know the magnificent Earth you’re part of. It would also help to realize it is not us with our God. It’s God with its Earth and all its creatures. Earth is the only planet we know off that has nurtured life into this fantastic interdependent panorama and humanity is but one self-centered speck in God’s reality. The entire thing ~ some call it Gaia ~ is God’s child. When will we start nurturing it with intelligence, respect, perhaps even affection?

BBC, recently produced an excellent five part series titled “THE EARTH: A BIOGRAPHY... the story of our world.” It is a non-political examination of our planet, it’s development and its many interwoven interdependencies. Check it out, you will be impressed.

Only by removing our focus from outdated dogmas and refocusing on the here & now, our Earth and how to nurture it, rather than plundering it, can we hope for brighter days in the future.

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