Some will argue that mankind is capable of changing the ‘fate’ of this planet by pulling back from the brink of catastrophic climate change.  Whether  this climate change  occurring today can be attributed to natural geological cycles or has been brought about by human consumption of fossil fuels is not question that figures largely in the debate any more.  Rising sea levels and extreme weather destroying living space and crops scare the ‘hell’ out of most people but not enough to make anybody give up their SUVs, two car lifestyles and vacations to far away places on demand.  We love plastic and everything that  comes wrapped in it!

Jedediah Purdy writing for the Huffington Post blames  the insatiable rise of  human expectations for our climate change troubles;

Future Chinese governments are leasing land in Africa and Ukraine, not just to avoid starvation, but because their legitimacy depends on a rising standard of living. There is no finish line for a regime that rests on that basis: failing economic growth would bring down a government from Washington to Berlin to Moscow to Beijing. We produce political legitimacy by placating greed, at great and growing cost to the future.

Climate Apocalypse and/or Democracy, Jedediah Purdy,  09/13/2015 Huffington Post

Purdy argues that democracy and the better inclinations of ‘everyman’ is the only thing that can save the planet (and us);

 Democracy is the only way we have to take responsibility for a common world while recognizing that every person is a partner in making and dwelling in the world we make together. Once you see that the planetary future is a political question, what alternative is there? German technocrats may be able to hold down Greece, but it will take democratic self-restraint to discipline energy use in the United States. No global monarchy, green or otherwise, is on the way.

The placation of our ever-increasing expectations has locked humanity into a ‘death culture’ of consumption.   Many years ago in the late 1980’s I attended a colloquium for educators concerned with the direction the world was heading and how teachers could help change things for the better.  Pollution, consumption and the developing world were major topics.   Those from North America self-righteously argued that we would have to convince the developing nations to cut down on pollution as they brought their economies up to speed to a first world level.  A scholar  from China pointed out that such a ‘lesson’ would be difficult to teach coming from some of the worst offenders regarding consumption and pollution in the world.  Also, he pointed out – it was those very profligate practices that enabled the developed countries to acquire their  great standard of living.  The Chinese representative concluded by insisting; ‘Now our time is coming and we want all the stuff you have enjoyed for many years – so don’t tell us to not pollute!’  So much for the ‘intelligentsia’.

Democracy turns on the lowest common denominator of society – the individual.  The solutions that democracy are capable of are those that involve the desires of the most number of people voting – which is to have their ever-increasing lifestyle expectations fulfilled.  What kind of magical thinking would lead someone to conclude that such a system would provide the leadership to do the hard thing and consume less!  Yet Purdy continues;

 So another way that a livable Anthropocene future would have to be democratic is this: a people would have to accept, willingly, limits on the demands they make on the natural world. They would have to accept that they have enough.

Greed is the other side of fear; sufficiency is much easier to find if you are unafraid. An economy that guarantees some measure of security and dignity to everyone will be that much more likely to cultivate the power to stop, take a breath, and stop insisting on more.

A world where people accept a common fate and try to shape it together as equals; economies that do not make people afraid.

Democracy isn’t the solution to the problem with humanity’s character flaw – we want more than we need.  Rather democracy often exacerbates the problem in the sense that democracy tends towards the will of the many which isn’t necessarily in the wisest or best direction.  Capitalism isn’t the culprit either in the sense that a smoking gun isn’t responsible for the body lying in the dirt – rather it is the person who pulled the trigger.  It wouldn’t be hard to make a strong argument that communism is capable of great waste and environmental carnage as well.  The capacity to consume far beyond need to satisfy wants that are always growing and expanding is part of human nature whatever our political and economic systems we operate with.

Karl Marx said that capitalism contains the ‘seeds of its own destruction.’   Every political and economic system contains the seeds of its own destruction that germinate and grow to bear fruit when it takes on a life of its own.  At this point the political and economic system consumes people rather than providing social structures whereby people can satisfy their needs.  Democracy and capitalism has been quite successful in colonizing the world’s ‘ideological’ ecosystem but what is it about human nature that makes us so susceptible to runaway capitalism that consumes and renders climate and habitat unstable?  This question can’t be adequately explored within the bounds of materialist philosophies and thinking.  The issue is spiritual rather than physical or even ideological.

The Bible tells us; “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:7-10)  What better, more succinct economic analysis of our present day problems can we find from our economists and social scientists today?

Jesus nailed the political and economic problem faced by humanity; “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)  Individually, well before we exercise our ‘democratic vote’ we have to decide who or what we will serve. Out of that fundamental decision flows all subsequent behaviour.  And .not deciding is deciding to serve money (ourselves – first).

Getting our priorities straight which is a spiritual matter gives us the perspective and freedom to attend to matters that go beyond our own flesh; “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33)  Democracy isn’t capable of righteous leadership unless it starts with righteous priorities.  Capitalism as an economic system cannot yield equity and plenty for all unless those operating within its structures have the desire to serve God first.

All this from a carpenter who is the Son of God!  But who reads the Bible today when there is so much more entertaining magical thinking available?

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