The Future and The River of Life

Posted on 06 May 2016

I moved to Adelaide while Australia was still in the midst of a long term drought. Until that time I had not thought much about the Murray River.

The Murray is Australia’s longest river, about two and a half thousand kilometres in length. It forms much of the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria before meandering into South Australia. Until recently each state managed the piece of the river that went through their lands.

What this meant was New South Wales would grab the lion’s share of the Murray’s waters for their farmers, Victoria would grab the next share, then by the time it came to the state of South Australia, very little was left to ensure the people there had anything to drink. This water grab destroyed the wetlands at the mouth of the Murray, thereby destroying much plant and wild life. The people of South Australia had to build a desalination plant to turn ocean water into something potable. Eventually, the federal government stepped in and managed this resource to ensure a fair division among the states.

Were those who lived near the head of the Murray any better people than those who lived at the mouth? Did they deserve more water than those on the other end? I suppose you could say they were clever enough to live upstream, but I’m betting they were born there and cleverness had nothing to do with it.

The world is facing serious consequences because of our lack of foresight, cooperativeness, and compassion. Within the western world the older we are, the further upstream we have been when it comes to access to resources. My parents have lived wealthier lives than my brother, sister and I. Our children have even less access to wealth.

Many people treat their children as ego-extension legacies. They try to enforce a sameness of outlook to ensure personal perpetuation in lieu of some kind of heaven. Some people who are in positions of power are shoring up their legacies by ensuring their children will be favoured by fate over any other children. Access to higher education is taken away from anyone but the most wealthy precisely because these people can at least see the world is crumbling. However, by their very actions they are aggravating the situation against which they are defending themselves. In California the rich are hoarding water and the farmers are begging for it to grow their crops. Eventually the rich will have to starve like the rest of us or face early deaths from revolt. This is why people throw rocks at the Google bus.

The river of life must be cared for at all points. Its health is our health. The more inclusive we are in protecting it, the more successful we will be in preserving our own lives.

We have to address the three “E”s simultaneously if we are to have any hope of a liveable future: equality, economy, environment.

Equality/Equity

We are our own best resources. But this only works if we help everyone to achieve their potential. If you have a life threatening illness, surely you want the best doctor to treat you: a doctor with skill, talent, and insight and thereby a high success rate. That’s not necessarily going to be the richest doctor. Who can account for talent? How much insight can a person have when they have always had everything and do not understand suffering…much less your suffering?

We have to stop seeing one another as disposable. If we believe in rags to riches stories, then perhaps we should be kinder to the people who might be our boss, our doctor, our nation’s leader–like Abraham Lincoln who was born in a one room log cabin. I say we should be kind anyway. And what if we are all reduced to eating bugs because we have so devastated the environment? You will want to be best friends with someone who knows how to surive under difficult circumstances.

Economy

Places where women have been educated, have access to making a living, and are well treated have a lower birth rate than places where women are poor, abused, and treated as property. A woman’s children become her only protection. However, we live on a planet of limited resources and we are using them up.

With a large rich/poor divide there can be no democracy. With a large rich/poor divide we have more people with fewer resources. Life within a society becomes unstable as more and more people act out of desperation. Life on this planet becomes unstable as we over-consume and devastate the biosphere that sustains us.

Sharing always has been and always will be critical to our well-being and survival. Let’s separate work from wage and give everyone a guaranteed living income and see what happens.

Environment

We are not separate from the environment, though we act like it. We must engage with all life. We like to flatter ourselves that we are the most important beings on this planet, which is used to excuse unconscionable behaviour toward other living beings.

Two hundred fifty thousand years ago, Homo sapiens arose. Before that we have primates arising sixty-five million years ago. Mammals arose one hundred to eighty-five million years ago. The Earth is about about four and a half billion years. In the scale of things Asian tree shrews are close family. We cannot mistreat the family of life and expect a future to still be there. Who knows which species will cause an irrecoverable ecological crash with their absence? We should be very worried about the crash in bee populations and its causes. We should absolutely call into account those people who are creating the pesticides which may ultimately bring about the demise of all mammalian life. Don’t you include your cat or dog as family? Increase that circle of care.

The answers to all these problems is more thoughtfulness, kindness, balance, and cooperation, not only with those people who are closest to us but all people, all creatures, all of life. A “grab all you can get and stuff everyone else” attitude is irresponsible and suicidal. We can’t allow people to wander so far from caring. We should have always sought to live simple lives of universal goodwill. We now know that anything less endangers our very existence. The river of life belongs to all of us: start sharing and cooperating.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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