Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ecological "Credit Crunch" gets a mention at last

This afternoon I came across this article on the CBC website. I was a bit startled to see it at first - I've become so used to environmental things being ignored that it surprises me when anything related to environmental sustainability actually gets published in the mainstream media.

The article talks about things that readers of this blog are likely quite familiar with: that we are increasingly outstripping the carrying capacity of our planet, and that we in the the 'western' world are the worst debtors of all in this regard.

A quick internet search revealed that September 23rd was this year's Ecological Debt Day - the day that the people of the earth had already used up the planet's capacity to generate resources and absorb waste for that year. In 2008 we will consume and excrete 140% of what the earth can give and take. According to the Global Footprint Network, humans first exceeded the earth's biocapacity in 1986, and each year we exceed it earlier and earlier.

This 'financial crisis' we're going through in the world now really pales in comparison. When we're cannibalizing our planet and poisoning it at the same time, it seems pointless to get too worried about some numbers on a scale that go up and down each each day, representing some kind of abstract derivative financial 'product'. How is it that the surreal and abstract became so important and the real and concrete faded into invisibility? Paradoxes like these always stretch my brain.

The Tao Te Ching is full of paradoxes too - maybe that's why I like is so much. I came across a modern interpretation of this text a short while ago. Here are a couple quotes to ponder from that version - I've bolded some of the lines that seem to get to the crux of the matter for me:

Chapter 19:
Get rid of sanctity.
People will understand the truth
and be happier.

Get rid of morality.
People will respect each other
and do what's right.

Get rid of value and profit.
People will not steal
if they do not desire.

If that's not possible, go to Plan B:
Be simple. Be real.
Do your work as best you can. Don't think about what you get for it. Stay focused. Get rid of all your crap.
And from Chapter 24:
Keep your feet firmly planted
unless you want to fall on your face.
Learn how to pace yourself
if you want to get anywhere.
Don't call attention to yourself
if you want people to notice your work.

Nobody respects people
who always have excuses.
Nobody gives credit to people who always take it.
People who hype themselves
have nothing else to offer.

Think of being in touch with Tao
like eating at a buffet:
Take only what you need.
Save some for everybody else
It's way past time we stopped gorging ourselves at a buffet that was meant for everyone, for all generations, and rediscovered joyful moderation. And, of course, it's time I took my own advice and stepped up what I can do to only use my fair share.


::::wifemothermaniac:::: said...

wow, cool translation!

Anonymous said...

Hi Theresa - I just went back to the article and the top comments seem to support the article more than they had. Yesterday I was sad to see how many were putting CBC down for printing 'such nonesense'.

Heather @ SGF said...

I LOVE the translation! I'm going to have to go back and read that again! :)

I think you are right too about the idea of sharing. The book "Radical Simplicity" referred to this idea as a banquet and we are first in line. How much do we take and still ensure everyone else gets some too. It's humbling how little that really is, but until we think about it (become more mindful), we often take far too much. Great post!

Theresa said...

WMM- it is cool, hey? I really like the Derek Lin version of the TTC too, which is what I usually quote from, but this one really tells it like it is.

Hi Liz - I was also glad to see that there was a fair amount of support for the ideas in the article in the comments under it (I added my own 2 cents worth in there too), but there is still a lot of work to do to have it more widely accepted, that's for sure.

Heather - glad you liked it! The link to that translation provides a handy PDF file that can be printed off in book form if you like. I'm considering doing that even though it would use some paper, just because I would like to be able to have it to flip through whenever.

Yes, I thought it was at your blog where I read about reference to the banquet metaphor - that has stuck with me ever since!

Amber said...

I heard this report on the 6 o'clock news on CBC radio yesterday while making dinner and it stopped me in my tracks. I wondered, 'did I just hear that right?'

Simply Authentic said...

Great! I'd never heard of Ecological Day so that was interesting...and sad at the same time!

Hope you are doing well Theresa!

Green Grrl said...

I love that translation of chapter 19. I'm going to put that up in my office. :)