Posted by: davenlu | November 13, 2009

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Posted by: kathymcneely | July 2, 2013

What about a maximum wage?

Contributed by Pamela Haines

The moral imperative for a minimum wage is clear. But what about a maximum wage?

It’s not hard to make the case that something needs to be done.  Back in 1965, US CEOs in major companies earned 24 times more than the average (not minimum wage) worker. A typical American CEO now makes 380 times more than the average worker.

Around the world, change is in the wind.  An Egyptian ruling that a maximum wage in the public and government sectors be no more than 35 times the minimum wage has been in force since January 2012.  France’s president last summer promised to cap the salary of company leaders at 20 times that of their lowest-paid worker.  In February, new code amendments of the German Corporate Governance Commission, which all German companies follow, were released, including a mandate that all publicly-traded firms place a cap on executive compensation. While the specific executive pay maximum is left up to each corporation, the Commission made it clear that current pay levels have soared too high.

The immorality of our current situation is clear.  Perhaps the time has come in the US to talk about a maximum wage as well.

http://toomuchonline.org/the-scruffy-and-stuffy-agree-cap-ceo-pay/

http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/should-there-be-a-maximum-wage?utm_source=ytw20130628&utm_medium=email

Posted by: davenlu | June 3, 2013

How to “Mainstream” a new Cosmology?

David Korten has written an article (“Religion, Science, and Spirit: A Sacred Story of Our Time“) that could serve as a clarion call for all people who are unsatisfied with the current dichotomy of science and mainstream religions, both of which fail to appreciate and care for Earth and the amazingly interdependent world of life created by God. He left me wondering about how those of us who are part of a shift to a more holistic worldview can be more visible and invite others to the exciting opportunities opening up.

In the article he describes three cosmologies that have influenced the Western worldview: monotheistic religions, science, and what he calls the Integral Spirit worldview. While the first two cosmologies have strong institutions and traditions representing their worldviews, the last has no real structure in Western society. This is especially problematic for Korten because the religious and scientific worldviews accept extreme inequalities as natural while also diminishing the value of the natural world; thus, creating the mindset that has brought about the rapid destruction of Earth we witness today. It is through bringing more people to adopt the cosmology of the Integral Spirit that humanity may be able to revert the situation in order to avoid further destruction and live in better harmony with Earth.

For Korten, the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), focus attention on our individual relationship with a personal but distant God, making relations with each other and the natural world to be of secondary importance, at best. These religions can help justify the destruction of Earth and unequal societies since, as Korten writes, “Nature exists for our temporary human use and comfort.” And “[t]hose who demonstrate their closeness to God by their pious religious observance and special knowledge of His intention properly exercise authority over the rest of us.”

Meanwhile, the scientific worldview sees the cosmos as a grand machine where “…only the material is real. The formation and function of the cosmos and the evolution of life are consequences of a combination of physical mechanism and random chance. Life is an accidental outcome of material complexity and has no larger meaning or purpose. Consciousness and free will are illusions.” The basic law of nature “is a brutal competition for survival, territory, and reproductive advantage.” Social Darwinism, an extension of this worldview, easily accepts extreme inequalities as normal, a result of this competition.

The Integral Spirit story, by contrast,” writes Korten, “infuses all we behold in this life and beyond with profound meaning. All of creation is a sacred and ultimately unified expression of an eternal and intimately present divine will. All beings are interconnected and our fates are inextricably intertwined. As participants in and contributors to the ongoing process of creation, we each bear a sacred responsibility. Our lives take on profound meaning and purpose in relationship and service to the sacred whole.”

“The Integral Spirit cosmology is consistent with the findings of quantum physics, which reveals that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion and at the deepest level of understanding only relationships are real. I find that Integral Spirit is the underlying cosmology of a reassuring number of religious leaders and devout members of many faiths, including a great many Catholic nuns, as well as most people who define themselves as spiritual, but not necessarily religious.”

“This cosmology has the elements of the needed story for our time. It remains, however, largely a private story without the institutional sponsors that give the Distant Patriarch and Grand Machine cosmologies authority and public presence. The absence of institutional sponsorship helps to secure its authenticity, but the absence of public visibility limits its influence as a guide to rethinking and restructuring our human relationships with one another and nature.”

