Sustainable Economics

Sunday, 8 March 2009

You know when you get a new car and then suddenly you see the same car everywhere on the road? Or you're studying something of personal interest in a psychological sense, and then all of a sudden you see evidences of that everywhere, in the behaviour of those around you, or references on the TV, or in blogs, or whatever? It never ceases to amaze me how our focus inside determines the focus outside. It's sorta magic!!

It also leads me to want to know what reality looks like. If we only ever really see certain things at any one time else we would spontaneously combust, I wonder - what does it all look like together? I would imagine we would need to be expanded, like fly eyes with 400 million different facets, to be able to view it all at once. I look forward to a future time when maybe we will be able to.

In times past it really unnerved me, that idea that we only really see what we are focussing on. It used to feel far too slippery and relativistic and postmodern. It used to scare me, like seeing things this way was the beginning of the downfall of our entire society. That seems strange to me now. As if acknowledging that we don't see everything at once somehow detracted from God, or the reality of God, or what I was taught reality consisted of. These days I can't quite understand how it ever scared me. I must have a very different mindset than I did when I once considered those things as somehow separate from God. Now, I just think that this is a necessary way we view the world. We cannot see everything at once. The visual, mental and emotional bombardment would kill us in five seconds flat.

So we see, in some fashion, and some simplified explanation, what we are allowing ourselves to see. And I guess this is why I get so frustrating watching media items related to the economy, when there's NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AT ALL in the analysis of the global financial recession, that the economy we are living inside is a constructed one, and that it is unsustainable.

I watched a show a few weeks ago called Insight discussing this. The conversation ended up really being all about how to regain consumer confidence. Because that is what our system is based on - confidence. If people don't feel confident enough to spend, then the economy will continue to nosedive. The disconnect was like listening to a mentally ill parent giving their child a talk on why they should continue to pretend that everything is fine when really, it's not.

I came across this interesting video that explained how the whole sub-prime mortgage thing occurred. I get frustrated when it comes to thinking about economics because it is so unbelievably complex. And I know very little about economics and my eyes glaze over real quickly, which is a frustration because I want to learn more. What I do believe is this: that economics is no different to any other arena. There are as many economic models as there are ideas. To think the one we have is the only one or the best one is just simply not true. We don't have that option any more, surely.

Because I think what frustrated me the most watching Insight was that there was no discussion AT ALL about climate change and about how the current economic lens we are seeing the world through is patently unsustainable. That was the disconnect that freaked me out the most. Sitting right there in the middle of our shortsightedness was the earth, that which we depend upon for our survival. But no discussion about it. It felt so terribly dysfunctional to me that I couldn't watch the show to the end.

Some say that the way we live and the amounts of stuff we produce and the pollution that comes as a side-product of that is still not enough to be causing the changes in the climate and I say that they are just pretending because they don't want to face the obvious. I also think that part of that reaction is because there is no discussion at all going on in our media about alternative ways that we could function as societies.

Where are the conversations, and where are the alternative models for sustainable economics? I really am wanting to sit at the feet of those who could teach me what that sustainable economy could look like. Sometimes I even wonder if it's not even a matter of changing the system as it is now but, as usual in my Franciscan way of looking at things, turning aside and doing it differently, the way the believers did in the book of Acts when they shared everything in common. We have the technology to do that. We just don't have the vision and it's there. We just can't see it because we've been trained not to. We have also been trained to think that getting more more more is what we need to fill the hole hole hole when I suspect there's nothing to fill that hole except God in whatever way you experience him, and that needs to happen when we discard, not gain.

I think of the monkey who sticks his hand inside the hole in the tree to get what his trappers have left him. Once he has grabbed onto it, his fist is too big to remove from the hole. And so his trappers come upon him, and all he needs to do is let go and he will be free, but he will not let go of what he holds in his hands to be free.

We really aren't all that different from that monkey, I don't think :(


  1. you might enjoy any of paul hawken's books, natural capitalism in particular. there is also a publisher named earthscan out of the UK with some really potent books and published academic essays on sustainable economic development.
    also check out

  2. Thanks heaps Caroline, have bookmarked your blog and bookmarked the book at my local library :)


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