© Kat Morgenstern, September 2002
About one month ago an event of global proportions took place in Johannesburg. Millions of dollars were spent on the preparations alone to ready the city for the scores of world leaders, NGO representatives and policy makers that were to descend on it. It could have been one of the greatest events in history, a hallmark for the protection of planetary resources, a turning point that marked the beginning of a new era, the end of rape and pillage of planetary resources, both human and material as 'sustainable development' became the new world standard.
Unfortunmately the actual achievements fell far short of the original aspirations of the organizers. Despite the pressing urgency of the topics and the truly staggering dimension of this world summit, the repercussions of the discussions have resulted only in a deafening silence. It is almost as though nothing ever took place. A monumental waste of resources as well as a wasted opportunity, which has passed us by without developing into much more than a ripple.
No visions. A lot of talk but no real resolutions. No wind of change blowing through the assembly that met under the shadow of several glaring environmental disasters, which are directly related to the topics at hand: Flooding throughout Central Europe as well as in China, American Forests going up in flames and drought conditions tormenting much of the East coast of the U.S. Nothing to do with global warming? Yea, right! Yet, politicians seemed to be distracted by another issue that is also directly related though nobody dared to spell it out: the so called war on terror, which just seems to be a bubblegum pretext for gaining control over the energy resources throughout the world, the very resources responsible for to fuel global warming.
We need to radically re-think the ethics and values that shape our personal lives and the world we live in. At present, money is our God and we sacrifice just about anything for it in the false hope that it will bestow divine bliss upon us - but the only bliss that it affords comes in the shape of things that can be bought. Consuming has become the central point of the life philosophy of this money religion, the 'raison d'Ítre', which can be distilled to the poignant phrase 'consumo, ergo sum'. The religion that serves this god is called economy and its dogmas determine the rules for living. The God of this religion is greedy and ravenous for all the world's resources - his promise is heaven on earth, but the reality is a wasteland stripped of its natural riches. A false God with empty promises.
It seems as though the leaders at the Johannesburg summit do not fully grasp the concept of sustainable development. To them 'sustainable' means continued economic growth, not wise resource management. Wise resource management does not place economic interests at its focal point, but the integrity of the natural web of life of which humans are a part. For it is this web that supports and sustains us, its integrity safeguards our future.
What the Johannesburg summit has shown is that the world leaders are not prepared to look at the real issues at stake, that they still believe throwing money at problems will dissolve them. But in this case money does not solve a thing, while its continued worship (and spread of the religion) only adds to the problems we are already facing.
So, where do we go from here? The environmental problems we are facing are of global importance, yet they lie on everybody's doorstep and directly concern all our lives. Thus there is hope. The hope is that people, the grassroots of the societal tapestry, recognize the problems as personal issues and start to change their habits and behaviors. We must start the ripple of change in our own lives, through our consumer choices and through the way we choose to live our lives. Conscious awareness is the key to change, and mass consciousness is a powerful force that even politicians and industrialists cannot ignore. For the sake of life, place the earth first instead of money. She is our mother, and as we take care of her - she will take care of us.
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