A World of Hurt

Posted March 5th, 2008 in Blog Comments Off on A World of Hurt

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Longish post – couldn’t help myself.

So, I go away a few days and now there is so much to talk about. I have many articles strewn all around me, indications of the world of hurt impacting so many people right now. Amidst all the election hoopla, lots of really important stuff is being overlooked or barely mentioned.

When we speak of ecology, not mere environmentalism, we are speaking of all the connections that make up the context and the fabric of our lives. Part of our problem is attempting to separate out from one another those elements of our lives that are so deeply related — economic dislocation and upheaval with unsustainable economies that goes with environmental crises that goes with concentration of wealth that goes with unemployment and low wage jobs and loss of benefits that is related to a kind of economic and development growth model that is wreaking havoc across the planet that is leading to food and water crises that is worsened by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions that is related to our health and on and on and on.

Ecoology is about addressing the whole of who we are on this planet. Ecology is about the requirement (not the desire or the virtue) to live within the balance of Nature in order for life to be sustained for all the creatures and ecosystems that make up the fabric of life in which we live and move and have our being.

A world of hurt. Filings for bankruptcy were up 18 percent in February compared to January and 28 percent from the previous year. Moments ago, the NY Times reported that oil prices hit an all-time high at $104 per barrel of crude, and the producers blame not themselves but the mismanagement of the US economy. Out west, the price at the pump has surpassed $4 per gallon, and this is likely to be common by summer. The prices of everything that has to travel to your store for you to pick up in your car is going to get more expensive, along with plane tickets, your summer vacations, and on and on.

Meanwhile, oil companies, like ExxonMobil, and their stockholders are making out like bandits on this world of hurt — as are the OPEC countries awash in petrodollars and buying up slices of the U.S. economy at the dirt cheap rates that come with the falling value of the dollar.

Always in the world of hurt, some folks get very wealthy off the pain of others.

Meanwhile, our thirst for alternative fuels is already aiding and abetting world hunger, and this will only get worse if we continue to believe that grain-based ethanol and biodiesel fuel will save us from the Midde East and U.S. corporate oil barrons. The NY Times had a lead editorial about this the other day, and I share it wholeheartedly here, Priced out of the market. Even as we put more of our farmland under cultivation for fuel for our cars and trucks, we will lose more of our food production capacity, destroying the livelihoods of real farmers, while barely making a dent in our energy needs. Great idea, that.

To get more of the bad news in this regard, visit the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and read their report, Growing demand on agriculture and rising prices of commodities. For a quicker look, check out this FAO web pageon the Food Situation.

Driving back from Cincinnati, I took the long way home, by way of I-74 across central Illinois then north on I-39. I didn’t realize it when I made this plan, but found myself right in the heart of the new ethanol/biodiesel economy. ethanol-plant-central-illinois.pngOh my goodness, it covered vast acres of land — ethanol and biodiesel plants all shiny and new amidst the giant farms that once produced food and feed to be actually eaten by humans and animals, now to be burned in our vehicles. The agribusiness giants have made a huge investment here, corporations like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, with the support of the taxes of you and me, thanks to Congress and the shortsighted self-interest of grain belt Representatives and Senators.

There were signs proclaiming the patriotic basis of the enterprise, to wean us from foreign oil. But as the world grows increasingly hungry, and more and more of our food production goes off shore — e.g., the average 1800 miles that your salad has traveled to your table — I wonder about the benefit of trading our dependence on foreign oil for our dependence on foreign-grown food shipped from far-away places. Doesn’t seem like much of a deal to me, or even particularly patriotic.

Another aspect of driving around the country (in my extremely fuel efficient little Honda) is getting a picture of the sorry state of the infrastructure in this country. The American Society of Civil Engineers did an assessment in 2005 and found our roads, bridges, water systems, dams, sewage systems, transportation systems to be in a terrible state and in need of $1.6 TRILLION worth of repairs over five years. Don’t have to go far to see the crumbling. It is evident everywhere.

Think of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis.

Remember the levees in New Orleans? There are many more such levees all over the country in just about the same shape as those in New Orleans the day Hurricane Katrina struck. Here’s a scary article about it, There will be floods. Indeed.

Our world of hurt is evidence of a very large shift taking place in our world. How will we live through it, now that our way of life has become unsustainable and so many keep on making the wrong decisions about how to move into this new world of shrinking resources, of scarcity amidst growing populations with growing demands for a better life?

Sorry to be so depressing. I wanted to also tell you that I came from a wonderful weekend with a group of brave faith-based folks from the Catholic world who are wrestling in profound ways with a new spirituality emerging out of the crisis, spiral_galaxy_-_hubble_telescope.pngone deeply embedded in the Earth and all that science is telling us about our place in the universe, here on this tiny planet located in a solar system within one arm of the spiral that is our galaxy traveling through a universe of unimaginable dimensions.

The gathering was convened by the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue and I will leave this link for you to peruse their website. I promised to let you know of folks who are engaging this new moment in human evolution and this is one group, or process, really, that is doing this in a profoundly reflective mode.

Okay, more later in the week. Thanks for reading this far. Let me know what you think.

[tags] ecology vs. environmentalism, record price of oil, exxonmobil, petrodollars, OPEC, corn ethanol, biodiesel fuel, crumbling infrastructure, american society of civil engineers, united nations food and agriculture organization, fao, institute for communal contemplation and dialogue[/tags]

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