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Poverty, Wealth & Ecology

by Athena Peralta, Consultant, WCC Program on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology

As you need Her, She needs you. Save Our Earth. Stop Global Warming.
As you need Her, She needs you.
Save Our Earth. Stop Global Warming.

About the Article:

 

Athena Peralta provides us with a perspective in better understanding the issue of global warming. She opens the discussion by introducing the phrase “economy of life” to describe an eco-just economy which means forests and waters and the air we breathe cannot be owned or controlled by a state or a single person because it is critical to life. It means respecting and supporting the economic sovereignty of nations and communities—this includes energy and food sovereignty—rather than processes of imperial domination and indebtedness.

 

She made this presentation for the WSCF AP’s 5th School for Ecumenical Leadership Formation (SELF), October 2009, Philippines.

Just, Participatory and Sustainable Communities

It is always good to start with a vision. Since the 1975 Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Nairobi, Kenya, ecumenical churches have been advocating for “just, sustainable & participatory societies (communities)” in recognition of the interconnections between social, economic, & ecological dimensions of life. Put in another way, the WCC asserts that struggles for socio-economic justice are inextricably intertwined with struggles for ecological justice such that, ultimately, one cannot be achieved without the other.

“Just, sustainable and participatory communities” are communities which support and nurture equitable relationships within the human family (South and North, “poor” and “rich”, women and men) and also between humans and the rest of the Earth community. They require a just and moral economy where all people are empowered to participate in the decisions affecting their lives, where public and private institutions are made accountable for the social and ecological consequences of their activities, and where the Earth is honoured and protected rather than exploited and degraded.

Recently, the WCC has been using the phrase “economy of life” to describe an eco-just economy. Such an economy must be buttressed by the principle of ‘common public good’ or global commons—wherein forests and waters and the air we breathe cannot be owned or controlled by a state or a single person because it is critical to life. This implies dismantling the dominant philosophy and logic of market fundamentalism that legitimises the commodification of so-called natural resources.

It means respecting and supporting the economic sovereignty of nations and communities—this includes energy and food sovereignty—rather than processes of imperial domination and indebtedness. Southern peoples must have the sovereignty to craft self-reliant economies leading to “buen vivir”. It must be characterised by production and consumption systems that recognise, respect and uphold the limits of the regenerative capacity of the Earth.

In deepening the Alternative Globalisation Addressing People & Earth (AGAPE) Process, the WCC has a current focus on poverty, wealth and ecology and their linkages. Wealth and poverty are intrinsically linked: they are two sides of the same coin. According to the mainstream view, generating more prosperity—defined as increases in income and consumption, and, at the macro level, growth in the Gross National Product (GNP)—is the best and only way to reduce poverty. Yet there is mounting evidence that wealth creation at the macro level does not automatically result in poverty reduction; nor is it a sufficient condition for alleviating poverty.

“Southern peoples must have the sovereignty to craft self-reliant economies leading to “buen vivir”. It must be characterized by production and consumption systems that recognise, respect and uphold the limits of the regenerative capacity of the Earth.”

The New Economics Foundation (2006) reports that between 1990 & 2001, a mere USD 0.60 out of every USD 100 worth of growth in the world’s income per person contributed to poverty reduction. Achieving a single dollar of poverty reduction would therefore require USD 166 of additional global production and consumption with associated adverse effects on the environment. These findings suggest that a reliance on GNP growth to reduce poverty is both inefficient and unsustainable.

The very structures, methods and policies to create wealth could be responsible for producing poverty and inequality. While policies promoting economic globalisation (e.g. trade and financial liberalisation) offers unprecedented opportunities for enrichment to countries and producers possessing huge amounts of capital and technology, it deepens poverty for countries and producers that are unable to compete in a world of surplus production. These countries or producers are unable to compete precisely because they are poor to begin with. There is also strong empirical substantiation for the view that the same policies have caused the gap between the rich and poor in global and national terms to further widen in recent years.

Globalization, Poverty and Inequality

The empirical record is quite revealing. In the last 25 years of heightened globalisation (i.e. 1980-2005), the global economy failed to experience accelerated growth. During the period 1980-2005 as compared to 1960-1980 (a period of relative protectionism), GDP growth actually slowed down, especially for least developed countries (Weisbrot et al, 2002 & 2005).

