by Rick Feltington
There should really be a Surgeon General’s warning on our dollar bills. We’re not yet aware of how powerfully destructive these things are! Not one bill in your wallet or bit on a computer banking screen is “value neutral.” These ubiquitous things that flow between us and stay on our minds so often are our culture’s DNA, the engine of our collective interactions, more potent than our laws or our structure of government. Indeed, they are a even a form of “magic,” conjured up into being through a modern style of wizardry that only works with our unconscious and unprocessed consent—powerful enough to do a zillion things with, yet having no real value without our collective agreement to continue to energize them into being.
While some warning labels for these highly questionable bills might be a nice start for a wise Surgeon General, capturing their full impact in today’s media-saturated world requires something more visually potent. To tell the story quickly, I’d advise slapping the face of a fire-breathing dragon where the heads of the presidents usually reside. The conjuring up of these exchange media, with our unconscious and unprocessed consent, has spawned a dragon that breathes its flames of terror, has the power to devour our most cherished institutions, fogs our brains in scarcity consciousness, and is now destroying our natural world.
It’s this unconscious collective agreement that we need to look at today. To become the change we need to see and to save our planet from the destruction that these exchange media are now the engine for, we must see how they are conjured up, become aware of how they create stress, interpersonal separation and environmental destruction, and then gather consciously to co-create new forms of exchange media that help us heal and bring us back into connection with each other and our natural world. There is a pathway to get from where we are today to a world that’s sustainably abundant for all. To complete the journey we’ll have to become the magicians and architects of this uniquely potent social technology.
Those who presently conjure up these dragon dollars see the world through a lens that separates “the economy” from both people and our environment. In the language of conventional economics, both people and the natural world are considered “externalities!” That’s why this thing they refer to as “the economy” can be said to be “growing” while people are suffering and our ecosystem is being terrorized. It’s why environmentalist David Suzuki recently called conventional economic thinking a form of brain damage. It’s also why the great challenges we face today cannot be solved from the mind state, the worldview, or the dragon dollars that are creating them!
Environmentally, the key systemic flaw wreaking havoc on our ecosystem and climate hinges on the role that compounding interest plays in our current system. This potent compounding force is the hidden foot on the accelerator of environmental destruction. Money today is birthed into existence when banks issue loans. In the moment of conception when a loan is approved, banks create the principal amount with their magic wand, but they don’t create the interest that has to be paid back. The interest to be repaid compounds over time, creating an exponential growth in debt and creating a pressure for businesses to always expand in order to pay back the increasing debt. Expanding in this way ultimately means extracting resources from the environment and converting them into products for consumption without regard for any real sense of improving lives, and without considering the damage of disposing of these new items or the time needed for our ecosystem to replenish itself.
Seeing this connection clearly is an important step in the journey of birthing in a new cultural operating system that can respond to today’s challenges and eventually make the old form obsolete. In the new documentary Money and Life, John Fullerton tells us that the need to change this process isn’t “a matter of politics. It’s a matter of physics.” We can’t continue to operate in this way, with this constant built-in pressure to expand. Our planet, this amazing gift we’re given, has a finite biosphere that needs to be cared for and given adequate time to replenish. We’ve reached the limits of our present system. It’s time for us to take the reigns and change this great game of exchange.