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Center for Action and Contemplation

The Cost of Consumption

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Economy: Week 1

The Cost of Consumption
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

People hate this kind of talk. Raw truth is never popular. —Amos 5:10, The Message

Coming to grips with the history and reality of our money culture is challenging. But with awareness comes opportunity and motivation for change. Contemplative practice helps me hold the tension of suffering with my responsibility to participate in its healing. I can live with fewer comforts and conveniences when I see my part in global warming and poverty. I can hold companies and politicians accountable for their actions, voting in elections and with my wallet.

Paul Hawken offers some hard truth that I hope you can read with a contemplative, nondual mind:

. . . It is highly inconvenient to acknowledge what is happening in the environment. That awareness runs counter to what we have been taught—and what we expect and want from our lives. The United States was founded by acts of exploiting land, people, and resources. [Christianity legitimated human slavery!] We have enlarged that principle and do it the whole world over in the name of trade and growth. . . .

Business is rewarded for producing the best product demanded by the market at the lowest price. The free market is efficient because the producer has every incentive to be as thrifty and innovative as possible. . . . Free market industrialism took root in a world in which trade was expansive and global. Resources of unusual abundance were wrested away from indigenous cultures in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, furthering the fortunes of the trading, industrial nations, which took what they wanted with force. It was colonialism, and it is practiced today, not by adventurers but by transnational corporations or proxies in host countries.

Business did not anticipate a time when those resources would diminish or run out. It was inconceivable that the vast plains and forests of the New World could be exhausted, or that the abundant new fuels of coal could produce enough waste to foul the air and the seas, or that the use of oil could eventually lead to global climate change. So the system of rewarding the lowest price, impelling companies to exploit the cheapest sources of labor and materials, could not anticipate a time when the lowest price would no longer be the lowest cost, when seeking the cheapest means to get a product to market would end up costing society the most in terms of pollution, loss of habitat, degradation of biological diversity, human sickness, and cultural destruction. . . .

[Thankfully] the restorative economy is beginning to prosper. In the United States today, tens of thousands of companies are committed to some form of environmental commerce that competes with businesses that are not willing to adapt. The impulse to enhance the economic viability of life on earth through the recognition and preservation of all living systems is becoming increasingly central to religion, science, medicine, literature, the arts, and youth. It will be the dominant theme of generations to come. [1]

[1] Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability, Revised Edition (Harper Business: 1993, 2010), 16, 127, 140-141. See also

Image Credit: Oil Slick in the Timor Sea, September 2009 (detail), NASA Earth Conservatory, US Government.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
It was inconceivable that the vast plains and forests . . .  could be exhausted, or that the abundant new fuels of coal could produce enough waste to foul the air and the seas, or that the use of oil could eventually lead to global climate change. —Paul Hawken
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