Cutting edge cross-country econometric studies further fail to reveal a systematic relationship between globalisation (as proxied by trade and (financial openness) and subsequent growth (Milanovic, 200;, Ravallion, 2004).

Data from the WB does point to a very modest reduction in global poverty incidence (or the proportion of poor people to world population) in the period of globalisation (i.e. since the 1980s). But the fall is largely attributable to poverty reduction in two countries, China & India, which, interestingly enough, did not necessarily follow the economic prescriptions of the WTO, IMF & WB. China, for instance, had regulated trade until very recently as well as enacted land reform and nationalisation of industries, contrary to neoliberal logic. Take out China and India out of the equation and poverty incidence would not have decreased.

Poverty continues to deepen in many parts of the developing world. While the proportion of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa Middle East, Latin America & the Caribbean has barely changed, the number of poor people in these regions actually increased by seven million per year from 1990 to 1999.

On the issue of inequality, there is perhaps less debate. The UNDP states that by the late 1990s a fifth of the world’s people living in the highest-income countries had: 86 percent of world production—the bottom fifth just 1 percent; 82 percent of world export markets—the bottom fifth just 1 percent; 68 percent of foreign direct investment—the bottom fifth just 1 percent.

Put in another way, the distribution of wealth in the world resembles a champagne glass. The top quintile of the global population owns 83% of the total wealth of the world while the bottom 60% of the population owns only 6%.

Global Financial Crises, Poverty and Inequality The current global financial crisis is a significant manifestation of how our economic systems are unjust and unsustainable. It started out as a “sub-prime” credit crisis in the U.S. housing sector involving homeowners who began defaulting on housing loan payments. The problem spiralled out of control in large part because of the trading of credit risks (i.e. mortgage defaults) on an unparalleled scale through financial innovations known as derivatives, which permitted companies to transfer their credit risks to third parties (i.e. hedge funds). The logic behind risk trading is not so much risk sharing as profiting from speculation.

An overall failure to regulate financial markets contributed to the build-up of the current crisis. With the encouragement of (or, in the case of indebted nations, under pressure from) the IMF & WB, many economies in the 1990s had implemented a set of policies aimed at eroding government restrictions on institutional financial practices, financial prices, and financial flows within and between countries. Financial liberalisation and globalisation facilitated rather than restricted speculation and risky investments. On a deeper level, the current crisis is rooted in unsustainable global macroeconomic imbalances characterised by massive current account deficits in one part of the world, particularly the United States, and massive surpluses in another part of the world, particularly China, Japan and oil-producing countries (UNCTAD 2009). These imbalances had been fuelled by over-consumption in the former part of the world, which was, in turn, financed with savings and met by exports from the latter.

Most religions and faiths would consider consumerism as an affliction in many of our societies today. The problem does not exist merely at the level of individuals and individual value systems that are based on the belief that personal well-being and happiness rest primarily on the accumulation of material goods and money (with which to buy more goods). The fact remains: all of our dominant economic paradigms—including Keynesian models—remain “productivist” at core. That is, they are founded on the largely unchallenged assumption that more growth in the gross national product (read: more production) is always good.

Although the current crisis originated in the United States and Europe, there are now clear signs that the turmoil has spilled over to the developing world through exchange rate volatility and dramatic declines in export and government revenues; foreign investments; foreign commercial lending; migrant remittances; and development assistance.

People in poverty—already suffering from the effects of the 2008 food crisis and climate change—have little capacity to cope with financial shocks.

The human costs of the current crisis are reflected in the first instance in the erosion of livelihoods and subsequent drastic reductions in household incomes. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO 2009) global unemployment will rise by around 20 million in 2009. Meanwhile the World Bank (WB 2009) projects that more than 53 million people will be thrown into poverty this year (this is on top of the 150 million people who dropped below the poverty line in the previous year because of the food crisis).

Poor people lack assets such as cash to cushion them from crises. Most of them possess “unskilled” labour (at least as defined by the market), hampering their ability to cope by finding other ways of generating income.

Engendering the Global Financial Crisis

Women and girl children assume a heavier share of the risks associated with liberalised financial markets. Though the current crisis is still unfolding, it is already possible to glean gendered patterns of suffering.

