Rising Leader Series: Week 34 - Economic Sustainability
Updated: Feb 25
THE WHOLE WORLD IN MY CUP
Gold-touched was August’s morn as I rose.
Bullfrog croaks joined cricket crepitations
with finch-cheep, robin-cuck, chickadee cry
as trout-splash bothered mallard’s machinations.
Observed from white-gloss Adirondack chair
Hand-hot coffee; shimmer-diamond lake
A place to ponder planetary care
and contemplate the work that it will take
How muster global will to build constraint?
What path to, step by step, repair the Earth?
That some future child of God might acquaint,
like me, with gold-touched summer morn’s rebirth?
I sat tempted for a moment to give up
Until looked down, saw whole world in my cup
We protect God's creation by building a sustainable economy.
Marty Odlin grew up on Maine’s coast, close to fishermen and their boats. When he was young, fish hauls were bountiful– but over the years boat yields steadily declined. By the time he was ready to buy his own boat, he realized the math wouldn’t work. The sea had lost its capacity to offer a fisherman enough fish to make a living. Warming seas, rising acidity and overfishing had precipitated a crash in fishing stocks, even over the course of his short life. But Odlin knew how critical fish are to the food supply chain. And so he decided to do something about it.
Odlin recognized the source of the problem was the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It was causing the warming and acidification of the seas. Scientists agree that to heal the planet, billions of tons of carbon dioxide will need to be removed from the air and the ocean. To do this, carbon capture and sequestration technology needs to be deployed on a massive scale. And so he built a company, Running Tide, to do just that.
Running Tide is working to deploy thousands of solar-powered buoys in oceans all across the globe. These buoys are constructed to sustain micro-forests of seaweed; each carries a few pounds of limestone. Seaweed feasts on carbon; limestone feasts on acid. Odlin believes that if enough of these buoys were deployed around the globe, they would substantially reduce carbon in the atmosphere and acidity in the seas. HIs company is also building oyster farms, which act to filter and cleanse ocean water. Billionaire investors have invested in his company. The future looks bright.
Our blue planet is one big interwoven life form, with God in all of it and us. Everything and everyone is connected; we are composed of bits of the stars. I like to say we live in a state of interbeing with God and each other. But God has given us free will; our actions have consequences. Certainly they have impacted the intricate web of interconnections that make up Mother Earth. Day by day, our actions create the civilization in which our children’s children’s children will live. If we truly love our own descendants, then, we will demonstrate our love by working to create a better, healthier world. We can only do this by creating an economy that sustains life on Earth.
What is an economy? It is a human construct. It is composed of rights, requirements, incentives and constraints. In America, we possess the right to private property. We enjoy the right to invest and create new businesses. We are required to pay employees a minimum wage, to follow labor laws, to report our income and to pay taxes. Government subsidies create incentives; tariffs, taxes and fees create disincentives. Regulations create constraints. Within these rights, requirements, incentives and constraints, citizens are free to work, to innovate, to start companies and to pursue their dreams.
A sustainable economy is one designed to steadily improve the intricate system called our planet. In systems, inflows cause stocks to rise; outflows cause stocks to fall. God has gifted our solitary galactic home with a set of precious, life-giving stocks: clean air, clean water, forests, fish and wildlife. These are the building blocks of human existence. It is madness to deplete them.
But for the past three hundred years, that is just what we have done. We have built an ever-more-extractive global economy, permitting a steady net outflow from our most critical stocks. In pursuit of growth and rising standards of living, we have paved the way for individuals and companies to take without replenishment– to deforest, to overfish, to pollute land and sea and sky, to kill off species. Today’s blaring sirens– rising temperatures, diminished air quality, reduced fishing yields, acidification of the oceans, shrinking reservoirs, species extinction and more– are our planet’s feedback loops, alerting us to our peril.
Now that the pace of planetary degradation has put the future of human life on Mother Earth in doubt, we face a key question. Is our economy (with its rights, requirements, incentives and constraints) built to advance sustainability? Are the economies of other nations? The answer, of course, is “No”. And yet all economies must become sustainable economies– and soon. Which means, good friend, we need you. Humanity needs its most capable and ethical leaders to stand in the gap– to lead us away from our extract-and-run economy, into a truly sustainable one– constructed with new rights, new requirements, new incentives and new constraints. This is, more than anything, a political problem. We need courageous, capable, ethical political leaders to rise up and show us the way. Are you one?
If you build such an economy, you will inspire leaders like Marty Odlin. He has accomplished much without a US carbon tax, or other adjustments to our economy’s rights, requirements, incentives and constraints. Imagine what could happen if America and other nations were to actually implement sustainable economic regulations such as these.
Planetary degradation is the road to death. Along that road, every act of degradation is another violence. Sustainability is the road to God and life; every planet-healing act is an act of love. It’s really that simple. In the end, we humans must ask ourselves: which road? Will we choose death and violence, or life and love?
Today is the seventh day, good leader! The time is now. We need you. Next week's letter will take up the topic of social sustainability. “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”-- Genesis 1:29-31
Previous Weeks' Letters: