Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

j

What's needed is a cultural—a spiritual—breakthrough in our sense of who we are, in our relationship to the planet. (Photo: Peter Lesseur / EyeEm/ iStock)

A World Without Money

Climate change and environmental destruction will prevail as long as money prevails as the god that national leaders (and almost all the rest of us) worship, or don’t know how not to worship.

Robert C. Koehler

And climate change begins . . .

"Three or four thousand years ago the gods began a migration from the lakes, forests, rivers, and mountains into the sky, becoming the imperial overlords of nature rather than its essence."

Money, which is imaginary, is more valued across most of the planet than nature: our habitat.

So writes Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics, defining a transition in human existence that has finally begun to haunt us—haunting some of us more than others, of course, in particular, that segment of humanity that was never part of the transition: a.k.a, the indigenous . . . the uncolonized . . .people of Planet Earth. Now, as global warming and ecological collapse becomes more and more of a reality, those who had nothing to do with it are bearing most of the hit, at least so far.

But perhaps their voices are finally becoming heard by the "civilized" world, or at least an awareness is emerging:

"The territories of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples cover 24 percent of land worldwide, and contain 80 percent of the world's biodiversity," Linda Etchart writes at Nature.com. "Indigenous peoples occupy the sites of precious natural resources, and it is they who protect forests vulnerable to the encroachment of modernity."

So what does this mean? I ask this question without any sense of expertise, as a lifelong participant in modernity, wondering what I need to learn and what modernity itself, the global overlord, in all its techno-dominance, needs to learn. Solving and transcending climate change isn't simply a technological matter—solar panels, windmills, electric cars—but something deeply, ecologically spiritual: How do we listen to Planet Earth? How do we rejoin the circle of life? How do we disconnect ourselves from . . . is it an addiction? To money?

Bill McKibben, speaking at Democracy Now!, put it this way:

"Renewable energy is the cheapest power on the planet. But the reason that it's not rolling out fast enough is precisely because there is still this huge industry that's trying to make money off the end of the world.

"The news is not all bad. We are making some progress. We announced last week that the global divestment campaign has passed $40 trillion in endowments and portfolios that have sold their shares in coal and oil and gas. It's become the largest anti-corporate campaign in history. . . . We're going to keep that pressure on, because—well, because money is the oxygen on which the fires of global warming keep burning. And if we can snuff off that supply of capital, of finance, we can at least slow this down some, which we desperately have to do."

What's needed is more than just divestment. What's needed is a cultural—a spiritual—breakthrough in our sense of who we are, in our relationship to the planet. No small thing! But maybe it can begin in a small way.

Rupert Ross, in his book Returning to the Teachings, makes this point: "the Lakotah had no language for insulting other orders of existence: pest . . . waste . . . weed. . . . They are the white man's import to the New World."

Expand this desacralization process to the level of national leadership and we can wind up with, to pick one example, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, sometimes known, according to Rolling Stone, as Captain Chainsaw, "the most dangerous climate denier in the world. In his two years as president, Bolsonaro has presided over the destruction of about 10,000 square miles of the Brazilian rainforest, one of the most precious ecosystems on the planet."

Money, which is imaginary, is more valued across most of the planet than nature: our habitat. The Amazon rainforest is for sale, apparently, and even where it's not, the land beneath it is, which of course makes no sense.

Linda Etchart, writing about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which gives indigenous inhabitants legal ownership of the lands on which they live, notes that there is an "escape clause"in this declaration. In Ecuador, which is a signatory of the declaration, "the territorial landowners are not owners of the mineral resources in the subsoil, which means that oil and minerals can be extracted without their permission."

Some years ago, the Ecuadoran government sold exploratory rights on 500,000 acres of land adjacent to Yasuní National Park, which she described as "one of the most biodiverse places on earth," to a consortium of Chinese state-owned oil companies.

Climate change and environmental destruction will prevail as long as money prevails as the god that national leaders (and almost all the rest of us) worship, or don't know how not to worship. Part of indigenous wisdom is not being under the control of this civilized force. What would a world without money—or a world that saw and understood money differently—look like?

As the climate totters, as we are forced to see beyond our present understanding and start remembering that Planet Earth is sacred, we will find out . . . one way or another.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert C. Koehler

Robert C. Koehler

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, "Courage Grows Strong at the Wound" (2016). Contact him or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Amid Existential Threat to Reproductive Rights, Congress Urged to Act

"It's the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and if we don't fight like hell it could very well be the last," said one campaigner, who called on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Women's Health Protection Act.

Brett Wilkins ·


Black Mississippi State Senators Stage Walkout as Critical Race Theory Ban Passed

"We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards," said one Black senator who taught for 33 years. "That's what this bill does."

Brett Wilkins ·


Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·


Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo