The cruel paradox of stock market decline

Stocks are sinking again.  The market has just experienced the worst month in years and one of the most volatile weeks in history.  Oil is down, commodities are down, trillions of dollars in paper wealth is gone.  People are freaking out.

At the same time, North America is on fire.  The Arctic ice is vanishing.  Millions of people are on the move, disrupted by war or famine.  Coral reefs are dying.  For the first time ever there are three category 4 hurricanes in the Pacific, a ‘monster’ El Nino is brewing beneath those storms, and California waits to see if this abnormal event will save it from a drought that threatens the water supply of 53 million people.

Yet generally the public seems unaware of the cruel paradox embedded in the relationship between these two sets of phenomenon.  Certainly our presidential politicians are doing little to help educate or reflect upon the deeper truth that perhaps we could be confronting as we experience these disruptions.

For why is the market sinking?  Because supposedly growth in China is slowing.  We are using less oil.  We are consuming marginally fewer resources.  And for an economy based upon consumption and growth these are all bad things.  Thus the markets go down, people lose their jobs in factories and Walmart.  Target Canada goes bankrupt and closes hundreds of stores.  There are fewer off-gassing fires from oil drilling in North Dakota because the wells are being capped.

Yet these economic undertakings are the same activities that drive global warming.  One less oil well pumping is actually a good thing from the point of view of someone living on low lying costal land.  We should be welcoming the fact that we are using less oil, spewing less CO2 from a factory, gobbling up less ore from the ground.

But we are trapped.  Our material wealth is created by the same process that is making our home unlivable.  Burn less, get laid off, but also get a habitable planet.

What are we to do?

For one thing we should be talking a lot more about this problem.  And not just about global warming, not just about the economy, but about their interconnection.  Of course there is such conversation going on in places, in small niches.  But rarely in the mainstream.  Rarely on the campaign trail.  Very rarely in the halls of Congress.  Or in churches.

In North Dakota and across America, the majority opinion has been that the oil boom is a good thing.  The money it brings in is a good thing.  The jobs are good, the wealth is good.  To suggest that we shouldn’t drill another oil well anywhere on earth ever again is heresy or lunacy or both.

This problem we have gotten ourselves into is no small conundrum.  When someone loses their job it’s a bad thing for them, their family, their community.  The idea that millions have to choose work and livelihood over a livable planet is indeed a deal with the Devil.

It would take a long time and our best minds and efforts to transform our current mode of existence such that we can both live and live harmoniously with nature.

Thus every minute we waste is precious.

Religious people often seek ‘signs’ from God.  Much of the time these efforts can appear to boarder on the magical or ridiculous or trivial.  When we hear that Jesus said you cannot worship both God and money it is generally within the context of a church stewardship drive.  But what if the true signs were right in front of our face?  What if these patterns of economics, climate, and social disruption were the signs?  Were God speaking to us?

At what point do you think we will start to listen seriously ?

Crusades 2014

This past summer I had the privilege of teaching in South Korea.  As part of my time there, I was taken on a tour of historic sites in Seoul.  During the tour, I learned that South Koreans describe their current location in time as the “second half 10,000 years.”  Koreans trace their history back 5,000 years.  Thus the 21st century is the beginning of the next 5,000 years, or the second half of 10,000 years.  Not only are they generally aware of this huge span of time, but they have a sense of the rhythms and flows of their history. Thus, for example, when the US and China are competing for their attention, they understand this activity as another of a long line of incidents where larger powers strive for influence over their strategic peninsula.

Would that we Americans had such a perspective.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of Ebola virus

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  It’s an old saying that, unfortunately, human beings don’t really believe.  Or at least it doesn’t drive our behavioral decisions.

Before the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, if you had asked most Americans if we should help African countries develop good healthcare systems, the answer would have been a resounding NO.  Now that Ebola is threatening the world, we are sending in the Army to set up field hospitals, and panic is beginning to rise here in this country as the first case lands in Texas.

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Just can’t stop

Today (9/21/14) marches and rallies are happening around the world calling for more attention and action on climate change issues.  Today also saw the Minneapolis Star Tribune publish an article about the huge amount of money being generated by the oil boom in western North Dakota.  Meanwhile, August marks the 354th consecutive month of above average world-wide temperature.  These three pieces of news clearly present the challenge we face as a species:  stop warming the planet, or rake in lots of money.

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Living on the Edge

I was at the movies Saturday night, a week and a half ago, when my cell phone started going nuts.  This isn’t unusual for many people, but it is for me.  I don’t get a lot of calls, or texts, but suddenly, within the span of about 5 minutes I had several of each.  I admit that I took a quick look at my phone.  With that short glance I knew both what the problem was, and that it was being taken care of.  The gas company wanted the church to switch off of gas and onto our alternative fuel.

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