Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 12, 2000
Poor environment leads to civil conflicts
Jubilee 2000 is about the renewal of the earth through a sabbath, a rest from exploitation and abuse. The wisdom of this exhortation should be clear to us all.
Through the insatiable demands of consumer societies, the desperation of indebted economies in the majority world and the consequential wars between neighbours, the earth is threatened as never before.
Daily we are reminded of the impending ecological disaster. Holes in the ozone layer, denuded forests, topsoil erosion, drained wetlands, polluted rivers, oceans without fish, toxic waste being shipped from one end of the globe to the next, landmines buried in farmland, people displaced and uprooted from their ancestral grounds.
"Through greed, self interest and injustice," says theologian Elizabeth Johnson, "human beings are violently bringing disfigurement and death to this living evolving planet."
"We must rethink the nature and meaning of human progress," writes a friend pointing to the hope he sees in the massive shift of consciousness all over the world. "The more we learn, the more incensed we become."
These are not the words of an unemployed squeegee kid, but those of an 80-year-old veteran who like so many of his generation feels that the ideals they fought for are being eroded by irresponsible globalization.
We should all become a little incensed and here is why:
Globalization has moved wealth and power from the bottom to the top. There, it concentrates in the hands of a few people at the international level where no democracy exists and where meetings are held in secret so no citizens take part in the decision-making.
The instruments of globalization are the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Transnational corporations whose bottom line is maximization of profits control these institutions.
Susan George puts it this way: "Globalization is creating a myriad of losers. We're creating through globalization a three-track society in which there will be the exploiters, the exploited and the outcasts, the people who are not even worth exploiting. This clearly is a scenario for tremendous instability."
This instability manifests itself in places like Sierra Leone, Colombia, Sudan, Zimbabwe and in many other places where neighbours attack neighbours. Between 1990 and 1996 there were 98 civil wars.
The Oslo Peace Research Institute found that these internal conflicts took place mainly in poor countries where agriculture is still the main source of income; that the factor most often associated with conflict is land degradation or water scarcity; that a strong correlation exists between high external debt and civil war, that failing export income from primary commodities is closely associated with violence and that a history of IMF intervention through structural adjustment programs is positively linked with political and armed conflict.
Florence Stratton writes in the Catholic Worker: "The main reason why countries like Sierra Leone are poor is because western countries are rich. The high standard of living enjoyed by the majority of westerners is considerably dependent on the exploitation of the poor countries. The nation's wealth has been expropriated under unequal conditions of trade."
If we seek a renewal of the earth then the impetus for change must come from ordinary citizens who are prepared to re-image our kinship with all of creation and who are able to channel their profound anger in creative ways to stop the ongoing global destruction.
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