October 24, 2008
In times of crisis, people always need scapegoats in order to avoid having to look at one’s own responsibilities and this financial crisis is no different. But blaming bankers is a bit too easy when one looks at this crisis from a systemic and sustainability point of view. We have all enjoyed living beyond our means for way too long and now reality is biting back.
I got an interesting and angry comment from one of my readers for my last post “Strengthen climate/energy policies to avoid the Great Depression“. The commentator questioning the credibility of the Deutsche Bank report and saying “banks have no wisdom beyond mere greed”. I wonder whether his anger was provoked by him losing a lot of money having believed the share market gurus in the first place?
Anyway, it is too easy to blame the bankers and to still talk about a “credit crunch” or a crisis of “liquidity”. As I already indicated in other posts about the crisis, this is so much more than just a bank crisis. Some even have used words like the “end of capitalism” which is also seriously exaggerated.
What this crisis reflects though, and that is why the link with sustainability issues is so important, is that we have been living on virtual financial wealth (or debt) believing that the sky is the limit. Just go to Dubai or read the magazines for the super-rich and you will know what I mean. In the process of creating this hyper-consumption society (for a small minority but part of the life aspiration of all of us), we have over-consumed our ecological life-support systems (our “real wealth”, although without a market price) and exploited our energy wealth at a dramatic pace.
On the fossil fuel abundance this planet provided, we could have lived happy lives for billions of people for thousands of years, if we would have been smart. Now we have wasted it on over-consumption (not creating more happiness since the 6Os) in less than 200 years. We are all guilty of this crash and BTW is it not dramatic that the 60s generation which once aspired to change the world for the better, is actually the one which really messed up once it came to power?
Should the banks be rescued? Of course they should, but more important is to prevent the next crash, the crash of our Planet’s life-support systems.Author : Willy De Backer