Friday, 26 October 2007

Money is debt

I only recently realised, from watching this great video, that money is debt. The whole banking system is basically a pyramid scheme, based on a growing pyramid of debt. Our economy depends on people being in debt. It’s a finely balanced pack of cards, and we witnessed with Northern Rock what happens when the belief system around it collapses. The same could happen to our entire economic system, apparently. An interesting sentence stood out in one article last week: as people are starting to become more cautious, cancelling their credit cards and spending less, this is having a knock on effect on economic growth.

So, on one hand, the best way to increase personal resilience to cope with rising energy prices is to get out of debt, mostly by reducing our spending, and consolidating assets. And yet that act itself is almost unpatriotic in the possibility it could bring on economic downturn. Plus, the steady growth of our economy over the past decades has been underpinned by growth in the use of fossil fuels. Now we’re starting to realise that fossil fuels are making us sick, and that they’re finite anyway, and the oil prices are starting to go through the roof. This could get interesting.

Yet perhaps this is not altogether a bad thing. We all know that money doesn’t buy happiness. Change is happening anyway, so my feeling is, let’s be conscious co-creators of another, better, story.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Waste not want not

Nowadays I’m getting the strangest thoughts in the strangest places, like scrambled messages from a timeless radio transmitter. The other day the thought came to me that waste is an indicator of the level of dysfunction of a community or household. Packaged goods have usually been transported long distances, usually because of (too) cheap labour. They’re usually not fresh, or healthy, nor do they really support the local economy, whether it’s ours or a some distant worker’s. The waste becomes a pollutant and starts to accumulate at toxic levels in our, or other people’s habitat. The packaged goods may be cheaper, but at a cost.

Commentators like Monbiot write that we in the West have lengthened our supply chains so much that we can no longer trace our waste. Just as carbon dioxide emissions, and methane farts and burps emitted by cows are invisible, so are the ramifications of our actions, thus preventing us from having to feel any guilt. Perhaps it’s ever been thus.

A year on from our family’s zero-waste week, we had a dustbin review. It’s now almost entirely populated by plastic wrapping. Shops are quite cheerfully taking back our excessive packaging. We’re still plagued by those darn yoghurt pots and biscuit wrappers; maybe we’ll find an alternative. For now, plastics and fossil fuels cannot be disposed of without polluting. I look forward to a more enlightened time when we’ve learned to close the cycle, create a cyclical economy, get off oil etc and use all waste as a clean and healthy resource.