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Reflecting on the economic and ecological crises

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Reflecting on the economic and ecological crises

  1. 1. Reflecting on how to respond to the economic and ecological crises<br />Paper delivered at 2nd International Conference on Ecological Theory and Environmental Ethics, Chania, Greece, June 1-5, 2011<br />By<br />Martin de Wit<br />School of Public Leadership<br />Stellenbosch University<br />and<br />De Wit Sustainable Options (Pty) Ltd<br /> <br />
  2. 2. A time for reflection<br />Personal reflection as a follower of Christ, a nature-lover and (ecological) economist<br />Wise decisions needed in times of intense difficulty and trouble<br />Acknowledgement structural problems in socio-economic and ecological systems: <br />925m people undernourished, unprecedented biodiversity loss, climatic change, over-exploitation natural resources, staggering financial debts<br />Beyond culture of denialism<br />AIDS denialism cost 330 000 lives in South Africa in period 2000-2005<br />only one indication of systemic weak and corrupt leadership<br />Beyond consequential pragmatism<br />end justifies the means, ‘proof is in the pudding’<br />Beyond prescriptive moralism<br />‘do what is good’, ‘it is your duty to recycle’<br />Beyond false choices! Making ethical choices influenced by how we view financial, economic and ecological crises<br />e.g. ‘we have been here before, and as a great nation we will succeed’ or ‘collapse of humanity is close’<br />
  3. 3. Stylised responses to crises<br />Instrumental<br />get credit flowing, prop-up spending (Keynes, Krugman)<br />Green New Deal<br />Implemented by governments around the world<br />Structural<br />interventions in underlying biophysical state of real economy and/or in structures, cultures, institutions leading to social injustice.<br />some bold steps e.g. Germany on nuclear (structural transition to alternatives?)<br />Moral<br />Roots are hubris, greed, arrogance (sinful human desire)<br />dualism of humanity and nature, human autonomy and exploitation (White Jr)<br />death of ‘joy’ in nature (Schaeffer)<br />Ontological<br />Not fullness of reality (Von Bertalanffy, Boulding)<br />Elegant, deductive mathematical models at expense reality (Lawson)<br />
  4. 4. Economics of ecology<br />Brings a broader view: complexity of reality, nature, justice, dynamics<br />Ambitious and transformative objectives: sustainable and just<br />Intellectual and methodological pluralism<br />lacks generally accepted theoretical framework and methodology<br />Idea is that clear aims will solve inherent tension<br />but how objectives set? by whom? <br />high risks of green prescriptive moralism<br />Propensity for structural reform<br />Biophysical limits on wealth accumulation<br />Structural change proposed: Heavy handed interventions<br />Mix of morality<br />Generalised entropy as if earth is closed system<br />Aristotelean virtue ethics, invest in ‘power of judgment’ of ecological economists<br />Fragile discipline, not well-grounded response to ecological crises<br />Risk to break apart old Kantian philosophical fault lines of natural determinism and human freedom<br />
  5. 5. A more adequate response (I)<br />1. Accept a much richer interpretation of reality<br />transcending nature/culture dualism through alternative philosophical religious ground motives (Dooyeweerd)<br />2. Accept complexity and use systems approaches and tools<br />broader reality <br />Theory of modalities or aspects of reality (Dooyeweerd)<br />Systems approaches suffer inherent ontological tensions one and many, whole and parts, material and vital<br />How are aspects of reality ‘interlaced’? (Strauss)<br />
  6. 6. A more adequate response (II)<br />3. Take account normative ethic to guide conduct and response<br />on which philosophical and theological basis?<br />consequential, utilitarian (Mill), deontological (Kant), virtue (Aristotle)<br />Christian ethics as distinguishedidea?<br />Continuum: Ethical rules and laws vs ethics on liberty from rules and laws<br />Source of ethics: external to human reasoning and conduct<br />4. Visionary and transformative leadership<br />Transforms Kantian ‘social contract’:<br />Human autonomy and reason brings progress, but not to all immediately and have to bear with unwanted outcomes (hunger, climate etc)<br />Leadership beyond human autonomy<br />Transcends natural determinism or human freedom<br />Inspired by real sources of renewed hope<br />
  7. 7. Protestant Culture of Christianity<br />Confused response to ecological crises<br />Earthkeeping (stewardship), skeptics (validity of science), other priorities (save souls) and indifference (denial)<br />empirical work on Christian environmentalism in US (Van Houtan & Pimm)<br />Broad Protestant Western Christian culture not much guidance in response to crises<br />What is real influence of Earthkeeping, Creation Care and Environmental stewardship movements in contemporary Western Christian culture?<br />Recent very critical questions on Biblical interpretations of apologetic ‘recovery readings’ (Horrel et al)<br />Emphasisecontinued sensitive and responsible reading and hearing of Scriptures<br />
  8. 8. Reading and hearing Scriptures<br />View on Bible<br />Acceptance as infallible Word of God<br />Interpreter’s relationship to Almighty<br />Importance hermeneutics<br />Normative guidelines for 21st century Christians, but often hidden in cultural forms<br />Old Testament ethics in new context of a risen Jesus<br />Theology that includes creation and eschatology<br />study and growth in process of understanding<br />relations of God, human, creation in all its forms<br />What is creation order and what does it mean for ethics<br />What are we hoping for?<br />
  9. 9. Eschatology of living hope<br />Christian living hope makes it possible to operate in times of crises<br />Resurrected Jesus<br />Hope needs to translate into Biblically responsible ethical decisions on economy and environment<br />Responsible reading of Bible takes diligent study and time.<br />In faith that this will be blessed by working of Holy Spirit<br />
  10. 10. Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift which is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.<br />Tom Wright, 2007. Surprised by Hope<br />

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