The worship of profit in a deified market

The first Jesuit and first non-European Pope in the modern era produced a 50000 word Apostolic Exhortation in Nov 2013.  

[An apostolic exhortation is a type of communication from the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. It encourages a community of people to undertake a particular activity but does not define Church doctrine. It is considered lower in formal authority than a papal encyclical, but higher than other ecclesiastical letters, Apostolic Letters and Other Papal Writings – Wikipedia]

In Chapter 2, paragraphs 52-58, Pope Francis’  theme is that “money must serve, not rule!” He develops a critique of the way money depersonalises peoples’ relationships with reality and each other and becomes an end in itself, referring to:

“the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings. …”

“The thirst for power and possessions know no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

“When a society—whether local, national, or global—is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquillity.”

A longer extract from the Apostolic Exhortation is here.

Money and debt oil the wheels of ever-accelerating economic growth that concentrates wealth and power and underlies so many threats to a sustainable future for Spaceship Earth. One imaginative simile is that money is like the ‘holy spirit’ of the deified market!

Three ways to deny climate change

Jeremy Williams reviews (below) John Foster’s book After Sustainability. This book augments the summary of the document by Jonathon Rowson. Foster uses the term ‘implicative denial’ rather than Rowson’s ‘stealth denial’ for those of us who “say how important climate change is without ever doing anything serious about it”? In other words – accepting the scientific evidence but denying the implications for how we act. Community action is the ambition of the CASE initiative on both climate change and other global threats to the sustainability of Spaceship Earth:

WILLIAMS – Foster sees the issue of climate change as a philosopher, and he’s convinced that denial is not just something that the bad guys do. We’re all involved in a complex culture of denial, he suggests, and climate activists are as likely to be caught up in it as everyone else. Drawing on sociologist Stanley Cohen, he outlines three forms of denial:

Literal denial: This is the climate denial we’re familiar with – the insistence that global warming isn’t happening. It’s an active ignoring of the facts, and it’s easy to sustain. Just add the word ‘debunked’ to any climate related Google search you do in the name of ‘reading up on it’, and you won’t see anything you don’t want to see.

Interpretative denial: The second form of denial is more nuanced. It accepts the facts, but rejects the meaning, interpreting them in a way that makes them ‘safer’ to our personal psychology. So one might accept climate change, but conclude that there’s nothing we can do. Or you might choose to frame climate change as a purely technical energy problem or a market failure, making it something that experts need to address and thereby removing any responsibility to change the way we live.

Implicative denial: The form Foster is most interested in is the third kind, where we accept the facts and the interpretation, but suppress the “psychological, political and moral implications that would conventionally follow”. It’s how we let ourselves off the hook, “quasi-intentionally not following up on the uncomfortable implications” of what we know.

Foster argues that implicative denial is rife. It’s why so many of us, politicians and campaigners included, can continue to say how important climate change is without ever doing anything serious about it. By nature, implicative denial is covert – it has to be, because we’ve already agreed that climate change is happening and that it matters. It is seen in the jokey brushing away of climate change when it comes up in small talk, in the diversion of green consumerism, in what Norwegian psychologist Kari Norgard calls the ‘social production of innocence’.

It’s also seen in environmental activism, Foster argues. Whether it is dipping a toe in the local Transition Towns initiative or signing online petitions, there are endless ways for people to be ‘doing something’ without seriously confronting the reality of climate change.  

Peak oil and the elephant in the room

This short essay by Richard Heinberg points out how the decreasing availability of easily accessible liquid hydrocarbon fuel remains central to the cluster of crises facing Spaceship Earth. Between 2002 and 2011 the price of a barrel of oil rose five times while continuing to contribute to anthropogenic global climate disruption.

There is a danger that we lose the big picture when grappling to understand the threats to our planet, rather like the blind men in the Indian proverb who are trying to discover what an elephant is by examining only its component parts. Heinberg, a leading analyst on the availability, use an effects of energy resources, paints the bigger picture. He argues that we urgently need policies of de-growth and de-carbonisation to keep our Spaceship Earth as a sustainable home.