This last paragraph really caught my attention. I think it touches on something very important that is lacking today. While more and more people are changing their worldview toward something like the Integral Spirit cosmology, it is a silent, invisible change. How can we, who want to encourage this societal shift to a more integrated view of Earth and life, make the change more visible? How can we bring together those who are already shifting their worldview so that others can see that change is happening and that they could be part of this paradigm shift?

It is not an easy task. To create new institutions based on the Integral Spirit runs the risk of creating bureaucracies that restrict that Spirit; of repeating many of the problems with our current institutions. Yet without recognizable organizations and institutions, it will be difficult for people to see the growth of this worldview and to know how they can participate in it.

Some of the reflections and small group processes that we have created on the Scriptural and Theological resources page of this website are a good start, I think, at helping people to discover the Integral Spirit and the need for a paradigm shift in Western societies. But much more will be needed in order to incorporate these new adherents and create a visible movement.

What more can we, as participants in the Faith, Economy, Ecology, Transformation coalition, do to help spread the word?

Posted by: mariannedc | April 3, 2013

From Fear of Austerity to Faith in God’s Abundance

We’re told that these are lean times. The United States no longer can afford to guarantee a secure retirement for the elderly, safety-net supports for low-income Americans nor assistance to impoverished nations, the message goes.

But as people of faith, we believe in a God of abundance. And as we look around, we see incredible riches in our midst.

Consider the concentration of wealth on Wall Street, even following the Great Recession: In 2010, the assets of the six largest U.S. banks equaled 62% of U.S. gross domestic product – up from 18% in 1995, according to members of the Senate Banking Committee.

What if the United States implemented a tiny tax on the most risky, high-volume transactions in this financial sector?

This type of tax has been recommended by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which has called on governments “to consider…taxation measures on financial transactions through fair but modulated rates with charges proportionate to the complexity of the operations, especially those made on the ‘secondary’ market.”

Pope Benedict XVI also prophetically taught in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate that “economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems. The technical forces in play…the damaging effects on the real economy of badly managed and largely speculative financial dealing…leads us today to reflect on the measures that would be necessary to provide a solution.”

Such a solution is being proposed in the U.S. the form of a financial transaction tax (FTT) of less than 0.5% on the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures, options and currencies. Some economists estimate it could generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

On April 17, two days after Tax Day, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) will reintroduce a bill which is being called a tax for the people, rather than on the people. The bill would create tax on transactions over $300,000, ensuring that low- and middle-income households would not be impacted. Those who would be affected are a new type of investor called high frequency traders. These traders use complex computer programs to buy and sell thousands or even millions of times every second.

The FTT would not only raise lots of money. It also could slow down such high-volume trading, which has had destabilizing effects that played a role in the recent recession, foreclosure crises, unemployment rates, and government bailout money. Around the world, this type of trading has played a role in food price spikes, resulting in starvation and conflict.

Dozens of faith groups have signed onto a coalition promoting the FTT called the Robin Hood Campaign. For Catholics, the campaign’s name evokes not theft from individuals but a conviction to uphold the priority for the poor and marginalized by addressing a core set of habits contributing to the increasing inequity between the rich and poor.

The Scriptures speak out against excessive accumulation of wealth. When the Israelites wandered the desert, the manna provided to them lasted only one day:  “Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed” (Ex 16:18), and when they collected more than they needed, it began to rot. The Jubilee prescriptions in Lev 25 and elsewhere sought to limit economic inequities through the forgiveness of debts. The Robin Hood Campaign advocates a provision which seeks to limit increasing inequity in society in the spirit of these prescriptions of the Scriptures.

The burden of our nation’s financial problems should not be placed on the most vulnerable through cuts to vital safety net programs. The FTT could help alleviate the financial burden of global crises and contribute to a healthy future for humanity and the planet.

Advocate for the FTT with other faith-based groups here.

