I felt really proud when I heard a comment from French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who is currently presiding over the Paris climate talks. He noted that it is our responsibility, as western powers, to help countries across the African continent who are currently experiencing significant damage (terrible drought) from climate change. Africa produces almost no carbon emissions and most people live in a highly sustainable manner, yet citizens of technologically advanced countries consume constantly and in great excess, without ever thinking of the consequences for those who already have so little.
I have been waiting a long time to hear what Mr. Fabius finally said out loud. Europe and North America have been pillaging the wealth of Africa’s peoples and natural resources for centuries. It is our responsibility to curb not only our own excesses, but also to help African nations to develop in a sustainable manner. There is an abundance that grows from giving and from helping others, and this new green economy has the potential to create a much healthier world, with more evenly distributed comforts.
There is a problem, however. Even though the United States likes to see itself as a champion of freedom and democracy, the truth is quite a bit different. America’s primary value is placed on money. Everything else ranks quite a bit lower on the totem pole. People and the value of human lives, health, and well-being sit quite a bit lower than money and the attendant power and status that possessing money brings. There is no limit to the greed which fuels American business and politics. While there are exceptions to this rule, the excesses are systemic. Ordinary people have trouble surviving, getting access to adequate or affordable housing, healthcare, or food. We sell poor quality products for exorbitant prices, including healthcare. Ordinary people who work very hard have few to no rights as workers. We live knowing we are not valued. Like the farm animals we eat, who are treated as objects with no feelings or intelligence, we know we are easily replaceable. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.
A society that values human life and the environment is one in which responsibility and accountability are important values. In Sweden, for example, for the last twenty or thirty years, three new trees are planted for every tree that is cut down. A concerted effort to reduce carbon emissions and invest in green energy has been successfully promoted. There is a conscious effort to think about the lives of generations not yet born and the quality of life that is being created by actions and choices today. While Sweden is struggling with racism and other social issues, overall, there is an attempt to promote caring. Every country experiences problems. It is how we face up to our problems which is important. Overall, a country which puts the well-being of all of its citizens at the highest level is a mature and compassionate society.
A society such as the one in which I live today has no collective thought or well-thought out plan using the brightest minds for the future of the planet, for global health, or for the well-being of the people living today. None of our presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, have addressed public health, to which threats to national and global security are looming much darker than Isis or gun violence. In America, we do suffer from pandemic gun violence, from public health threats which will soon be killing millions around the world. Corporate interests from Big Agriculture, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, the NRA, and other lobbies place so much pressure on government to prevent legislation from being passed to protect not only our citizens, but also people around the world. And our elected officials are often weak and don’t stand up to the financial manipulation.
When uncontrollable epidemics caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria will soon begin to sweep the world, we will wonder why our government refused to ban the use of antibiotics in farm animals thirty years ago, even though the risks were known. As always, the poorest nations of the world will suffer most from these approaching pandemics. Antibiotics are already no longer a viable means of treating many bacterial infections, according to the World Health Organization. And a genetic mutation (drug resistant) in both humans and farm animals has already been documented in China due to the long overuse of antibiotics. (Click on this link to read an article on this subject.) What this means is that we will be helpless in the face of disease of bacterial origin. It is noteworthy than many plants and natural substances are powerful antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents, such as ginger, olive leaf extract, garlic. Because of the prevalence of powerful pharmaceutical companies, the use of these plants is not yet mainstream. When antibiotics are no longer effective, we will collectively realize that natural treatments do not lose effectiveness over time. Nature is simply wiser than we are.
If I could change just one thing about the United States of America, it would be this: the thing we value most. Money would become a servant for the collective good. People would come first. Our environment would be valued, and animal lives would be cherished. Life would come first. Money would, as it should be, subservient, to life. This does not mean that people will not create businesses or exchange goods and services. New forms of businesses and jobs would be created which would serve people, animals, and our planet. We would thrive, simply by switching what we value most.
Today we can clearly see what happens when we place money above human lives. A few profit, and many suffer. The level of stress on humans, on animals, plants, and on our planet is so high that we are collectively at risk for extinction. What will it take to change what we value? Which generation will wake up and understand that the form of capitalism that America has promoted and which has destroyed hope and peace of mind of the majority of Americans is a threat not only for America but for the entire planet?