Exports are plummeting all over the world. For instance, Chinese exports recorded a decline for the third consecutive month in January 2009, falling by 17.5 percent from a year earlier; while Indian exports plummeted by 24 percent in the same month (STRATFOR 2009). Since women workers in the manufacturing sector tend to be segregated into export-oriented industries that seek to take advantage of cheap and flexible labour (e.g. garments and microchips assembly), they are particularly exposed to retrenchment as global demand for goods declines.

At the same the same time, women from poor households who lose their jobs often have little choice but to look for and accept “distress employment” at subsistence wages, and precarious and substandard working conditions. Women’s employment in low-end services (e.g. domestic and janitorial work) and the informal sector may increase during crisis periods.

In many Asian and Latin American countries, particularly the Philippines and Mexico, migrant remittances help to augment household budgets to meet basic needs. The World Bank (in IOM 2009) predicts that global remittances could decrease in the worst case scenario by six percent in 2009 with potentially adverse consequences for children’s—particularly girls’—access to food, schooling, health services and housing.

Unpaid care work that is predominantly but not exclusively undertaken by women also intensifies in crisis periods. Women (to a lesser extent, men) have to expend more time and effort in sourcing cheaper goods and substituting for services that have become unaffordable in the context of reduced household incomes.

Violence against women is also likely to increase as families struggle to deal with the myriad socio-economic stresses produced by the crisis (Knowles et al 1999). In line with the neoliberal prescription to reduce government intervention in the economy, “privatisation” (the transfer of ownership and control of public enterprises to private hands) and “deregulation” (the withdrawal of the state from controlling economic transactions) have become operational bywords; and in the last 25 years we have witnessed the continuous erosion of the welfare function and redistributive capacity of governments, especially in cash-strapped poor countries.

As advised by the IMF & WB, privatisation of public enterprises, trimming of social spending and the introduction of user fees for social services were carried out in many developing countries with the objective of raising government revenues and reducing budget deficits. The overall cutback in social programmes has had dramatic repercussions especially on the most vulnerable sectors of society—the poor and women in particular—especially in a time of crisis.

Some examples could be mentioned. The privatisation of public services, purportedly to improve the delivery of these services, has often led to an increase in the prices of basic utilities such as water and electricity. Because of their traditional domestic functions, women have had to take on the additional pressure on time, labour and capacities to source cheaper alternatives.

With the trimming of public education allocations and introduction of user fees for educational facilities, many families that cannot afford to pay tuition have had to pull out their children from schools. However, more girls than boys tend to drop out of classes because of a socio-cultural preference to educate boy-children.

Government spending on health has also been a target for cutbacks. It is women more than men who assume the responsibility of providing informal health care with the dismantling of subsidised public health care systems. Women’s own health is put at risk as mothers choose to forego medical treatment for difficult births.

Economy and Ecology

Economy cannot be delinked from ecology. Processes of economical globalisation have intensified ecological problems: global warming, thinning of the ozone layer, depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, extensive deforestation and desertification, etc.

Globalisation heightens ecological deterioration through at least several causal mechanisms (Borghesi & Vercelli, 2003). First, globalisation increases the rate of growth of income in some countries that are able to take advantage of open markets, which implies further exploitation of natural resources and generation of pollution (i.e. “more growth will tend to again come with more environmental degradation” (Opschoor, 2003). Second, it spreads the cultural values of the most developed countries, which may encourage consumerism and therefore more exploitation of natural resources.

Globalisation also produces losers—countries and groups of people that sink into poverty—and studies have shown that poverty contributes to the destruction of the environment (and vice versa).

It put pressures on developing country governments to relax environmental standards in order to attract more investments and produce more at lower cost. Under the current multilateral trading regime, environmental policies may be deemed barriers to trade. Overall, globalisation processes creates ecological debt.

Ecological Debt and Financial Debt

Ecological debt refers to ecological damage caused over time to ecosystems, places and peoples through production and consumption patterns; and the exploitation of ecosystems at the expense of the equitable rights of other countries, communities or individuals (Paredis 2004). It is primarily the debt owed by industrialized countries in the North to countries of the South on account of historical and current resource plundering, environmental degradation and the disproportionate appropriation of ecological space to dump greenhouse gases (GHGs) and toxic wastes. It is also the debt owed by economically and politically powerful national elites to marginalized citizens both in the North and the South; the debt owed by current generations of humanity to future generations; and, on a more cosmic scale, the debt owed by humankind to other life forms and the planet. It includes social damages such as the disintegration of indigenous communities and the loss of cultural identities and values.

