More and more people start to realize that something about our current economic system is deeply wrong. There are some ugly truths many of us are unaware of or prefer to neglect.
Some ideas and technologies are so old and entrenched that we can easily forget that they were once created. In fact, it’s hard to even imagine that there was once a time when the economic system was different with consumer culture and advertising being non-existent or a time when organic food was just called… food.
Money would be another classic example.
It’s hard to imagine a world before it, and even harder to imagine that we might one day be done with it. While many will argue the gift of money and the benefits it brings, it also comes with a heavy price: multiplying middlemen.
The invention of money offered a profound ability to accumulate and stockpile wealth. Rulers and businessmen could harvest more and more power. Through these new opportunities, we have been pushed further and further away from natural resources.
In hunter-gatherer times, you would go and collect your food and would visibly see the source. There is only one link in this chain between you and the item:
you ↔ source
With trading, the number of links began to grow:
you ↔ your item ↔ their item ↔ their source
With money, this chain can grow exponentially further:
you ↔ your labour ↔ your money ↔ their item ↔ their labour ↔ their money ↔ their supplier ↔ their source
With a one-to-one exchange between you and the environment, you can clearly see your impact.
With a few more links in the chain, it is fairly simple to trace things back to the source. However, in today’s economic system, it is incredibly difficult to locate the resources that go into making modern products like smartphones and laptops. These items could include thousands of people, hundreds of components, and many countries from all around the world.
The longer the chain–facilitated by the exchange of money, and driven by a desire for more money–the more opportunities there are for exploitation and corruption. And sadly, this is what our whole economic system is built on.
As we become increasingly detached from our environment, we are less aware of the practices behind our products. The more links in the chain, the less we know, and the less we feel empowered to change things.
It is interesting to consider whether we would still purchase some of our items if every link in the production chain was openly provided to consumers:
- Would we eat unsustainable products if we saw that acres of rainforest had to be cleared every second?
- Similarly, would we still buy palm oil if we personally had to set fire to the tree, inhabited by the last family of orangutans?
- And would we still buy designer clothing if we could see the textile factories poisoning the rivers in Bangladesh and subsequently poisoning the local communities and wildlife?
- Would we still buy smartphones if we saw the four-year-old children working in the harmful and unregulated cobalt mines of southern Africa?
- Finally, would we purchase coffee if we saw the child slave workers of the Ivory Coast?
The ugly truth about our economic system is that the clothes we are wearing, the food we are about to eat, and the items that fill our homes are likely to carry some form of suffering.
If you set out to live a healthy, fulfilling, sustainable and moral life, unfortunately, you may well be swimming upstream.
In our current economic system, the recurring crimes are so jarring as they conflict with fundamental human values. It is a sad state of affairs when you can make a video of a current factory with no edits, narration or music, and when you show that video to someone they may cry, feel angry and incredibly misled. When the truth can hurt so deeply, we have to create a better truth.
Nobody wants to do unnecessary harm to others. However, the victims of today’s economic system are often hidden from us.
With regards to our current economic system and its unsustainable practices, the biggest victims may have yet to be born. We know that our enjoyment of certain foods, luxuries and comforts shouldn’t come at the expense of others. Consumers of such products are not bad people, they are simply unaware.
Similarly, unethical corporations are not ‘evil rulers‘ with Machiavellian intent. They are by-products of an unhealthy economic system. They efficiently follow blueprints for making money in a system that will consistently reward their actions.
It shouldn’t be unreasonable to demand that our governments and corporations need to be fully transparent about resources and practices. Hiding these things only benefits those seeking private financial gain.
This is not about telling people what to do, nor preaching. This is about being honest and transparent and providing the people with the tools that they need to make decisions that are in line with their own values.
The ramifications of decoupling us and our natural resources cannot be overstated, as it is a key contributor to our current environmental crisis.
We believed that we could own and exploit the planet. A new narrative moved us away from interconnection to a world where we could exploit people and natural resources in the quest for private stockpile-able wealth.
We started to believe we no longer needed to act sustainably, and we no longer needed to protect and maintain clean water, clean soil and a clean atmosphere. We began to think as though we had evolved beyond nature. Trains could cut through our forests and we began to fly over our oceans. We no longer needed the stars to navigate nor the wind to push our sails.
We no longer needed the support of our communities as we could become individuals with access to a wider range of consumables. As a result, we sacrificed clean air for speed, clean soil for convenience, and clean water for comfort.
We started to abuse our resources and our sustainable relationships. We built walls and cities which concealed the consequences. Thus, we moved from natural and sustainable living to an artificial, unsustainable story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Macdonald is a Scientist and Author. As a Scientist, Chris’s work deciphers why people do harmful things; not only to others or the environment but also to themselves. And as an Author, Chris aims to facilitate optimal health and sustainability, although he’ll often write a more lighthearted piece if it’ll put a smile on someone’s face.
To see Chris’s latest work, you can visit IlluminatePress.com.
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