What do bankers have to do with oceans, ice sheets and orang utans?

Flooded with requests from members of the public, the media and my family to explain why I’m camping out on the chilly cobbles of St Paul’s, I stormed my own brain and came up with this:

I’m here because I believe in real democracy, social justice and environmental responsibility. I’m here because I passionately believe – no, I know – that we need to put planet and people before profit. I’m not here because I hate bankers, or hate cuts. It’s so much deeper, broader and more complex than that… and it’s got a lot to do with loving this earth we live on.

Environment and economics are inextricably linked. One doesn’t have to understand fractional reserve banking to understand this. The profit-driven economic system we have is not sustainable. By that I don’t just mean it’s not ‘green’, I mean that in a world of finite resources we literally cannot have perpetual growth. It won’t work . It cannot be sustained. Already the financial system in the Western world has begun to implode. We’ve knocked back the ‘good’ times – the greed times – and now we’re lurching about like drunkards trying to pretend we just need a cup of coffee and then we’ll be fine to drive.

I think it’s time the car keys were confiscated because it’s not just economies that we’re crashing, it’s the planet.

Economic and social injustice is what many of us are feeling most keenly at the moment but we can’t afford to ignore the looming dual impacts of climate change and resource scarcity. They’ll hit the most vulnerable first, especially those living in marginal lands – the deserts of Africa, the floodplains of Bangladesh – while the super-wealthy 1% will relocate to the least affected areas and insulate themselves in robust palaces. We can’t wait until our low-lying cities flood, until the glaciers melt and the gorillas are gone before we do something about it; if we do it’ll be too late, we’ll be trapped in a chain-reaction of crises way more severe than job losses and home repossessions.


So, in addition to railing at banks and corporations for stealing our money and corrupting the politicians who are supposed to represent us, we must remember that they are the ones destroying our land – again, for their own profits. Extracting oil from the tar sands of Canada, deep-water oil drilling in the Arctic, fracking for gas in Lancashire, slashing rainforests to grow cash-crops such as palm oil… these environmentally devastating practices need to be stopped.

A British environmental lawyer (Polly Higgins) has proposed to the UN that Heads of State and directors of corporations be required to take individual and personal responsibility for their actions and that ecocide, the environmental equivalent of genocide, becomes an International Crime Against Peace (alongside genocide itself, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes).

While this may give profit-hungry polluters pause for thought, I believe it’s not just the elites who need to re-evaluate; we all do. We need to stop being selfish. Selfishness is behind the unsustainable profit-driven economy, the destruction of environments, over-fishing, over-consumption, pollution and war. We need to look at what is really needed to have a decent quality of life. Let’s try to get those things – food, clean water, shelter, warmth, security, community, education, leisure, meaningful pursuits – for everyone on the planet… and get rid of everything else. Stop lusting, hoarding, competing. Demand that the bankers do their bit but be prepared to do our bit too. If everyone stopped being selfish we have the intelligence and resources to sort it out. For example, an IPCC Report (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) shows that with political will and investment we could meet 80% of the world’s energy needs with renewables by 2050.

That would go some way towards heading off environmental catastrophe; towards saving the oceans, the ice, the orang utans and the people. We might even find enough compassion in our hearts to invite the bankers onto the ark.

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