[The response below was e-mailed to me. As an agnostic/atheist, I find the appeal to ‘spirituality’ objectionable, but recognise and share the ‘feeling’/’instinct’ which it refers to! — BL]
14:Sleepwalking to Extinction
John Stirling Walker and Venkah Gjermundsen
George Monbiot's article on climate change [Sleepwalking to Extinction, see September issue] gives expression to a wonderfully broad sense of reality. His initial premise — that "our existence is governed by material realities" — brings forth, with faultless logic, his conclusion that, to deal with the looming environmental catastrophe he predicts, we will need "draconian regulation, rationing, and prohibition." If, indeed, this environmental threat is purely material in nature, material power — i.e., regulation, rationing, and prohibition, enforced, of course, by the guys with guns who interfere with your freedom materially (imprisonment or death) when you violate that draconian law — is the only answer! Materialists — consciously or not--will always end up proposing solutions involving armed men (and, more recently in history, women.)
We suggest that the threat is not a material one, that its roots are to be found in man's spirit, and that, therefore, its solution lies there, as well.
If this is so, what is actually needed, and would alone be effective in a way that would not continue the endless cycle of power-mongering by left-wing proponents of "regulation and prohibition" and their right-wing counterparts, proponents of economic license at all costs, is a movement that could awaken individuals from the dream state Monbiot so correctly describes, not, as he proposes, by "usurp[ing] it with our rational and predictive [read: materialistic] minds," but by penetrating to the reason (a spiritual thing) humanity is in that dream state, in the first place: People, in general, want to be happy, and part of happiness is trusting others, including those in power, to do the right thing and to tell the truth.
The dream that governing powers can be trusted is an ideal (also a spiritual thing) that needs to be made a reality; and the path to that reality lies in reviving the consciousness, formerly universal among the spiritually-minded, that money is the root of all evil. Money buys all exploitation and most duplicity; there is nothing that can be accomplished with it that could not better and more virtuously be accomplished without it. (Yes, I said "virtuously.") We in America are the inventors of the oxymoron, recognizable as such in Europe, of the "Christian businessman." Of course, there have always been merchants in Christendom, but the idea of overtly linking one's faith in Christ to one's service to Mammon could only arise in a culture that puts God's name on its currency.
As long as government, whether of the left or of the right, sees the application of monetary power (which also pays for the military and police enforcers--the ones with the weapons, remember) as the way to get things done, the misuse of the environment, and thus the end, as Monbiot says, of life as we know it, will remain as inevitable as night following day. For if we cannot overcome the tendency to use force against our fellow human beings, how in the name of anything holy can we honestly imagine having the capacity to deal with the environment in ways that do justice to one another? Without this justice, war will continue, and with war, the decimation of the environment.
One could ask, then, what is the more dangerous dream state: to have a naive and thus foolish hope in the goodness of humanity and the good will of the universe towards us, or cynically to believe that "regulation" will do anything but perpetuate a state of armed conflict with others, to the continued detriment of the environment it is supposed to "protect"? A truly awake person would suggest, I think, that we mediate between our ideal--that humanity can become good--and the reality--we do live in a world where money rules (almost) everybody--by grasping the initiative to think in the following way, or one like it: "I commit myself to non-violence, and, rather than enforce my good will upon others by legislation backed by guns (thus turning it bad), I will freely share my own spiritual and material resources with others of like mind and heart, so that our common goodness, unadulterated by the use of material power, may overwhelm the dark forces of ignorance that continue to becloud the consciousness of others."
To doubt that this is possible is to keep the door wide open to the kind of never-ending tit-for-tat we see, as just one example, between Israel and Palestine; but cannot we who bear the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi carry it forward, now that the great tit-for-tat of the Cold War has been over for twelve years, and before the potentially greater one our President has felt it necessary to engage us in with the terrorists goes much farther?
In the name of all that is holy,
John Stirling Walker and Venkah Gjermundsen
Peña Blanca, New Mexico