The terms “North” & “South” are not simply geographical designations. These reflect differences in wealth and power within regions and countries such that the “North” also exists as an echelon of the economic and political elite in the geographical South (Hallman, 1997). This implies that while the “North-South” distinction remains particularly relevant in stressing the main responsibility of industrialised countries for the building-up of ecological debt, regional and national complexities simultaneously call for a more nuanced approach to addressing many countries in the South fell into financial debt crises in the 1980s because of spiraling interest rates (linked to sudden oil price hikes), falling prices for their commodity exports (which meant less foreign revenues to pay for their debts), corrupt dictatorial governments (in collusion with foreign lenders and corporations) that siphoned the funds, etc. In the Philippine case, the Marcos dictatorship accumulated an external debt of US$ 24 B in 1983 from US$ 2.3 B in 1970. To date, our external debt stands at around US$56 B.

Since the 1980s, the South has paid back hundreds of billions of dollars to the North and its institutions in interest and debt amortisation. This came at a tremendous cost to Southern peoples in terms of drastic cuts in public social spending (e.g. health, education and housing budgets), reductions in food and agricultural subsidies, etc. Indeed, the so-called “Heavily Indebted Poor Countries”’—home to over 600 million people struggling to survive on less than a dollar a day—have been sending US$ 64 M a day to rich countries to cover the interest and capital payments on their US$213B debt.

Why is there a relationship between ecological debt and financial debt?

First of all, national obligations to pay external debt and its interest result in an increase in ecological debt in many countries in the South. Under the current neoliberal financial architecture, Southern countries are pressured through loan conditionalities, multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and other mechanisms to export products in order to service their debt and interest payments. That is, these countries are required to produce surpluses (i.e. production greater than domestic needs) often at the expense of the environment. Prices of Southern exports—especially resource-intensive exports—are hugely undervalued because the massive pollution caused, for instance, by extraction, smelting, clearing, are not factored in. This has led to a situation described as “ecologically unequal exchange” (Martinez Alier, Rijnhout & Simms, 2003).

To cite a Philippine example, past and current governments have been intent on opening up the mining industry to foreign investments (cf. the Philippine Mining Act of 1995) in line with economic liberalisation policies prescribed by the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund and also the Asian Development Bank. Minerals continue to be an important export for the country, providing much-need foreign exchange to help pay our foreign debts. Yet large-scale mining projects (e.g. Hixbar Open Pit Mine (Rapu-rapu, Albay), Marcopper-Placer Dome Mine (Marinduque), Basay Copper Mine (Negros Oriental), etc.) have tremendous social and ecological costs that are not accounted for in the prices of our mineral exports.

Secondly, ecological debt is directly related to financial debt in that many mega-development projects in the South, such dams and other energy-related projects, are financed through external lending by international financial institutions with little consideration of their social and ecological consequences. WB-funded dams, such as the infamous Chico Dam in the Philippines, have displaced hundreds of thousands of people (especially indigenous peoples), as well as inundated forests and agricultural lands, with implications for biodiversity and peoples’ livelihoods.

For these reasons, the process of recognising ecological debt entails, first of all, the cancellation of the illegitimate financial debt held by Southern countries.

An important example of ecological debt is climate change.

Rich, industrialised countries in the North are mainly responsible for GHG emissions causing climate change. The US emits more GHGs (particularly CO2), absolutely and per head, than any other country in the world. While it has only 4% of the global population, it accounts for around 36% of global emissions. To put this in another perspective, in less than two days a US family uses the equivalent in fossil fuels as a family, say, in Tanzania will depend on for an entire whole year. (Latest available data indicates that China has overtaken the US in terms of absolute emissions, but not emissions per person.)

Even though they are least responsible for GHG emissions, research shows that poor countries in the South will bear a disproportionate share of the adverse effects of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of floods, droughts, storms and heat waves, etc..

The impacts of climate change are already being felt. For instance, the Philippines has been hit by an unusually large number of typhoons in the last, causing massive flooding and landslides, suffering and death. The El Nino phenomenon on the other hand has wrought tremendous damages especially in terms of destruction of agricultural livelihoods.

“The distribution of wealth in the world resembles a champagne glass. The top quintile of the global population owns 83% of the total wealth of the world while the bottom 60% of the population owns only 6%.”

