Windows on the world


Yes We Can

The financial meltdown stemmed from a vicious circle of over production and over consumption, funded by reckless borrowing, which had been gathering pace for several decades.  The West has become addicted to consuming the lion’s share of the earth’s resources, which we expect the rest of the world to pay for by importing our culture and products.  Our greed is such that we have defended our perceived rights by waging wars and violating human rights, whilst polluting the environment for good measure.   It is not surprising that American voters responded to the promise of change.

Western society is based on economic growth, but with finite global resources and an ever-expanding world population, this is not sustainable over the long term.  Ultimately, growth for one section of society can only come at the expense of others, building resentment, distrust and fear, and whilst we spend more and more time chasing our unachievable targets we become alienated from friends and family.  We are all entitled to the pursuit of happiness, but we have confused this right with the pursuit of physical comfort.  In psychological terms we have become stuck at the survival level.  We have food, clothing and shelter, but we devote our lives to obtaining yet more of the same.

If we were to name the occasions in our lives when we knew real happiness, it is probable that they would involve loving, sharing and caring.  Relationships can bring fulfil
lment as they mature, whereas the initial thrill of buying a new car or other gadget soon fades and we are then driven to the next acquisition.

Even if we do not care about the rest of the world, we now know that our life-styles are responsible for increased emissions of greenhouse gases, which could bring catastrophe to our own societies.  Glaciers, forests, animals and insects are all under threat, not to mention the millions of people who live within a few metres of current sea-levels.  There has never been a greater need for change.    

The initial political response to the financial meltdown has been a knee-jerk attempt to re-create the mess we had before, but here is a golden opportunity to re-evaluate our lives.  Can we agree on a set of values that we all believe in?  Can we factor sustainability into the economic model?  Can we reduce our consumption of the earth’s scarce resources?  Can we be innovative and courageous?  Can we relate to others with tolerance and compassion?  President Obama has already provided the answer: “Yes we can!”     



© Harvey Tordoff
Feb 2009