We are confronted on a daily basis with pictures of our world that are confusing. On the one hand, we are aware of the power of human ingenuity. Together with the evolution of technology and economic development, humans would appear to have the capacity to resolve (albeit over varying lengths of time) complex problems. We are more materially wealthy today (certainly in the developed West) than at any other time in history. We can buy more, do more, see more, eat more and own more. The average middle-class family lives more comfortably than kings in bygone eras. Abundance is all around. For some, they are buoyed up by the belief that the human capacity for adaptation, which has always been greater than the crises we have faced, will save us in the future, as it has saved us in the past: ‘It’s OK, there is plenty of everything’.
On the other hand, there has been and continues to be uncontrolled greed, market manipulation – the consequences of which we must all live through, despite the wealth accumulated in the process residing in the hands of a largely illusive minority. Environmentalists and those engaged with poverty relief are at pains to make us realise that planet Earth is not an unlimited resource. Increasingly we are being told that we have to limit our runaway consumption and production of waste. For increasingly more and more people, there is a fear that if we don’t set some sort of boundary, the unexpected repercussions of these real earth-bound limitations will demonstrate that we have overstepped a threshold from which we will be unable to retreat. Exponential growth patterns are coming up against clear unshakeable limits. Right now, it is estimated that we are using 40 percent of the Earth’s resources and despite 20 years of focussed effort to relieve urban poverty, the proportion of children living in low-income households has risen during the last decade in 11 out of 15 industrial nations. If the population and standard of living are set to double in the next 40 years, human evolution is set for a major upheaval. Scarcity is the issue, not abundance.
On top of our concern for the economic and physical wellbeing of our planet, our times are plagued by fear of violent acts committed against people for political or ideological outcomes.
What has happened, however, as an unintended consequence of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of few, our fear around our planet, and our fear around unknown assailants, is that we have in many ways become smaller, more timid and more judgemental. What we do not understand, we end up withdrawing from. Instead of remaining curious and open (which are our natural human characteristics), we have in many instances become ill-informed and anxious.
What we don’t understand should inspire curiosity, not fear; inquiry, not judgement.
Suspending negative judgement is an excerpt from One World AtLast pp270-71
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net