Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I've been reading Bill McKibben's book, Deep Economy and find it to be speaking Truth. The book is a critique of consumerism. McKibben suggests (and documents pretty well) that our hyperconsumerism we experience in the Wealthy West is not working.
It's resulting, McKibben says, in unjust systems and environmental degradation. But aside from that, it's not even working to make we wealthy folk contented.
In one part, McKibben takes on NAFTA, saying:
NAFTA was supposed to “rationalize” agriculture, as, in a sense, it has. Great floods of subsidized corn grown in factory farms across the Midwest have “washed away 1.3 million small farmers in Mexico,” according to Michael Pollan. Mexican farmers can grow corn for 4 cents a pound, compared with the 6 cents a pound it costs to grow on American farms, but government subsidies bring our price down to 3 cents a pound, thereby setting world price, wrecking the Mexican countryside, and enriching firms like Archer Daniels Midland.
“Unable to compete, they have left their land to join the swelling pools of Mexico’s urban unemployed,” reports Pollan. “Others migrate to the US to pick our crops – former farmers become day laborers.” The small farmers forced off their land sell out to larger farmers, who, adopting the industrial agricultural practices of the north, use far more water and chemicals.
“Mexico’s scarce water resources are leaching north, one tomato at a time,” Pollan says. “It’s absurd for a country like Mexico – whose people are often hungry – to use its best land to grow produce for a country where food is so abundant that its people are obese – but under free trade, it makes economic sense.”
I read such passages and find myself reminded of the repeated and repeated warnings of the Bible against the dangers of wealth, oppressive economic systems and unjust measures.
Micah, for instance, says:
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Hark! the LORD cries to the city. (It is wisdom to fear your name!) Hear, O tribe and city council, you whose rich men are full of violence, whose inhabitants speak falsehood with deceitful tongues in their heads!
Am I to bear any longer criminal hoarding and the meager ephah that is accursed? Shall I acquit criminal balances, bags of false weights?
What say you? Are our economic systems that serve us so well (as in, making us able to hyper-consume) bankrupt from a moral, biblical, environmental and equity viewpoint?
Posted by Dan Trabue at 6:57 AM