Posted by: mariannedc | March 20, 2013

Climate Justice as the Ultimate Human Rights Issue

By Pamela Haines, Quaker social justice educator with a concern for economics and the environment

I was delighted recently to hear a talk by Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and now an activist on climate justice, which she characterizes as the ultimate human rights issue.  Her humanity and her lifelong commitment to women and global human rights are impressive and heartening.  You may want to check out her website.  I’ve excerpted some of the principles below.  But just think for a moment:  climate justice as the ultimate human rights issue.

Respect and Protect Human Rights

The idea of human rights point societies towards internationally agreed-upon values around which common action can be negotiated and then acted upon. The guarantee of basic rights rooted in respect for the dignity of the person, which is at the core of this approach, makes it an indispensable foundation for action on climate justice.

Support the right to development

Climate change highlights our true interdependence and must lead to a new and respectful paradigm of sustainable development, based on the urgent need to scale up and transfer green technologies and to support low-carbon, climate resilient strategies for the poorest so that they become part of the combined effort in mitigation and adaptation.

Share Benefits and Burdens Equitably

Those who have most responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and most capacity to act must cut emissions first [and] have an ethical obligation to share benefits with those who are today suffering from the effects of these emissions. People in low-income countries must have access to opportunities to adapt to the impacts of climate change and embrace low-carbon development to avoid future environmental damage.

Ensure that Decisions on Climate Change are Participatory, Transparent and Accountable

It must be possible to ensure that policy developments and policy implementation in this field are seen to be informed by an understanding of the needs of low-income countries in relation to climate justice, and that these needs are adequately understood and addressed.

Highlight Gender Equality and Equity

In many countries and cultures, women are at the forefront of living with the reality of the injustices caused by climate change. They are critically aware of the importance of climate justice in contributing to the right to development being recognized and can play a vital role as agents of change within their communities.

Harness the Transformative Power of Education for climate stewardship

Achieving climate stabilization will necessitate radical changes in lifestyle and behavior, and education has the power to equip future generations with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive and survive. Done well, it invites reflection on ethics and justice that make the well-educated also good citizens, both of their home state and (in these global times) of the world as well.

Use Effective Partnerships to Secure Climate Justice

The principle of partnership points in the direction of solutions to climate change that are integrated both within states and across state boundaries… this must also involve partnership with those most affected by climate change and least able adequately to deal with it – the poor and under-resourced.

These principles are rooted in the frameworks of international and regional human rights law and do not require the breaking of any new ground on the part of those who ought to, in the name of climate justice, be willing to take them on.

Posted by: kathymcneely | March 13, 2013

Stations of the Cross with John Paul II:

On the path of ecological conversion

Drawing on the legacy of Bl. John Paul II, the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) offers again this year “Stations of the Cross with John Paul II: On the path of ecological conversion” in English and Spanish.

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM developed this resource in collaboration with FAN staff. The Stations and other Lenten resources are available on FAN’s homepage.

Posted by: jennsvetlik | March 7, 2013

Free Trade Accelerates Land Grabs

By Jennifer Svetlik, Program Associate, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Land as gift is a prominent theme in the biblical narrative. In Genesis, the earth’s first inhabitants are charged with tending the land, a home offered to them by God. Land is promised to Abraham and his descendants as a covenantal inheritance (c.f. Gen 12), not a commodity. The Israelites are instructed not to sell the land permanently, because it is God’s; humans are the land’s tenants (c.f. Lev 25).

Uganda-Remembering Home

According to Oxfam’s Grow Campaign, at least 22,500 people have lost their land to make way for a timber company in Uganda.  
CC Image courtesy of Oxfam International on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 2.0 license.

“Land grabs,” which have received increasing media attention in recent years, should be of particular concern to people of faith. Land grabs are “large-scale purchases or leases of agricultural or forested land on terms that violate the rights of the people who live on or near that land,” as defined in Land Grabs and Fragile Food Systems: The Role of Globalization, a report released by The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

The report released this month, authored by Sophia Murphy of the IATP, focuses on how the trade system accelerates land grabs.

Murphy examines the relationship of globalization, specifically “the deregulation of trade and foreign investment laws, which has greatly eased cross-border capital flows; relaxed the limits on foreign land ownership; and opened markets to agricultural imports,” to land grabs. She contends that globalization has driven land grabs by making land an appealing asset for global investors and increasing the risk that international markets might not provide food for importing countries.

