Tikkun Magazine, July/August 2010
Disaster in the Gulf: A Plague to Warn Us to Change Our Relationship to the Earth
by Michael Lerner
President Obama was offered an amazing opportunity to change our economic system when he came into office at the peak of a global economic meltdown—a crisis brought on in part by the selfishness and materialism fostered by global capitalism. He misused the chance and instead gave priority to the needs of Wall Street and the big banks.
Now Obama has another amazing opportunity—this time to change the course of U.S. environmental policy. To seize it he must help people understand that oil drilling and the resultant destruction of large swaths of land and sea are just one tiny example of the colossal environmental destruction produced by our unrestricted capitalist orientation to the world.
Instead of messing around with partial measures, the president should transform our approach to the environment by orienting it around this key idea: the earth is not a "resource" to be used for private profit. It is our mother, our body, our very selves. We are deeply implicated and dependent upon it, and we must respond to it not by asking how we can use it but how we can protect and restore it. Starting now. What is now universally acknowledged as the greatest environmental disaster in American history could be the moment when people finally understand that our very existence as a species is at risk because of our reckless endangerment of the planet. Unless the human race can abandon the false notion that progress is about acquiring more material goods and instead recognize that the progress we need to make is in living in harmony with the planet and with each other—and in reverence, gratitude, and thanksgiving for this amazing universe—we will simply not survive. This is a moment that calls for both a radically new political approach and a deep, new spiritual orientation for the human race.
Will Obama use this opportunity? Let him know your ideas, and join our campaign for the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) to the U.S. Constitution. The ESRA would take money out of politics, require corporations to prove that they have a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility, and require schools to teach the skills necessary to preserve and protect our environment on both an individual and a global level. Most Americans want to save the environment but don't think it's possible. The ESRA shows how it can be done. There has never been a better moment for you to become involved. Join our campaign to support the ESRA at www.spiritualprogressives.org/ESRA.
The earth is crying out to us: stop destroying the environment that nurtures all life! The people of the planet earth are crying out to us: stop wars, stop squandering your wealth on military spending, and stop imposing economic policies that benefit the rich but ignore the suffering of three billion people who live in extreme poverty! Build a global human community based on love, generosity, true caring, mutual forgiveness, and compassion. Allow yourself time each day, and a Sabbath day each week, to connect with your own inner spiritual being. Allow yourself time to experience awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe, the ongoing miracle of your own consciousness, and the beauty and fragility of life itself!
Awe, wonder, and radical amazement are a place to start.
The Gulf disaster is yet another one of the plagues that the spiritual reality of the universe is sending to wake us up, to let us know that our path is leading to planetary disaster. What more does the earth have to do, what more does God have to do, what more does Gaia have to do, to awaken us to the craziness of the economic and political world that we continue to support? What will it take for us to recognize that we must no longer frame environmental questions in terms of "what is realistic, given the political configurations in Washington, D.C., and the power of the corporations" but rather in terms of "what steps are necessary to save the planet from the environmental destruction that our global capitalist system is inflicting upon it"? The ESRA is only "unrealistic" in a world that finds it unrealistic to demand that British Petroleum, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Monsanto, Halliburton, and all the other corporate gangsters be held responsible for what they are doing, or to demand that they and the other polluters stop now. Yet failing to do this is being complicit with our own self-destruction.
And, yes, there is something you can do! Take the ESRA and get it endorsed by your local city council, your state legislature, your elected representatives to the House and Senate, your local church or synagogue or mosque or ashram, your professional organization, your civic group, your college or university, and your neighbors and friends. We'll help you—but you need to let us know that you want that assistance. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, California, 94704. Donate to Tikkun. Put us in your will and get your friends to join the Network of Spiritual Progressives. It's only when we become a significant moral force that we can get the support we need to pass the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment—a major step toward environmental sanity (join at www.spiritualprogressives.org).
Lerner, Michael. 2010. Disaster in the Gulf: A Plague to Warn Us to Change Our Relationship to the Earth. Tikkun 25(4): 7