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What of the Earth economy?

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Vic Hummert is a long time friend and thoughtful supporter of our life-giving planet Earth. He sent me this reflection and I thought some of you would enjoy reading it:

Teilhard de Chardin (1888-1950) and Thomas Berry (1914-2009) have turned on many intellectual lights for millions in recent years.

Thomas Berry has been a personal friend since I asked to meet him in 1989. On numerous occasions I have heard him state, “We cannot have a healthy economy in a sick world.”

2008 was an economic roller coaster ride for the global economy. If Thomas Berry were present at Federal Reserve meetings or international symposia to figure out how we could get out of the quagmire without doubt he would remind the PhD’s in economics that the “Earth debt” exceeds the trillions of US dollars or Euros that are mere pieces of paper.

If we are running out of everything essential for survival –pure air, potable water, decent, nourishing food, sources of energy – then we as “Earthlings” are in tight straits.

In one of his best books entitled The Dream of the Earth Berry wrote in 1988: “We come to the essential problem of economics as a religious issue when we consider the present threat to both economics and religion from a single source: the disruption of our natural world. Even now, corporations feel imposed upon when they are required to make environmental impact statements concerning their intrusion into the natural world.”

Berry is in deep sympathy with Chief Seattle who wrote in the 19th century: “If all of the animals were to disappear, we will die a spiritual death.” About the same time a Cree Indian proverb emerged: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.”

Where are the herds of buffalo that once roamed in Louisiana? Where are the prairie chickens and passenger pigeons that were numbered in the billions before being slaughtered? Louisiana remains in mourning for the vanquished cypress trees and other creatures that have deserted us. The very last jaguar died in the US southwest in January 2010.

“When a species falls into extinction,” mourns Thomas Berry, “We have been deprived of the Divine.”

In his 1962 book entitled Human Energy, Chardin expounds beautifully on “The Zest for Living”: “It is in truth a strange prospect and one for a very long time I have been unable to dismiss from my mind: that all over the Earth the attention of thousands of engineers or economists is concentrated on the problem of world resources of coal, oil or uranium – and yet nobody, on the other hand, bothers to carry out a survey of the zest for life: to take its temperature, to feed it, to look after it, and (why not indeed???) to increase it.”

William Stringfellow, the Episcopal priest and lawyer who practiced in Harlem in the 1960’s used the term “idiopathic” that I failed to find in two dictionaries. I then phoned Dr. Don Langford, a friend from our days in Hong Kong where he, his wife Mary and children lived for twenty four years as medical missionaries. As expected, Don explained the medical word idiopathic is an illness that does not have identifiable causes. What is the source of our apathy over a wounded world?

Chardin, Berry and a host of others would be probing deeply into the question of our industrial plundering of Earth that drags us deeper into a debt to the natural world.

Perhaps the spirits of Chardin and Berry will help us perceive we are like frogs being charmed by snakes as humankind admires great wealth that continues to devour Earth.


In recent centuries history has witnessed the demise of powerful empires – England, Imperial Japanese and Third Reich designs to conquer the planet, the implosion of a former Soviet Union in 1989 at which time Mikhael Gorbachev stated: “Now there is only one Superpower still standing.”

Earth as an expression of the One who gives life remains a teacher and ruler of all life. How long will our debts be ignored by spiritual leaders, Wall Street and in the corridors of power?


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