Nature a parent company, not a subsidiary
By Andréa Ledding
SASKATOON — A day of education and community building on faithful alternatives for energy, economics and the environment was presented Oct. 20 at Oskayak School in Saskatoon. The ecumenical event was organized by a committee made up of members from various denominations, with support from the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission.
Speakers at It Ain’t Easy Being Green were Mark Anielski, author of The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth and technical consultant Mark Bigland-Pritchard of Low Energy Design Ltd.
Anielski, who is the CEO of his own company and an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta School of Business in Edmonton, talked about the economics of well-being, using a “genuine wealth” model.
“The world is abundant. That is the truth. The liars scare me,” said Anielski, adding that prophecies of doom and gloom can become self-fulfilling. “Life is about joy and happiness.” However, society’s economic indicators don’t recognize the importance of such fundamentals as relationship, health and happiness, he pointed out.
Anielski noted that the international debt crisis is similar to what Jesus dealt with when he overthrew the moneychangers. Citing the biblical and Judaic principal of “jubilee” or debt forgiveness, he wondered when the Vatican was going to renew those principles against usury. “In the Bible, usury is forbidden, debt freedom is granted every seven years, and there is a year of jubilee every 49 years,” he noted.
“We’re long overdue in terms of a debt jubilee,” said Anielski. “Money is nothing more than a figment of our imagination — it’s created out of thin air.” It is a construct and a system that can be changed.
Analyzing the roots of the word “mortgage” — death pledge — he called debt unnecessary, urging action to reinvent our economy and “reboot the matrix” to build a civilization of love.
“Economy means ‘household stewardship’ in Greek,” he explained. “Stewardship of the household is the stewardship of money.”
Anielski maintained that the debt crisis is an illusion which relies on collective ignorance and apathy. His vision is for a society based on relationship and co-operation — like the business co-operatives in Italy, where the economy is about relationship, and similar to the original economy of this continent that the First Nations developed over centuries.
Old models only measure things like gross domestic product rather than the human economy of relationship and quality of life.
“There are five capital assets: human capital, social capital, natural capital, infrastructure, and financial,” explained Anielski. Human capital measures individual health and well-being; social capital measures relationship, trust, and the renewing strength of relationship and general quality of life.
Natural capital includes the land, air, and water — problematic in that nobody is keeping a balance sheet on our assets, liability, or equity in our environment. Currently our stewardship of this natural capital is terrible, he observed.
“It’s time to think of nature’s assets as critical — a parent company, not a subsidiary.”
He suggested if the stewardship of the environment is tied meaningfully to a money system, in that we place a dollar value on ecological well being, perhaps the environment would be treated better.
When it comes to infrastructure we also fail to value our schools, hospitals, and general infrastructure in terms of planning regular maintenance and long-term renewal.
“We’re stuck only in our minds and lack of imagination,” he observed. The word “wealth” comes from a 13th-century English word combining well-being and health, he stressed. “We live in an incredible time of abundance — all the technology and yet we’re not connected.”
He urged people to pull their money out of the stock market and invest in local communities where each person already lives in relationship with their surroundings, to invest in youth and social entrepreneurs, housing, and renewable energy.
Bigland-Pritchard spoke about the environmental crisis, presenting data and visuals proving the reality of climate change, before pointing out that denial is indicative of one of the stages of grief.
“This is a pastoral problem as well as an ethical problem. How do we actually help people through denial, anger, depression, bargaining?” asked Bigland-Pritchard.
He added that we also have a responsibility to tell people that we are aboard the Titanic and there’s an iceberg ahead.
Bigland-Pritchard revealed that Saskatchewan has one of the highest per capita greenhouse emissions, with a population of one million, largely due to electricity production from coal and the extractions industries; Sweden, a northern nation with a population of 10 million, has not only held a low level of greenhouse emissions in a similar climate, but actually decreased its emissions over time.
“We have the resources to do that here — there’s no technical reason why we can’t,” he said, describing options for zero-emission electricity, electric transport, and green options such as geothermal energy and solar.
“I believe that God wants to heal God’s creation, and bring about a renewal of all things. Our role in God’s restoration is mitigation, adaptation, and an openness to hope.”