The environmental changes brought about by rising temperatures will result, in turn, in a number of critical socio-economic effects, including the displacement of people living in low-lying coastal areas (who will, in effect, become climate refugees), the loss of sources of livelihood especially among already marginalised groups such as farmers and fishermen, food insecurity, and reduced access to water, among others.

For instance, the UN IPCC predicts that by 2020, 75-250 M people in Africa will be exposed to water stress. And in some African countries, agricultural production will fall by 20%. Africa is the world’s poorest continent. Yet climate change, when superimposed on vulnerability due to poverty, creates even more poverty.

Engendering Climate Change

Climate change will have more severe impacts on women because of norms that assign certain socio-economic roles to women and because of women’s weaker socio-economic status vis-à-vis men. More specifically, climate change produces extreme weather events; and research findings show that women’s economic insecurity increases more than men’s in the aftermath of natural disasters. We also know that food, water, health and energy are particularly affected by climate change. These areas happen to be the bases of women’s livelihoods and fall within the purview of women’s socio-economic responsibilities. While women bear a bigger burden of adjustment to climate change, they also tend to contribute less to GHG emissions (e.g. women are often engaged in low-emission “subsistence” agriculture). Studies further point out that women have a better understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change and have the knowledge and skills to mitigate and adapt to changing weather conditions. In spite of this, women are consistently underrepresented in policy and decision-making processes around climate change at the local, national and global levels.

Climate Debt

Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the atmosphere cannot continue to absorb GHG emissions at the rate of the latest years. Its indiscriminate use by one party produces an overexploitation that can eventually harm other parties. The atmosphere is in fact a life-supporting commons which operates as a collector of man-made emissions. In a social sciences perspective it is a global public good or global commons, which everybody shares and everybody needs.

However, in accumulating wealth (both historically and in the present) and in attaining and maintaining their current standards of living, rich, industrialised nations in the North have used up far more than their fair share of the atmospheric global commons (i.e. global emissions/carbon budget) at the expense of the equitable rights of Southern countries and have caused climate-related damages in countries of the South. In doing so, Northern countries have run up huge climate debt to the countries and peoples of the South as well as to future generations.

The global North owes the global South, an “emissions debt” for their excessive historical and current emissions that deny developing countries their fair share of atmospheric global commons. An “adaptation debt” for their disproportionate contribution to climate change that require developing countries to adapt to impacts. The “emissions debt” & the “adaptation debt” comprise the climate debt, which is part of the ecological debt owed by the North to the South.

Climate Justice Demands

Recognising and applying the ecological and carbon debt frameworks requires a huge conversion in thinking whereby Northern nations, their institutions and corporations must:

A) Drastically reducing their GHG emissions within and beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which stipulates the condition of historical responsibility and the principle of “common, but differentiated responsibilities” (CDR), according to the fixed timelines set out by the UNFCCC report of 2007. Reducing GHG emissions means reducing overall consumption. This implies zero growth or even de-growth—what ecological economists call a “steady state” economy.

B) Transfer financial resources to countries of the South in support of preserving petroleum and other natural riches and global commons (e.g. keep the oil in the soil) as well as to pay for the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation based on the CDR as outlined above.

C) Cancel the illegitimate financial debts of Southern countries, especially of the poorest nations, as part of social and ecological reparations, not as official development assistance. (Developing countries are paying 10 times more than the amount needed for adaptation in debt repayment.)

D) Support (or at the very least DO NOT UNDERMINE) the capacities of Southern countries to develop sustainable growth paths through supporting (rather than killing) local knowledge systems as well as transferring technologies.

E) Learn from the examples and leadership of Indigenous Peoples, women, peasant and forest communities who point to alternative ways of thinking and living within creation. These societies often emphasize the value of relationships, of caring and sharing as well as practice traditional, ecologically respectful forms of production and consumption.

Poverty, wealth, Ecology and Peace

Previously it was shown that policies associated with globalisation have the tendency to deepen poverty and inequality both in global and national terms. Public clamour for social protection (e.g. unemployment benefits) has intensified. At the same time, governments, particularly in developing countries, are finding it harder to provide such protection. As such, many citizens feel that their governments have abrogated their part of the “social contract” to protect livelihoods and ensure affordable access to essential social services. When governments fail to fulfil its responsibilities under the “contract” in a context of massive socio-economic disparities, citizens may no longer feel bound to honour “contracts” with each other and with their governments. Social and political upheaval may ensue. Indeed, “among the many reasons why addressing the globalisation of inequality has to be seen as an urgent challenge, collective violence is perhaps the most stressing” (de Gaay Fortman, 2003).

