Tag Archives: Respect for the earth

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: The parable of the Good Samaritan

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Most readers are probably familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. In the parable a man asks Jesus “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus by way of illustration tells the story of a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho who is set upon by robbers who leave him by the roadside cut, bloodied and half dead. Two people who see him, one of whom is a priest, pass him by without stopping. A Samaritan who was passing tends to the injured man, transports him on his animal to an inn and pays for his keep until he is restored to health.

At this time most Jews hated Samaritans so the last person Jesus’s audience would have thought would help the injured man, who was a Jew, was a Samaritan. The point that Jesus made was that everyone is our neighbour even those we might think of as the other and are hostile to the community one identifies with.

The concept of the Good Samaritan has a cosmic dimension. As the Good Samaritan helped heal a stranger, who is dubbed by Jesus as a neighbour, we should be a good Samaritan to the Earth inclusive of its bodies of water, the soil in fields and gardens, habitat and all forms of life bar the viruses, bacteria and parasites that are known to harm us.

One of the traits of the Good Samaritan is that he was selfless, he acted out of compassion without any thought of personal gain. This is what we need to keep in mind when corporations and financial institutions announce that they are committed to reducing their level of global warming emissions and be carbon neutral by 2050. Are corporations Good Samaritans, working selflessly to restore the ailing Earth to good health, or are they interested in financial gain?

The evidence in the financial sections of the press and audio media suggest that the mission of large corporations to become ‘green’ is based not on a love of the natural world but on a desire to make money. Governments are duplicitous in that they vocalise what they think the electorate want to hear, which is that they are taking action to reduce the emission of global warming gasses and the loss of biodiversity whilst whole-heartily supporting the extraction of the very fuels whose use increases global warming and the loss of biodiversity..

The conundrum that society finds itself in is that obtaining and processing the enormous amount of minerals necessary to produce, distribute and store renewable energy will make much of the Earth uninhabitable as well as cause great harm to the Indigenous communities in which large quantities of these minerals are located.

Institutions that advocate renewable energy without at the same time working to change some of the fundamentals of how we live such as our high level of consumption of meat and dairy, reliance on private rather than public transport, fast fashion in clothes and many other things besides, are doing what a U.S. Major told the journalist Peter Arnette after the 1968 Battle of Ben Tre, Vietnam, that “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

In other words, the approach the powerful institutions take, who incidentally construct the parameters in which we make our personal commercial choices, is so counter to serving the common good that it might be considered insane in the sense of destroying something in the belief that in doing so it will be saved. Unlike the restoration of Notre-Dame Cathedral after in went up in flames in April 2019 some eco-systems once destroyed cannot be restored and species driven to extinction are gone forever.

What is rarely mentioned by the organisations who blow the trumpet for electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels is the enormous amount of minerals that go into their manufacture and the infrastructure that sustain them. Once mined, at the cost of immense ecological devastation, and in many cases the abuse of human rights as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the minerals have to be refined, which involves the use of large quantities of toxic chemicals, eye-watering amounts of water and fossil fuel generated energy.

The report Minerals for Climate Action, 2019, by the World Bank Group, informs us that the zero emissions economy, if realised, will increase electricity demand from 28,000 Twh in 2022 to over 100,000 Twh by 2050. A Twh is a unit of energy representing one trillion-watt hours. This means that an estimated 3 billion tons of minerals will be needed up until 2050 which is more than has been extracted from the Earth in the entire span of human existence.

A zero-emissions economy that leaves the structures that underpin gross economic inequality in place, an agricultural system that is responsible for one-third of global warming emissions, and leaving indulgent consumerism unaltered, will not, as a Good Samaritan would want, restore the Earth to good health. This in spite of the case that a global economy based on renewable energy would, once established, emit less global warming gases than one based on fossil fuels.

A question we should ask is would we want to live in a world with even scarcer flora, fauna, fungi and bodies of fresh water than presently exist? Aside from the joy and wonder they provide, a severely contracted biodiversity could lead to the collapse of the global ecosystem resulting in our extinction.

What might bring about the outcome a Good Samaritan would want for the injured Earth and its suffering people is a new, or perhaps rediscovered, mega-narrative in which the right to a life of well-being includes all beings, not simply human beings. This is in contrast to the story we tell ourselves about our place in the world which in general is that the Earth is a warehouse full of insentient resources which we are entitled to consume without regard for the needs of subsequent generations and the welfare and survival of our nonhuman neighbours.

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