On the edge of the precipice

Posted September 22nd, 2008 in Blog, Featured 3 Comments »

Monday, September 22, 2008:

Drawing by Diane Therese Pinchot, O.S.U.

Drawing by Diane Therese Pinchot, O.S.U.

Now we begin a new journey here, a journey through the chaos and crises of our times to an articulation of a spirituality of ecological hope.   We will have to reach deep down for that, down to the heart, the heart of the world, the heart of the human.

Today, markets, candidates, members of Congress, taxpayers, world financial leaders hold their collective breath to see if the proposed Wall Street fix — the most massive government bailout in the history of the world — will begin to calm things down.  It’s anybody’s bet — and there have been a lot of bad bets in recent years.

Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson wants Congress to vote on a ‘clean bill,’ and he wants it in a very big hurry.  In just three pages, he asks Congress to pass on to him unprecedented power over the financial future of this country.  One paragraph in it would give him unfettered and unchecked power over $700 billion or more of government rescue package (probably closer to well over a trillion).  He is resisting any plans to put into the bill things that might help overextended homeowners, regulate or provide oversight for his new powers, punish the CEOs and investors who created this mess and put limits on compensation, or provide job-creating programs, such as works projects focused on rebuilding and repairing our deteriorating roads, bridges, public schools, and more.

You can see the narrowness of the fix he intends.

But the line for access to the government bailout is growing long indeed, now including foreign financial institutions heavily invested in the U.S.  And no one has yet determined where the line will be drawn.  What began as a mortgage-related securities buyout is expanding rapidly to other assets.  No line drawn there either.

Not talked about much yet is what made an urgent situation suddenly a crisis — the disclosure that it was not only mortgages that were being bundled and sold, but credit card debt as well, and these accounts were also facing default. If that house of cards began to fall, the economy would grind to a halt.

Did we know this was coming?  Why sure we did!  And if you want a good explanation for how the credit card debt crisis was about to freeze up the markets, check out this CNN article from a year ago!

So, Paulson, once of Goldman Sachs, wants unchecked power over the bailout.  The global financial industry is on the verge of collapse.  Jobs are disappearing, inflation is rising, and we are all, as a people, in default.  Scary  times, indeed.

Folks, what needs fixing here is something far greater than the Wall Street collapse.  What needs ‘fixing,’ dismantling, really, is a wholly unsustainable economic model based on growth, with growth based on endless and constantly increasing consumption of goods, within a finite world whose limits we have not only reached but already surpassed. The economic model — a laissez faire version of very high finance — is built upon this model, feeds it and feeds from it.

While folks worry about their 401(k)s, pensions, savings, jobs, while cities and counties worry about their budget free-falls, while we await the impact of the collapse on services and taxes, there is something larger than all of this at stake — the future of life on the planet.

Demand vs world biocapacity - from the Global Footprint Network

Demand vs world biocapacity - from the Global Footprint Network

We already need nearly 1.4 planets to meet consumption levels of humans, as we have pointed out so often.  The pace of our depleting of the planet’s ecosystems is accelerating steadily as this economic system seeps into every corner of the planet.

We here in the U.S. went on an unprecedented shopping spree in the past couple of decades.  But we didn’t have the cash or savings to do it, so we did it on debt.  And banks with their easy credit cards and financial institutions with their ‘innovative’ profit-making investment schemes, fueled the spree — until the chickens finally came home to roost.

What an unprecedented opportunity to learn from this sad story and begin to live differently.  We have no more time to waste.  The spree is over — but it must be over not just for now, but for good.  And out of the ashes, we need to begin a deliberate, carefully thought-out transition to a new economy based on the Earth’s actual limits, the resilience of its evolutionary process, and the functioning of its ecosystems.

As long as we don’t believe this can be done, it will not be done.  It’s not like this has made us such happy campers, after all.  We are a stressed out, high maintenance, over-stretched people having trouble keeping our families and lives on an even keel.  This model is killing us in multiple ways — economically, psychologically, spiritually.  We have lost the essential meaning of the human being.

It is time for a new chapter for the human in the Earth story.  There is time, but not much time.

—  Margaret Swedish

BTW — you might contact your legislators and tell them to think, really think, meditate, breathe, act calmly, and not give in to the pressure of crisis induced by Paulson and Bush to avoid making decisions based on the well-being of the workers, the struggling families, the folks in trouble here in this country.   Tell them not to give away power and control over the destiny of our people to Sec. Paulson.  House and Senate switchboard: 202-224-3121

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3 Responses

  1. Richard Pauli

    Margaret,

    Wonderful new design for your site. Thank you so much for your important message. Things are changing fast in this world. We are learning that we will be more challenged than we can imagine. And then more so.

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/09/23/has-runaway-climate-change-begun/

  2. Margaret

    Richard, yes. We will be challenged, and then more — and then more. We will wake up to a different world wondering how to proceed. And while we ponder that, change will still be rocking our world.

    When ones lives so far beyond one’s means — whether as an individual, a Wall Street firm, a nation, or as creatures on a living planet — the day of reckoning comes eventually. We have done all of that and more, and the world is such now that each collapse impacts the others in a dynamic interlocking reality that is the context of our lives at this point in the evolutionary story.

    Still, we are conscious beings, which means we can make, and will make conscious decisions about what we are going to do.

    Challenges more than we can imagine. Yes, but hopefully, imagination is exactly what we can ignite to begin to visualize our way towards a different way of being human on the planet.

  3. Barry

    Margret
    It was probably already too late for change 25yrs ago, when mankind knowingly entered this final orgy of excess. The resultant world crisis can not and will not be rescued by more sticking plaster remedy’s. These can no longer hide the emerging truth, that the existing capitalist model is non-sustainable. Huge, fundamental and far-reaching change is required of every world citizen with those in the wealthiest countries sacrificing most. Really, sacrifice is the wrong word, it only requires we exchange one mode of life for another. One that could be just as rewarding personally, but on a higher turn of the spiral. Deep down, I believe everyone knows this at some level, but they are afraid to admit it. They are the prisoners of their possessions, who will liberate them?