Murphy argues that “the globalization of food production, distribution, and finance contributed significantly to the food price crisis of 2007-08.” The crisis revealed that international trade cannot guarantee food security. Less predictable agricultural production due to destabilized weather patterns caused by climate change has only intensified this loss of confidence in the global food system. Murphy notes that in 2012 the U.S. “lost 40 percent of a record large number of acres planted with corn to drought.”

As a result, there is a sense of both scarcity and fragility within the global food system. This has driven food-importing countries without arable land, such as Saudi Arabia, to grab land in African countries. Local communities whose land is leased or purchased are often threatened in the process.

Murphy argues that investment in agriculture is crucial, but that without examining “what kind of investment, in what kind of agriculture, and in whose interests… the investment does more harm than good.” IATP suggests four related policy changes to the international food system:

  • reformed trade rules that ensure export restrictions in times of crisis contain transparency and predictability requirements;
  • publicly-managed grain reserves to diminish the effects of supply shocks;
  • funding for the poorest food importers triggered automatically when international market prices sharply increase;
  • strong national and international laws to govern investment in land, respecting the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure.

It’s time to change the rules that make land grabs possible. To learn more, read the report.

Posted by: jennsvetlik | March 4, 2013

2013 Economic and Ecological Way of the Cross

Each year preceding Easter, Christian communities around the world gather in public places to recreate the story of Jesus’ passion. The observance of the Passion is an opportunity to reflect on the ways we have broken our covenant with God at the expense of other persons and creation. In the suffering of the earth & its creatures, we have crucified Divinity in our midst. Way of Cross Group

In dramatic public liturgies, we remember who we are as people of faith and why we believe that even the greatest of evils will not have the last word.

For over 15 years, Christian communities across the Washington D.C. area  have  gathered on Good Friday for a Way of the Cross among D.C. institutions.  At each station we  focus on a different economic or ecological challenge or sign of hope for our times.

The Economic and Ecological Way of the Cross Script was prepared this year by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns with support from other planning organizations. We will be using this version in Washington D.C. on Good Friday, March 29, 2013, beginning at noon at First St. NW and Constitution Ave. NW near the Capitol Building. If you’re in the area, please join us. We encourage local communities to edit and use this resource in your own geographical context. Also see the Faith Economy Ecology Resource page to download a copy.

Posted by: jennsvetlik | February 21, 2013

Slowing Climate Change by Working Less

CC Image courtesy of Steve Rhodes on Flickr and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 2.0 license.

CC Image courtesy of Steve Rhodes on Flickr and made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 2.0 license.

By Jennifer Svetlik, Program Associate, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

To adequately address the climate crisis, a vast global mobilization is needed to urgently and radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This effort, according to economist David Rosnick at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, could include reducing work hours.

In the report released this month, Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change, Rosnick estimates that a reduction in work hours by .05 percent annually through the rest of the century “would eliminate one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in.”

Productivity is increasing in many parts of the world, and Rosnick demarcates the response of Europe (shorter work weeks and more vacation days) and that of the U.S. (increased consumption) over the past thirty years.

While stating that the variables are complex and the association not fully understood, previous studies also “have found that shorter work hours are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions and therefore less global climate change,” Rosnick notes.

A 0.5 percent decrease in work hours annually from 2013 to 2100 would mean that, beginning at a baseline of 40 hours per week for 50 weeks annually, by 2100 the work week would be 30 hours per week with seven additional weeks of vacation.

He suggests that the negative economic effects of reduced work hours are minimal because of their additional positive effects. For example, reducing work hours may increase hourly productivity and the employed percent of the population. Higher levels of employment can in turn reduce the cost of unemployment benefits. At the same time, lower levels of production will reduce greenhouse gas emissions through keeping factories and office buildings open less.

The report offers calculations based on four scenarios included by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment which describe various projected progressions of the global economy. Rosnick’s calculations seek to determine the climate’s response when increased leisure time is introduced into the various scenarios. He suggests that while 40-70 percent of future warming is already locked in, reducing work hours, alongside other policy changes, would have a substantial effect on the amount of warming humans can still influence.