New research vindicates prediction of global collapse

The Club of Rome report Limits to Growth’s MIT-based computer model in 1972 predicted that with ‘business as usual’ the global system would collapse within the next century. The Guardian newspaper now reports new research at the University of Melbourne, Australia showing that this dismal projection is justified by trends in the key variables over the last 40 years. Spaceship Earth is on course for overshooting its limits due to the obsessive drive  for growth among the states and ruling elites that constitute its passengers. Read the Guardian report here .

The Psychology of Short-term Thinking

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/taking-the-future-into-account-2014/

This 30-minute documentary features a number of psychologists talking about how our minds work against taking the long-term future into account.  I came across it on 19 August 2014, ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, declared by the Global Footprint Network that has concluded that we are now using at least 1.5 times more resources than the earth can provide to sustain its human population in the long term. Applying our Spaceship Earth metaphor, it is as though we are consuming in excess the things that support our well-being for immediate gratification despite knowing that, before too long, these essential life support systems (food, energy, climate, etc.) will no longer be available.  Crazy astronauts?  But the psychological underpinnings of this apparently irrational behaviour are clearly exposed in the documentary. It offers good support for Documents in the Relating to Self Section.

Al Gore’s new upbeat book on climate change

Author(s): Al Gore
Media Type: News / Op – Eds
Year of Publication: 2014
Publisher: Rolling Stone
Date of Publication: June 18, 2014
Link: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-turning-point-new-hope-for-the-climate-20140618
Categories: , ,

Al Gore describes the shift toward a low-carbon future that is currently taking place, and how we can work to accelerate it:

“Is there enough time? Yes. Damage has been done, and the period of consequences will continue for some time to come, but there is still time to avoid the catastrophes that most threaten our future. Each of the trends described  – in technology, business, economics and politics – represents a break from the past. Taken together, they add up to genuine and realistic hope that we are finally putting ourselves on a path to solve the climate crisis.”

Transforming cultures: from consumerism to sustainablity

This link allows you to download free the 2010 State of the World Yearbook from the Worldwatch Institute. It addresses the key issue of the consumer culture that is in headlong conflict with ecological constraints of the entire planet.  The opening chapter by Erik Assadourian ”The rise and fall of consumer cultures” is an alarming résumé of the accelerating impact of  the spread of consumer culture on the earth’s resources. Assadourian encourages us to become ‘cultural pioneers’ who will help to lead the way to a more sustainable global culture. The CASE (www.case4all.org) initiative’s focus on community action is an attempt to encourage such cultural pioneers. The anthology of writing on ‘the state of the world’ includes four chapters on education grouped under the heading ”Education’s New Assignment: Sustainability”. The anthology is a gold mine of pertinent and recent data relating to the predicament of Spaceship Earth and action needed. at all levels to address this predicament.

Fleeing Vesuvius: The psychological roots of resource over-consumption

The 2011 book “Fleeing Vesuvius”‘is collection of articles generally addressing the question “how can we bring the world out of the mess it finds itself in”? It deals with the evolutionary underpinnings of our aggregate behaviour as humans. Humans appear to be ‘hard-wired’ (neural habituation) to seek out increasingly available stimuli, and to compete for status. Our super-saturated consumer cultural environment now offers endless stimuli to reinforce the innate desire for status, unfortunately at the expense of ecological sustainability. This chapter was taken from an article by Nate Hagens in The Oil Drum,  a journal about energy and our future (archived in 2013). It offers an evolutionary perspective on a future (more) sustainable society.

The 21st century’s greatest taboo

George Monbiot is a polemical campaigner who always provides well-documented support for his regular pieces in the Guardian newspaper and his blogs. He has a penchant for colourful phrases that stick in the mind and his piece on 28 May referred to the unwillingness of the political establishment and the mainstream media to  discuss the simple mathematical truth that compounded economic growth dependent on finite resources cannot long be sustained. Economic growth means that the search for more of the ever-declining finite resources is accelerating the journey towards global economic, environmental and social collapse.  Monbiot’s essay refers to global economic growth for 2014 predicted at 3.1% and examines the likely consequences. His case provides support for the Saving Spaceship Earth workshop slides included on this CASE website.

The Encyclopaedia of Earth

About the EoE

The Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE) is an open source electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society. The EoE is a free, expert-reviewed collection of content contributed  by scholars, professionals, educators, practitioners and other experts who collaborate and review each other’s work. The content is presented in a style intended to be useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public. An edited example – Ecological Footprint – is provided in Document Summary No. 5 on this CASE website.