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Skill 3 economic awareness: ecological and ethical local citizenship

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According to Chapter 3, Grounded Economic Awareness Based on Ecological and Ethical Values, in the Handbook of Sustainability Literacy:Skills for a Changing World: an important aspect in leading people to change the thinking and acting paradigm that set society on its unsustainable path, and through the means of their personal and career choices be able to create a more sustainable self, community and world, people need to gain “an awareness of economics that goes beyond considerations of money in isolation, to an awareness of the larger systems which support life – the systems that economies, as well as people, are imbedded within.”

In today’s society money has become the general ultimate drive and life purpose to be pursued. It has become confused with wealth, considered as the measure of prosperity, progress and wellbeing, and believed of as the only thing that sustains and evolves our civilization. Almost everything has been transformed into a commodity to be traded for money. Lands, forests, water, animals, human creativity, and especially money itself are sold and bought.

Eighty to ninety percent of the money whirling around the world, day and night, is unrelated to any goods or services or any kind of real wealth. Money which was a means to trade has been turned into a status symbol, a source of power and prestige. This false philosophy of money is the root cause of the credit crunch and it will lead to what Monbiot (2008) calls the ‘nature crunch'. (Satish Kumar - Resurgence)

For the sake of this fake wealth, money and economic growth, our oceans are over-fished, forests are clear-cut, lands and ecosystems are poisoned with persistent chemical fertilizers and pesticides, water bodies are drained and muddied with toxic industrial remains, animals are grown artificially in fast-track factory farms, people are humiliated in slave-like and unstable jobs, and entire local communities are exploited and left to live in or leave their degraded living conditions. Most of the damage is irreversible.

But day and night we chant the mantra of ‘economy’, while our ecology is in ruins, our ethics have been shelved, our principles of justice and equity are put on the back burner. We blindly follow the religion of materialism, we worship the god of money, and we sacrifice everything at the altar of the economy. We indulge in consumerism as if there was no tomorrow. As a result, in the short term, banks are running out of money, consumers are short of cash, house prices are tumbling and unemployment is rising. In the longer term, we face global warming, global terrorism, global poverty and population explosion. (Satish Kumar - Resurgence)

Real wealth is marine-life-abundant oceans and seas, pristine-healthy-biodiverse forests and ecosystems, nourishing-organic agricultural land, clean fresh water and air, naturally-humanely grown animals, enjoyable-secure jobs, and environmentally and socially vibrant communities of people. It needs to be managed ensuring that people live in harmony with each other and the natural place where they live. Money cannot dominate people's’ lives and it is used in a “harmonious relationship with the natural world”.

To create this real wealth and pave the path towards sustainability,people need most of all to reconnect, love and nurture the place to which they belong, the local community in which they live. To save the planet, people need to save their place. They need to be aware of and maintain the elements and relationships which nourish their individual and collective sustainable development. They need to contribute to a local economy that works within the parameters of ecology, ethics and equity.

If each and every one of us took care of our place, our home, our community, the soil by which we are sustained and the biosphere of which we are an integral part, then the whole planet would be taken care of. Being embedded in a place is a prerequisite for being free to look up at the sky and embrace the world. Love of place and love of planet are two sides of the same coin – when we belong to a place, we belong to the planet. When we lose our place, we lose our planet. (Satish Kumar - Resurgence)

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