The way workers spend additional leisure time is a significant variable not addressed in the report. Leisure time dedicated to biking rather than driving, gardening and purchasing from the farmers market, for example, would further contribute to reducing emissions. Leisure involving increased airplane travel, of course, would have the opposite effect.

Rosnick asserts that reducing work hours would be difficult in countries with high levels of inequality, where such policies would mean that the majority of workers would face reduced living standards as a result. In the U.S. “just shy of two-thirds of all income gains from 1973-2007 went to the top 1 percent of households,” he notes. Those households could easily absorb a reduction in wages associated with reduced work hours, but many households could not.

The problems with economic inequality, those moral and related to social and economic stability, have received more media attention in recent years, but have yet to be addressed meaningfully through policy efforts. The challenges of enacting a reduced work hours policy in a highly unequal society only further highlight that economic inequality in the U.S. must be urgently addressed.

Furthermore, for people of faith, increased leisure for workers should be of concern. The command to honor the Sabbath seeks to limit work and provides both an opportunity and an obligation to rest, reflect, and offer thanks. A rhythm of life which includes rest, prayer, time with loved ones, and participation in community life is a God-ordained right to which every worker should be entitled. Jesus’ practices of going away for reflection and enjoying frequent meals with friends should be an example that each worker has an opportunity to emulate.

Reduced work hours and increased leisure can have positive benefits for families, communities, and, according to Rosnick’s report, the environment. Creative policy solutions such as reducing work hours should be brought to the forefront of the conversation on addressing climate change.

Posted by: mariannedc | February 2, 2013

What’s Wrong with Minting a $1 Trillion Coin?

By Pamela Haines, Quaker social justice educator with a concern for economics and the environment

On Friday, January 11, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman urged the White House to mint a platinum coin worth $1 trillion. He thought it was less silly—and less dangerous—than playing with the debt ceiling. The White House responded by saying the trillion dollar coin is off the table, because the Federal Reserve declared that it “wouldn’t view the coin as viable.”

Today, the Federal Reserve creates trillions of dollars on its books and lends them at near-zero interest to private banks, which then lend them back to the government and the people at market rates. We have been brainwashed into thinking that it makes more sense to do this than for the government to simply create the money itself, debt- and interest-free.

Some of our greatest leaders — including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln — realized that the freedom to print money offers a way to break the shackles of debt and free the nation to realize its full potential.  Our ignorance on these issues has played into the hands of the 1 percent, who are dependent on the current system for their wealth and power. We have the power to choose prosperity over austerity. But to do it, we must first restore the power to create money to the people.

Read more here about the historic roots of the $1 trillion coin.

 

Posted by: mariannedc | January 23, 2013

Catholic Bishops Share Stories of ‘Climate Refugees’

Writer William Bole attended a meeting of Catholic bishops recently and heard the alarming stories of people threatened by climate change in very real ways.

Bishop Donald Kettler of Fairbanks, Alaska, predicted that one village that he serves will be under water in 10 years. He was speaking of a coastal community populated by indigenous people—soon to be washed away by rising sea levels resulting from climate change.

“Yet the story Kettler tells is not nearly as alarming as what I heard from Bishop Bernard Unabali of Papua New Guinea,” Bole writes. “His diocese includes a raft of islands that are also vanishing under the sea, and many of the islanders have already fled. They have been called the world’s first climate-change refugees, although others (including some of Kettler’s flock) are not far behind.”

Bole goes on to talk about an organization the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, which is trying to connect the broad middle of American Catholic laity with faith-based social teaching on care for creation and, specifically, climate change.

“The presentations in Washington indicated that an official Catholic teaching on the environment is emerging—and its key principles revolve around concerns about the person, the poor, and the common good,” he writes. “For example, while modern-day environmentalism often exalts nature over people, the Church looks upon human beings as ‘the guardians of Creation, which God has entrusted to us,’ said Mary A. Ashley of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. ‘We have a vocation to care for every creature.’”

There’s hope when our religious institutions’ hierarchy begin connecting the dots for their members between faith, care for creation and the urgency of addressing climate change. You can read more about the meeting in Bole’s blog here.

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