I was shocked to learn last night that there are possums in our country facing extinction, I will have more respect for the one who tramps up and down the fence and onto my roof most nights. One in three of Australian mammals face extinction and this is chilling – habitat removal and the effects of climate changing – are the big predators they face.
Turning back the tide, through movements like drawdown and Extinction Rebellion who are determined to create the conditions for environmental, climate, economic and social justice to imagine a way forward. As I wandered home from the Extinction Rebellion night, my memory tumbled back to my teens and the 1970s into apocalyptic forecasts in songs by people like Larry Norman, Barry Maguire’s Eve of Destruction, and books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and teachings of Joanna Macy. And from my own tradition I kept hearing the words immortalised in the music of my teens in Godspell number, Alas for you with the enduring line, I send you prophets, I send you preachers. The song ends with a defining shout worthy of an early punk moment: Blind fools screamed by Jesus. There have been so many prophets and preachers, scientists and environmentalists, and yet we find ourselves on the edge of extinction – what would it take to turn this all around? I am comforted to some extent by the rebels and those taking action around the world. I am encouraged by those educating us like Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins with their podcast Mothers of Invention. Their catch cry is climate change is a man-made problem with feminist solutions. Can’t argue with that!
I have been revisiting old papers I wrote in the 1980s as part of my masters degree after listening to Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. She has re-ignited and reminded me what I was doing thirty plus years ago and how it was totally under-written and came out of my faith perspective, my musical choices and my desire to try and understand how come economics got the biggest slice of the story, when the real issues as I saw them started with us humans and the environment. I was overjoyed to reconnect with Hazel Henderson’s layer cake model, which was my constant companion to understand economics and was pasted up above my working space at home and from time to time made it to places like the fridge. Raworth tells her own love of Henderson’s work in a post last year. I was so over-joyed I went digging through my archives in the shed to find the paper I wrote and later re-worked and published by Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace, Keeping House: An alternative future of ethics and economics. It was a little piece of my masters thesis. The year is 1993! I am shocked and disappointed it has stood the test of time. At a personal level, I am perplexed that I moved away from this work and not really sure why I did, I have my theories about that, but that might be for another post another day when I can let the sparks fly about injustice, women’s work, and what supporting another’s journey.
I am clawing back my history here and discovering just how fortunate I was to be exposed to these ideas back then, and the rich theological thinking that helped me arrive at the thinking at the time. While there is no mention of climate change as a concept, there is plenty in my writings about environmental justice, especially around development and third world issues as we referred to them in those days. There is eco-feminism and the relationship between feminism, a patriarchal view of God and economics that counts what is invisible and not counted … like women’s labour and other species. I even made an argument for a theology big enough to factor in the invisible and discounted having the best chance of saving the planet. The paper was published just after the March 1993 Federal election. I included commentary about the narrowness of the political parties using childcare as their only effort to have a women’s issue in their pitch to voters. I wrote: “Women’s issues are much broader than this one issue and political parties of all persuasions are going to need to come to a better understanding of this for the rest of the decade and for generations to come.”
We are still talking childcare, and while the issues are getting broader it has taken decades. One Prime Ministerial contender offered up his Mum from a past generation as the narrative of how these inequities have to be dealt with in this century. I met with a woman twenty years by junior who is a rising star in her field of international business and start ups this week, I knew her in early twenties and we were talking about ethics, imposter syndrome and gender …. I told her I thought these conversations would have been over by now … a glimpse of optimism in my 34 year old self.
Economics and household come from the same Greek word – oikumene – and households are considered the domain of women, although that was not the case in those ancient times. But now, like in those times the contribution of women (and slaves) was not counted and not valued, just as we don’t count the value of the land as our mother and indigenous relationships and knowledge of the land and waters. Writing this in 1993 and while that this closing paragraph, would need a bit more work to be current and cover off deeper meanings of wealth, it bothers me this still resonates:
The outcome of economic rationalist policies ensure that there are two categories of people – the have’s and the have nots. It works on the principles of exclusivity in decision-making with few people able to participate in the processes for economic and human development. This contrasts with my Christian tradition, where Jesus is a model of inclusivity and where wealth is about human resources and the use of material wealth for the good of the community; where the earth was created from us to care for, not to plunder and rape; where our creative energy are gifts which are at the disposal of one another; and where the spiritual and physical worlds are not separate. We must, I believe, work together to ensure the development of an economics based on values of justice and one which rests firmly in the deep appreciation that we are a part of One household and that we are the housekeepers.
This Mother’s Day lets think of our Mum, our home, our planet and do our bit to clean up the House, because we are running out of time for our combined imagination and skills to be put to work. Sparks will fly.