Economics, Energy Bills and Elephants
(A December parish magazine article – though please feel free to alter for any month.)
‘Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.’ Ronald Reagan
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Jesus of Nazareth
There are certain ‘givens’ in the media, the main political parties and society that few seem to question. For example, that economic growth is good, and the more there is the better. That low energy bills are always a good thing. That the capacity of the world to sustain 7, 8, 9 billion people with the lifestyle we’d like, is an elephant in the room that must not be mentioned.
I wouldn’t understand most of what Albert Einstein said, but I get this quote: ‘A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?’
There is debate over whether it is possible to have economic growth that is sustainable, that it can be decoupled from the damage human activity does to the earth. Some say it can be. Even if it is possible, we certainly don’t have that sort of growth at the moment. Currently, all economic growth causes more carbon to be burnt, leading us further along the road to a climate changed world where economics as we know it would cease to function.
And energy bills. We all want low energy bills. Do we? High bills will force us to insulate, cut down on energy use, take us back a few steps from handing over a wrecked planet to our children. There are ways to protect the fuel-poor while giving the rest of us the right incentives to change. Just increasing the price of a unit of energy the more fuel we use is an obvious one, together with a serious effort to insulate poorer homes in a way that does not rely on the resident understanding the complexities of the Green Deal or trusting cold-callers.
So what do we do? The best place to start, the only place to start, is with ourselves. Question what we are told we want. Wonder whether more stuff, more money, more treasures on earth will really fulfil our desires. This month we celebrate the birth of a King in a stable, a homeless God, who threatened the status quo so much that he had to go. He came to turn the world upside down. We need to continue his work.