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Sunday, August 21, 2011

The gift of facing the bigger picture

This is a macro view on our connection with all else on earth.
Every 5 seconds, 1 child dies in this world from hunger. We speak of interconnectedness, but how much and how deeply do we really care? And why should we be held responsible? Well, we are responsible, because our global society functions according to a principle of cause and effect.

Yet, here's how it worked so far:

  • The richest 10 % own 85 % of the global assets and the bottom half of the world adult population owns barely 1% of global wealth.

  • The richest 25 million Americans earn as much as almost 2 billion people.

  • Twenty-nine of the world's 100 largest economic entities are corporations:

  • Exxon Mobil, $63 billion, is richer than Pakistan.
    o General Motors, $56 billion, outpaces Peru and New Zealand.
    o Ford Motor and DaimlerChrysler, each over $42 billion, are wealthier than Nigeria.
    o Kuwait, $38 billion, is poorer than GE.
    o Honda, Nissan and Toshiba are wealther than Syria.

The above demonstrates the power of business in the world. Businesses are known to bring development and progress, so they are generally embraced. However, it also shows greater global inequality than ever before. In 2008 almost half the world's population, 2.1 billion people, lived on less than $2 a day, and at least 80% on less than $10 a day.

The problem is systemic, and requires more change than we are willing to make. The problem is that:

  • we think in distinctions: me versus the rest of the world;

  • we harbor a false sense of entitlement and independence – we think that what we currently have is ours forever more, and we think that we don’t need others;

  • we believe that “happiness” is a substitute for financial wealth and material gains.

  • we have become ignorant toward the fact that prosperity of one group always happens at the expense of another, because we live on a finite planet with finite resources.

  • we have become blinded by one single master, which determines our attitude, our friends, our livelihood, our preferences, and even the way we choose to look at problems: money.

Here are some examples:

  • We prefer to have multiple cars per family for convenience. But the 140 million cars in America use over 200 million gallons of gasoline daily!

  • We use 50 million tons of paper annually -- consuming more than 850 million trees.

  • American households waste about 14 percent of their food purchases, equivalent to 350 million barrels of oil a year.

  • Every year, Americans use about 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste.

The Earth has been around for 4.6 billion years. If we scale this time down to 46 years, we have been around for 4 hours and our Industrial Revolution began just 1 minute ago. And see: we have ransacked the planet to get fuels and raw materials, caused extinction of countless plants and animals, and have multiplied uncontrollably.

Yet, there is still time and space to restore habitats and return species to them; shift our paradigm away from “me” toward more “we”; enhance awareness in others to secure a better world for our offspring, and become leaders of a movement of responsibility and equality instead of selfish profit maximization at others' expense.

As a point to ponder, here is a final segment of Krishnamurti's UN Speech, "On Peace in Our time":
“… how can one have external peace in the world, if one is not peaceful in oneself? […] We never seem to realize that unless each one of us fundamentally changes radically there will be no peace on earth. [...] So it behoves us, and each one of us, to find out why we live this way. And whether it is possible to radically change our whole psyche. If there is not a revolution there, mere outward revolutions have very little meaning. We have had communist revolution, French revolution, other forms of revolution throughout the world and we remain what we are, self-centered, cruel and all the rest of it”

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