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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review: Blinded by Progress by Lee Van Ham

About the book:
Why does MultiEarth living--living as if we have more than one Earth--grip us so tightly when it defies commonsense to live beyond the capacities of our planet? Why do we continue to pursue economic growth as if it is economic health when it is ecologically impossible? Is It sinister? unconscious? blind faith? addiction?

Blinded by Progress contributes to the global conversation now underway about sustainable living. The author clearly delineates the contrasts between MultiEarth and OneEarth worldviews. He shows the power that myth has to facilitate our change to OneEarth ways or prevent it. For the MultiEarth illusion to continue, it utterly depends on our religious devotion to unsustainable economics, corporate rule, shrinking our humanness, and thinning democracy. Will we cooperate? resist? choose alternatives? This is a book of hope, helping us invoke our great capacities to change.

About the author:
In 1999, Lee Van Ham joined others in forming Jubilee Economics, a nonprofit focused in OneEarth living. Born to a tenant-farming family in Iowa, he pastored in the Midwest for 32 years before switching to work explicitly on the interplay between justice, ecology, economics, and spirituality. He and his spouse, Juanita, were part of the intentional community, Peaceweavings, in Chicago, before relocating to San Diego in 2002. They have grown children and five grandchildren. 

Van Ham has been working on ecological economics since 2000. In 2009 he met Michael Johnson, drawn together by a strong common interest in creating books and film on themes of ecology and economics. Johnson is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker. Out of their relationship was born the OneEarth Project. Van Ham is writing three books in the project’s “Eden Series” and Johnson has begun work on a related documentary. They desire to add to the conversations and actions that are moving civilization from empire to a living community with all of Creation.

My Review:

Predicament- Man has relentlessly and brazenly robbed nature of its beauty and bounteousness. There is a growing acceptance of this grave human folly and the dire need for adoption of a holistic and ecological view of the earth. We have decimated the forests and deteriorated the ecosystems. We have committed heinous crimes: over-exploitation of valuable natural resources, injection of toxic substances into the environment leading to global warming, biodiversity and ecosystem destruction (leading to declining fish and crop productivity), and loss of livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people. Concomitantly arises the increasing insecurity that thousands of communities face due to inadequate access in obtaining safe, adequate food and water.

Human beings are penning their own collapse

Ashish Kothari (Kalpvriksha) remarks, “Dominant trends of the last few years point to one inescapable conclusion: humanity is on a rapid descent into collapses of various kinds. The economic crises of the last few years are one very visible indication, and most economists who are open-minded and not driven by the dogmatic assertions of governments desperate to show a brave face, agree that these crises are not going away. Parallel, and connected, is the ecological crisis, most dramatically illustrated by the climate change-related disasters that are taking place around the world. . .” He further adds,” Add to this the growing tensions around the widening chasm between the rich, enjoying obnoxiously wasteful levels of consumption, and the poor, not finding even enough to eat.”
We all are more aware of the dangers lurking over us than ever before. We are painfully aware of the catastrophe that awaits us, the reason behind the changing weather patterns, et al. We are aggressively involved in environmental activism. But we don’t seem to be going anywhere. No lasting change. Not an iota of difference. So, where did we go wrong?
There’s a point in this process where we went extremely, but thankfully, not irreparably wrong. We hadn’t even accepted, acknowledged, acquiesced in or admitted to our folly of indifference when we started focusing on its remedy. Even before diagnosing the illness we have plagued our Mother Earth with, we wickedly shifted our focus to curing an ailment we didn’t even knew in entirety. As a consequence of our eternal haste and impudent thoughtlessness, what we have is a diabolic cataclysmic concoction: our consumerist lifestyles, the rapidity of change bought in by the impetuous and heedless pace of our whims (which is in contrast with nature’s balance), exploitation of finite natural resources with reckless abandon, our intervention in the balance of things, our insouciance towards life, none of these pointing towards any success in our attempt to rescue ourselves from the catastrophe.

Blinded by Progress: How apt!

We need to know where the fault lies. It is in us. And we need to acknowledge the multitudinous ways in which we have hurt the environment.
In his book, “Blinded by progress”, author Lee Van Ham presents a perspective to think of solutions from. He argues that we have adopted a multi-earth worldview. He begins the book by saying, ‘My lifestyle is too big for our planet’. In his book, he brings to us a plethora of astonishing revelations, which are so monumental in magnitude that one is forced to rethink the boundaries of an insanely greedy lifestyle. For starters, take his: if all seven billion people on Earth lived according to how an average American does, humanity would need a total of five planets to sustain us. Our ecological footprint exceeds one planet, we strive for more resources than available on one planet, and all systems, including the governmental and commercial centers are aimed at extracting more despite creational orders and limits. We have such staggering findings and statistics about our blatant, untamed consumption levels, yet we fail to modify our lifestyles into something which is sustainable.
Other remarkable things about the Multi-earth perspective is that we think of technology brings speed, convenience, and other such advantages, while we overlook the fact that the benefits really benefit us only when technology is used within the parameters of planetary and species well-being. In our thoughtless greed and avarice, a trait that manifests itself every time we reward profit-seeking unethical businessmen with huge profits. Profits are being maximized for corporate and private benefit; profits trump people’s rights and needs, social good, and eco-systems’ balance necessary for continued thriving.
And what has the knowledge of scarcity and limitation of resources done to us? We would like to believe it has made us considerate and thoughtful, however, the ugly truth remains that the sense of self-aggrandizement takes over our conscience and we are competing for these limited resources. The commercial strategies only aggravate the situation by making heedless consumers out of us, urging us to pursue unabated accumulation of more.
So, what is my point? Now that I have made you guilty enough, let me tell you what is it that you can do to actually make things better.
What I am about to suggest is open to customization by each one of us according to our respective lifestyles. There’s this one thing we all can do, and doing so will always remain a work-in-progress. We cannot just have a one-day remedy and still dare to think we changed the world. So, this is what I suggest: abstain from surfeit. Start viewing the ownership of more than is enough materially as a violation of the creational order, and live a simple life. The choice is yours to make: a life full of things or a fulfilled life.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy!


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