Two Urgent Challenges: Rising Inequalities and Respect for the Carrying Capacity of the Earth

P1010259In a very dynamic presentation at the Forum for Liberation Theologies (March 7, 2013), Philippe Lamberts, Walloon Green Party (Ecolo) member of the European Parliament, stressed these two urgent and interconnected challenges of rising inequalities and of lack of respect for the carrying capacity of the planet earth, to focus on what drives him in politics: working towards a decent life for all within the physical carrying limits of the earth. He addresses these issues in the European Parliament by attempting to tame the “financial beast”; indeed the search for quick and easy money and the financialization of every aspect of our lives, are killing us. If we do not, in our organizing of human life on the planet, take into account that we live on a planet that can be measured (is limited) and that there exists growing social inequality that cannot be countered by making the rich richer in the hope that then the poor will follow in becoming richer … then, war will result that may lead to planetary consequences for the future existence of humanity.

Over against the urge for short term consumption and the making of easy money, Philippe Lamberts proposes investment in resource and energy efficient means, in restoring natural resources and social cohesion, in education, and in research, development and innovation.

Three ideas struck me particularly. “If we want to survive we will have to do it together” in the planetary sense of the word: even if a few can still enrich themselves today, they will only survive the others to live in an empoverished world. We are facing the social and environmental timebombs together: they may well kill us all. “The reason why we don’t do what our sound mind tells us (changing lifestyles in wealthy regions as Western Europe and allowing the poorer regions of the world to further develop), is the refusal of real change”. I connect this with the religious idea of conversion: are we really willing to answer the call to conversion, or do we prefer to accumulate more of the same, an attitude that is killing us?

Changes will become possible only if we stop pointing angry and accusing fingers, but become real agents of change, by engaging ourselves into change and by leading through example. Philippe Lamberts, who is himself a committed Christian had the last word in the discussion: “Love humanity”, a lesson that the Church should attempt to learn and to put into practice.

The discussions showed the differences of experience between people from various parts of the globe: amongst us were Nigerians, Indians, Philippinos, Europeans, Americans, … They come from different backgrounds and have different stories on social inequalities and the abuse of the planet, but they seem to agree that we are facing here urgent and crucial challenges.

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