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Sustainability vs. Monetary System

posted Mar 9, 2011, 3:34 AM by Patricia Martin
Money governs our lives. And it is not just a metaphor. Our daily lives are completely based on earning or expending money. We work to earn the money we need to pay the house, and the food, and the bills; we go to the supermarket to find that bananas are just one euro; and we worry at night thinking on how much we have spent that day. Money drives us. Therefore, those who control the money control our lives. And they are the banks.

Banks create money. When a person asks them for money to open a business or buy a house, banks just write a number on a paper, or nowadays on an electronic file, and voilà! There is the money. The problem is that they always create less money than the needed to pay back, because they don’t create the money needed to pay back the interest. So, there is always a scarcity of money. There is always someone that will not be able to return the debt to the bank. And that has nothing to do with the person itself, or the quality of the business he or she does. This scarcity and this fear to be the ones left behind are the drivers of our society. We compete constantly to be the one who gets the job, the one who can return the debt (The Money Fix http://vimeo.com/10253719). This competitiveness has helped us to progress in unprecedented beat, but with a huge social and environmental cost.

Here it is where sustainability comes into play. First, this system of scarcity and competiveness discourage a socially and environmentally responsible attitude. In this race to get the available money, businesses cannot worry about their workers or the environment as much as they should, because they will be left behind. The current system favors those who can pay back quicker. Therefore, it is impossible to deal with sustainability issues, while we continue fighting among us for getting the existing money. In view of this problem, governments have acted with regulations and incentives, promoting a more sustainable structure. However, the play rules of the system remain the same.

And second, our current monetary system, which involves competitiveness, entails the need of a loser and a winner. It is a race where there will be always a first and a last place. On that premise, we accept that other people or even the environment will have to be sacrificed for the success of the rest. But must it be like that? On the other hand, sustainability is about reaching equilibrium among all the components of the ecosystem without competition among them. In sustainable ecosystems, there is not a winner and a loser, but members of a community that collaborate among them. Therefore, we have to deal with this conflict between both schemes. As many critics believe, there would be not solution for the sustainable question, as long as we continue with this economic system.
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