It is further argued that the concept of a “social contract” between governments and citizens has a counterpart at the global level (Murshed, 2002). That is, a “development contract” governing relations between developing countries, developed countries and global institutions. The seeds of international conflict are sown when developed countries and global institutions close their eyes and fail to respond to glaring global inequalities. International terrorism, international crime and illegal immigration provide growing evidence that this is happening.

Moreover, globalisation is now increasingly connected with militarisation. Civil resistance and rejection of policies associated with neoliberal globalisation are being suppressed by military power in some countries. The intensifying competition among powerful nations and multinational corporations to secure diminishing oil, minerals and lumber and other resources in the developing world have also induced wars and conflicts—as best exemplified by the U.S. led war against Iraq, which was essentially a war for control over strategic oil resources.

Two interesting observations can be made about heightened militarisation and globalisation. First, while governments of poor countries have been pressured to reduce social expenditures in order to balance budgets, defence budgets have generally remained off limits. Two, while many governments have privatised military production and (even) operations, they have continued to provide indirect subsidies to the latter through tax relief and export subsidies. Military expenditures are sacrosanct for “security reasons.” But what is striking that such a dual logic is not applied to basic social services, which are essential to life (whereas military expenditures are arguably life-destroying), and which should be exempted from commercialisation.

The so-called Cochabamba Water Wars is one example of the links between globalisation, conflict and militarisation. Privatisation of water services was a pre-condition for negotiating Bolivia’s foreign debt with the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), the IMF & the WB. In compliance with the IDB, IMF & WB, water facilities in Cochabamba were sold to a government-backed consortium of U.S. and European corporations that immediately approved a rate hike of 30-300 percent. The WB clearly declared that no public subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in prices. In 2000, the “water war” broke out as the citizens of Cochabamba took to the streets and built blockades to take control over and protect water resources from commercialisation. In response, the government immediately deployed 3000 soldiers to the area. The protests were violently repressed through tear gas and even bullets. A 17-year old youth died from an army sharpshooter’s bullet.

Around the world, not least in the Philippines, indigenous people’s struggles to protect forests and rivers have been criminalised.

Conclusion

i heart earth, do you?Our world today is characterised by massive asymmetries in global and national terms. The increase in poverty for the majority and inequality can be directly (and indirectly) linked to policies associated with economic globalisation (e.g. trade & financial liberalisation, privatisation & deregulation). At the same time, however, national governments as well as global institutions such as the WTO, IMF & WB, which have shaped and continue to shape the economic environment of poor countries, have not paid enough attention to the problem. In fact, even though the discussion suggests that globalisation is a significant part of the problem, efforts of these institutions to close the gaps between poor and rich countries and between the poor and rich within countries are still very much geared towards further intensifying globalisation. Massiveinequalityandcompetition for scarce resources fuel conflicts and wars.

If we are to sustain world peace, global and national inequality have to be addressed through redistribution. Redistribution is not simply about charity, it is about justice. At the global level, it implies just trade rules, controls on speculative capital flows, the cancellation of the foreign debts of poor countries, among others. At the national level, it calls, for instance, for land reform, cuts in military budgets and increases in social expenditures.

At the same time, efforts to protect ecology must be strengthened. Indeed, economics must be completely redefined to consider ecological and social costs and benefits, risks and returns.

Genuine redistribution and ecological sustainability, however, require tremendous political will as well as a radical change in mainstream economic thinking and the values that under gird it. (Are competition & materialism Christian values?) In short, genuine redistribution and ecological sustainability demand a paradigm shift, which entails challenging the status quo and dominant political and economic powers. Needless to say, this is a tough order. An engaged, critical and active global civil society—justice and peace networks and youth movements—founded in solidarity with each other will be pivotal in agitating for much-needed transformations. Already the seeds of change lie within rural and coastal communities and youth, indigenous women’s organisations that are facing up to the challenges posed by the global financial crisis, economic and ecological crises through a wide range of actions: agricultural adaptation, awareness-building, community organisation and political advocacy. We must support and nourish this cause for hope.

“Genuine redistribution and ecological sustainability demand a paradigm shift, which entails challenging the status quo and dominant political and economic powers.”