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“Money can’t buy happiness.” Cliches like this may seem empty, especially if one is poor! A hungry belly is obviously happier with food in it. And yet, we have to be careful not to equate money with well-being. Nor should we impose our country’s skewed notions of abundance on the rest of the world.
Our excessive consumerism often buys us the precise opposite of happiness – genetically modified foods that have unseen effects on pollens and soils, not to mention our health; factory-farmed meats infused with drugs and the unbearable suffering of animals; ‘entertainment’ that only increases our anxiety with its meaninglessness; expensive goods that fall apart or go out of style shortly after we purchase them. As a society, we can’t seem to stop this mindless ingesting and accumulation.
Yet, we must stop to ponder what it is we are pursuing. In this edition of Kosmos Online we ask “what is true wealth”, and turn to our friends and readers to learn what they have to say.
Brian Milani writes and teaches on the green political-economy and social change. He says we must transform our economic system from quantitative growth to qualitative development – in other words, more well-being for people and planet, and that means real changes in our personal behavior. In two companion stories by Rivera Sun and Chuck Collins, we learn about the Billionaire Buddha, who found the true meaning of ‘our common wealth’, by giving away all his money. And Dr. Thomas Cowan shares an excerpt from his new book, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart – about the links between wealth and health.
Surely many of us have come to understand that the great riches of the world reside in the tender embrace of a loved one, the open gaze of a child, a flower unfolding, a golden dawn. There’s no going back to an idealized pre-industrial, pre-conquest era. There is only the way forward, addressing economic disparity and past harms, changing habits, reversing climate chaos, and embracing the wealth of our diversity and ‘connective’ wisdom.
Your Kosmos Team
‘Dear Reader’ is written by Rhonda Fabian, digital editor of Kosmos. Please address all comments and queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Brian Milani, for Kosmos Online
“Today a nascent Abundance movement is growing in many quarters—within, e.g., movements for permaculture, local living economies, green energy, natural building, open-source electronic networks, industrial ecology, the feminist Gift Economy, and much more. While focused on quality, it is also based upon a new level of guaranteed material subsistence for all—whether that be through a Basic Income, alternative currencies, or infrastructures of free food, housing, education and healthcare. We live in the potentially wealthiest societies humanity has ever known—able to now support every human being to a level of healthy subsistence. This material security—essentially a right to live that rates as a crucial stage in human social evolution—is not only an important tool to eliminate poverty and extreme inequality, but it must be a platform for truly regenerative economic activity.”
By Rivera Sun, for Kosmos Online
“We have arrived at a moment in human history where the accumulation of vast personal monetary and material wealth must be rigorously critiqued. Concentrated personal wealth, we have seen, has often come at the expense of social, cultural, ecological, and common wealth. Our ecological systems, cultural beliefs and practices, connections and community, creativity and ingenuity have often been devalued if they are not chained to making profits for personal fortunes.”
By Chuck Collins, for Kosmos Online
At one time, Dariel Garner was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Over his life, he started and owned over 40 businesses on four continents with thousands of employees. His enterprises included the second largest agribusiness exporter in Mexico, a tech company that created software for banks, and companies as diverse as golf courses, ski parks and natural health care products.
A decade ago, he was the developer and co-owner with his former wife of a vast resort in the California Sierra Mountains with projects underway that had projected profits of $750 million. Then he had a change of heart.
By Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International via World Economic Forum
If we want an economy of the 1%, then GDP is very useful. It tells us all we need to know. But if we want an economy that works for us all, we have to pay attention to what it is not telling us.
In the face of a growing inequality crisis, GDP tells us nothing about the distribution of growth. When just 62 people have the same wealth as half the world’s population, where a country like Zambia can grow rapidly in GDP terms and yet can see increased levels of poverty, and where the 1% own more than everyone else combined, growing GDP simply hides the poverty within.
We asked our Readers to share a few words about the meaning of “wealth”. Here are some of their replies:
by John Fullerton
Kosmos Journal, Fall | Winter 2015
“There is nothing more difficult to plan, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system. For the creator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.” – Niccolò Machiavelli
Einstein once said, “It is the theory which decides what we can observe.”
I believe this assertion holds both truth and great wisdom. Its macro importance is trivial when the world operates according to a theory that fits the context of the times. Its importance becomes paramount when the world is running on a theory that no longer fits the realities at hand. NOW is such a time.
By Thomas Cowan, MD, from his new book, Human Heart, Cosmic Heart
“…is money the only measure of what it means to suffer from poverty? And if there is such a strong correlation between poverty and poor health, will it ever really be possible to improve people’s health without taking on industrial capitalism, income inequality, and injustice of every stripe? It seems significant that while poverty has supposedly declined in the United States and worldwide in recent years, the rate of chronic disease has climbed and is expected to continue to do so.”
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