It's not enough to change our patterns as individual consumers. Even if we do it in a group as a local faith community!

No, we need structural change. Restructuring. Perestroika.

Let's start by not measuring growth as simply the sum total of all transactions. What if a transaction results in harm -- pollution, litter, atmospheric carbon loading, human carbo loading, bullets in a torso, depleted uranium in a village, mines in Laos -- you know -- harm!

Then why measure that transaction as "Gross National Product" without assessing the cost of the harm that results? Why, because then we can measure the cleanup transaction as yet more growth!

This is actually well-trodden ground. Over a decade ago, Redefining Progress in San Francisco developed the "Genuine Progress Indicator" to track the economy in just this way. (The GDP, for example, "treats the depletion of natural capital as income.")

I just wanted to rant about this. Especially after reading Susanne Kromberg's piece on "50 Million Christians Protesting in the Street" and posting it to QuakerQuaker.

The point I want to make here is that even by some seemingly small shifts in the bureaucratic system, such as how we measure "growth" in the United States, we could make a big impact on people's understanding of the real state of the nation.

Even as I need to develop my compassion muscle and work on internal peace and redemption -- turning away from behaviors that harm -- I need to engage the Powers That Be in the task of their redemption, so that they may serve humanity and the rest of the world rather than destroy it. See Walter Wink's work for more on the redemption of the powers!

1 comment:

Contemplative Scholar said...

Thank you for this posting, Chris M! I really like the idea of inventing new measures for progress.

I think it would be really great to take the best examples that are out there and just start using them (instead of GDP) as much as possible! Even if the powers that be are slow to make the switch, if enough others began to quietly reject the GDP in favor of other approaches and analyzed the economy in these new ways, it might eventually have an effect in changing perceptions more widely.

And I too am very inspired by Walter Wink's work!