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Jeanette Fitzsimons: Growth is propelling us to the brink

MEDIA RELEASE: Sea of Faith Network, 17 October 2011

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Growth is propelling us to the brink

Jeanette Fitzsimons, former Green Party co-leader, says that economic growth is propelling us to the brink. A change of values is urgently needed. She was speaking to the Sea of Faith conference held in Christchurch at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School over the weekend. Climate change is the most urgent of six interacting crises that are propelling us towards “the brink”. The other crises are resource depletion, pollution, loss of biodiversity, the global financial crisis, growing inequality and frustrated demands for democracy. “Is more science going to change this? I think not,” she said. “Is more economic growth? Certainly not. Better economic rules? That could certainly help…But the main answer lies in changing values.” She went on to explore how values can be changed and to suggest practical actions to take. Change has to come from the people, for “Governments can’t act because the people are not demanding it strongly enough to counter the lobbying and financial pressure of the corporates.”

The Sea of Faith Network consists of local groups throughout New Zealand which explore issues of spirituality, religion and ethics from a human-centred and non-dogmatic perspective. Around 110 members were welcomed to Christchurch by Lianne Dalziel, MP for Christchurch East, who expressed her thanks to the Sea of Faith Network for showing solidarity with Christchurch for holding its annual conference there.

Lloyd Geering, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University, argued that Richard Dawkins’ polemic against the “God delusion” has come 250 years too late, because there is now a new god: growth. The god-like status of “growth” in the political mindset underpins these crises.

Geoff Bertram, formerly lecturer in economics at Victoria University, blamed a large segment of the economics profession for giving bad advice in the current situation and accused them of a moral as well as an intellectual failure. Bob Lloyd, Associate Professor at Otago University, lamented that we are not ready for peak oil and climate change and still want growth. Val Webb, an Australian theologian, focussed on compassion as a virtue common to many religions. The conference closed with a panel discussion that explored ways in which economics, science and religion could help to pull us back from the brink.


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