Archive for April, 2010

We need to embrace values that restore ourselves and the Earth

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreak, Boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Shelley

That’s the meaning of life: finding a place for your stuff.”
George Carlin Talks about Stuff

Our extra ‘stuff’ is put away in storage facilities that cover an area as large as New York and San Francisco. Green consumption was meant to make us feel better about ourselves while we continue to buy more stuff, but none of this has made us any happier. It’s critical to reassess our values. In 1972 Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided that Gross Domestic Product indicators had no bearing in defining his country’s ‘wealth, but Gross National Happiness measurements did. The bottom line is that the GDP only looks at ‘success’ through the veil of capitalistic growth. Exponential growth and its foot soldier, consumption, has been anathema to a healthy and biologically diverse planet. As we approach 7 billion people, less than a billion people have participated in the west’s economic dream, and 70 percent of all consumption is created by those same billion people. Over-consumption in North America raises the GDP, but as monetary rewards surge they blithely disregard the implications economic gains have for water quality, First Nation peoples’ lack of clean water, increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion in ethanol production, mining for gold in Canada and why we are opening up the Northwest Passage to explore for new oil and gas while encouraging dangerous global shipping to proceed through arctic waters. The accelerating rape of our planet and higher GDP numbers go hand in hand with the inevitable collapse of ecological resiliency. Perhaps this is why there have been many credible attempts to have other indicators of ‘wealth’ such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Happy Planet Index, an index of well-being and ecological impact. ”The HPI is based on general utilitarian principles — that most people want to live long and fulfilling lives, and the country which is doing the best is the one that allows its citizens to do so, whilst avoiding infringing on the opportunity of future people and people in other countries to do the same.”  The HPI has shown that out of 143 countries Canada is rated 89th on the list for 2009 and ecologically balanced Costa Rica is at the top.
Fifty-three of the hundred largest economies in the world are corporations. Many of these corporations embody what the UN’s 1996 Human Development Report terms as jobless, ruthless, voiceless, rootless and futureless growth. An example of such types of growth in Canada can be found in the push to expand globalization and profits by selling Alberta’s dirty tar sands to Asian markets via unwanted pipelines and new coastal infrastructure. This adds up to a more divided society as well as an increasingly impoverished Earth including B.C.’s marine species.
James G. Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale and author of, “The Bridge at the End of the World”, promotes the well-being of people and Nature through “Being, not having; giving not getting; need, not wants; better, not richer; community, not individual; other not self; connected, not separate; ecology, not economy; part of nature, not apart of nature; dependent, not transcendent; tomorrow, not today.” Speth’s book  begins with 16 graphs ranging from population growth, great floods, damming of rivers and water use, to name a few, and in each case by the time we proceed to year 2000 from 1900 measurements, consumption has spiraled to unsustainable levels.