It’s the fifth day of Christmas as I post this, and, supposedly, three days before we all go over the “fiscal cliff,” although there are a number of efforts in place to forestall or minimize the impact. It is both amazing and distressing to see how real and persistent ills, such as hunger, homelessness and killings, take second place to an economic tangle beyond the comprehension of most of us unless over simplified to single issues, like taxes or entitlements.
Isn’t it hubris to believe, or act as if, a problem this big can be solved by one decision, one agreement?
On the blog for the One Earth Project, Lee Van Ham has been examining our economic structure as a religion. He makes a very good argument for this. The following translation of getting, spending, consuming and anxiety into religious language seems to fit the case quite well.
The path to wholeness and salvation in market logic is wealth accumulation. Without accumulating enough to participate in The Market’s activities, one is doomed. To follow any path other than wealth accumulation is heresy, and inevitably, means falling into sin. One testifies to their salvation through their assets and habits such as car, home, smart phone, clothing, investments, and up-to-date technologies; also where we travel, vacation, eat out and with whom. All of these bear witness to being saved. Nevertheless, the path is an anxious one because, unless one has accumulated a lot, working for more is unending. Even after one has been to the altar and been saved, the feelings of insufficiency return. Salvation becomes an unending quest, heavy in effort, light in grace.
I think “light in grace” is an understatement. Grace means “gift”: there is no grace as long as we think it is we who must do something to be saved. Grace comes with the idea that our very life is a gift. Then what we do with our life can be understood as our thank-you gift in return.
The primary purpose of the One Earth Project blog is to demonstrate that we in the developed world are consuming more resources than our planet can provide. We live as if we had five earths to draw on. This is different from the charge I remember from thirty years ago, when we in America were accused of using more than our “fair share.” “Fairness” has never sold well as an idea in capitalist economies. Now we are up against the more serious matter of sustainability, survival.
The call to one-earth thinking is no easier to hear in the noise of our economics than the call to fairness was. New Year’s resolutions to spend less, or recycle more, are not enough. A friend of mine has pointed out that recycling may be only an effort to maintain our “culture of things” a little longer, to avoid any major changes that might really affect the one earth “deficit.” As with the national debt, we’ve gotten ourselves into a situation with no quick fix. But I invite you to start thinking about the issue by reading the blog: click on One Earth Project in the blog roll.