Holistic Ecology and Social Problems

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An excellent example of one student's completion of a definitions worksheet - by Josh Curtis.

The past couple of weeks the focus in class has been on social problems in relation to the environment, specifically global warming.  I believe that there is no distinguishing from an environmental problem and a social one.  The way societies are structured has a direct result on the environment of that society and the ecological and environmental systems of a region will have dramatic impact on the structure and issues of a given society. 


The world has become smaller and smaller in the past century.  People travel half way around the world on business trips and eat foods, or listen to music from regions vastly far away from each other.  Our survival, based on an interdependent system that has linked all peoples and cultures of the world in a destructive economic system, is now in jeopardy.  The way we live, especially here in the US, has an effect on peoples and environments around the planet.

The complex relationship between a regional environment and its people is still not fully understood, or appreciated, in this modern life.  When an environmental problem is addressed by western countries, it is often focused on as an isolated event.  The cause of these problems are; presented as complex issues that are rooted in the short comings of “gods’ creation”, and not in the societies of man.  It seems we have a God-complex and feel we can make the world a better place for us to live in by changing its natural order instead of working with it, and making changes in the way we relate to the earth, the environment… our home.            

The problem I am going to define is one that is inherently apart of so many of the social/environmental issues of the day.  The problem is in the profit agenda of western cultures and how it plays into, him against me, humans against the planet…the cosmos.  The fact is that profit is the driving motivator for action in our world.  We do very little without the promise of being paid or compensated. 

In an article by Jerry Mander on the eleven rules of corporate behavior, the number one rule he discusses is the profit imperative.  Since the rules and operations of corporations set, the standards for how the global and local economies behave this in turn will influence the way societies are structured.  “Profit is the ultimate measure of all corporate decisions.  It takes precedence over community well-being, worker health, public health, peace, environmental preservation or national security.”(Mander)   

The severity of the profit agenda affects different groups within a society in different ways.  From the developing nations who have changed sustenance farming for cash crops.  To the tow truck drivers who will swoop off with your car before checking to see if you are around to move it.  Profit drives our actions more than goodwill or charity.  The US capitalist model, which is being reproduced on a global scale, is base on growth in the form of profits.  The people and environments of a nation have historically taking a backseat place to the profit driver.  A social model based around an economic system that is unsustainable is an unstable social model. 

The extreme forces of the profit agenda have led to mass deforestation, a monument of waste accumulation, and a world wrought with war, terror and violence.  These are some of the more dramatic examples of the side effects of a profit driven system.  The reckless mass deforestation of the worlds’ forest has been executed in the most cost efficient way with the aim not to be in sustaining the forest, but to cut the most costs and make the largest profit.  The techniques of the logging industry leave steep barren slopes in areas of high rainfall.  These unstable slopes than rapidly erode turning rainforests to deserts.  The cost of sustainable tree harvesting makes it an obsolete practice in this day.  There is no incentive for large timber companies to manage the environment as they conduct their business.  The result does not affect the corporations, they simply pack up and move on once the resource is depleted seeking a new host like a virus.  Who is affected are the people, usually of the local indigenous people who depend on the forest for their food, and medicine, even their spirituality is often deeply rooted within the forest.  This process will further hurt our atmosphere, for the trees are the lungs of the planet.  This trickledown effect is felt across the globe, as one problem trickles into another, unlike the capitalist trickle down system, which seems to be in a drought.

The mismanagement of our resources and environment is a direct result of people allowing profits to come first in their decision processes.  The earth is warming up.  We can scientifically prove that as we can prove that this process is a part of cycle that the earth is constantly (over thousands and millions of years) dramatically changing its climate and composition.  We can also show that the way we deal with our trash and the resources of the world, that we are making an impact on the rate of this natural process.  So we see the Arctic ice shelves  breaking apart falling into the ocean, we see cities full of people wearing masks because the air is to toxic to breathe, we see deserts turn to rainforests.  However, when these issues come before the global community, and their orgy of power, they are ignored, discredited or dealt with in the most cost efficient way.  Often the attempts made to clean up the planet, even when given proper leadership, fall so short on even accomplishing a piece of their specific goal due to the lack of resources allocated. 

The profit imperative is not something that only drives the rich and powerful, the corporations and nations.  Profit is akin to survival and there is a very stratified structural system directing what kinds of people are profitable and which ones are not.  Cutting costs of production and driving up costs of the sales is a strategy many people have adapted.  What happens is houses are inadequately built and crumble with the first tremor or ignite from their poor heating systems.  Drugs, cut with cheaper, more lethal substances, and children are forced to eat poor processed foods.  These are a few examples of how this is adopted in the middle and lower classes.  We are encouraged to adopt this model of cost cutting and profiteering but it is a selfish and morally wrong system.  However, the general moral population of the western world does not see this profit agenda as a problem.  It is the most desperately sought after, and superficially tells people the most about another person. 

The system was not so dramatic when there was less people in the rat race but it has become the root of the most severe global crises of our day.  The amount of destruction from the horrible Hurricane Katrina could have been stunted or prevented, if the levees were maintained more regularly, but projects to improve and maintain our infrastructure are being ignored or inadequately addressed.  The amount of money the US pours into its war machine is more than any other nation by billions.  We will not put money into maintaining bridges, roads, buildings and levees.  We do not create an infrastructure that can handle the mass exodus of people from our coastal villages and cities, even though we can watch the seas begin to rise.  Why we do not do these things is a matter of cost, the bottom line is the green one and we have thrown our foresight out the window.  We will profit now and pick up later, soon our technology will be able to save us from our mistakes but until then lets’ make some money.      

Bibliography:

Eleven Rules of Corporate Behavior by Jerry Mander www.articlearchives/2007/10/eleven_inherent_rules_of_corpo.html  last visited on 01/30/08

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