Crisis and Survival in the New Century

From Mirada Global, an essay from Colombia on the need for a new ethical framework for the 21st century:

Nowadays, we live according to the rules of a consumerist neo-liberal system which dominates the techno-scientific society with its false assertion, that our planets possesses both biotic and abiotic resources in unlimited quantity, and that human beings can exploit this supply without any ethical problem. Economic value, it maintains, can be generated by converting natural resources into tradable goods. The more astute people within this neo-liberal system appropriate the export benefits and pass on the damage and the costs to others.

Advertisement

The logic of capitalism is incapable of rescuing the planet from the environmental crisis. Human beings are responsible for this ecological impasse since the end of the Middle Ages, with the rise and intensification of commerce and the first industrial revolution. Moreover, capitalism has become responsible for the exploitation of natural resources, environmental contamination, and global warming.

Simultaneously, it is responsible for the ruinous human ecology that becomes visible in the ongoing commodification of life, in individualism, in the concentration of economic wealth and power, in increasing arms traffic, social injustice, and the loss of existential meaning. This thinking insists that short-term enjoyment, along with the use and abuse of material goods, is the only path to prosperity and quality of life, as if happiness consists of possessing things merely to waste them, and not in ensuring development of better human beings and improving the condition of humankind.

It belongs to the logic of capitalism to appropriate the arguments of its opponents, presenting them as its own discourse, and to believe that such fallacies can correct its own mistakes. This fallacy is feared by those leaders who are preparing an alternative model of the Green Economy that is to be discussed at the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit. All those who still trust in the capitalist model are victims of this fallacy: perhaps they confuse capitalism with freedom and democracy, even if they blame their failures on capitalists: that is, those who profit dishonestly, corrupt politicians, reject the close regulatory intervention of the state, practice an ethics of double standards, and harm the citizens. They are always those who keep their capital in tax havens and leave local economies in ruins.

Our contemporary lifestyle, determined by both scientific and technical knowledge, is an undesirable ethical path. The high demand for goods and the intense consumption of natural resources are unsustainable, and we are putting at risk the future of life and its meaning. How we can overcome this situation? What are the characteristics of a desirable ethical path?

We urgently need a new ethical framework that adopts other priorities, such as the protection of life, natural resources and above all, the promotion of the common good. This new ethical path should transcend considerations of custom, of commercial, medical or aesthetic benefit. We therefore need a new ethic, a “bio-ethic”, which privileges the intrinsic value of “the biotic community” over any narrowly human interest, so as to overcome the current civilization crisis. We appeal for the support of all world religions, that people of faith may be the carriers of this life-giving and deeply desirable ethos.

Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.