Debt and the Tar Sands

Fort McMurray, Alberta / Photo: Kris Krug

by Charles Eisenstein

The Occupy Movement has been characterized by, and criticized for, its lack of focused objectives. Originally gathering around issues of economic inequality and debt, it soon ballooned to include every progressive issue under the sun, and then some. Yet amid the cacophony of proposals and messages, we could always detect a hint of a unifying theme. We sensed that all of these issues are somehow connected; we sensed that we were protesting something. What was that thing? What is it now? What is it about current actions to, say, stop the excavation of Alberta’s tar sands that makes them Occupy actions? What does ecosystem destruction and climate change have to do with financial inequality?

Just as we suspect, both arise from the same source. Inequality and environmental degradation are written into the rules of our financial system on a level so deep they are nearly invisible. To see how, let us start by asking, Why is it that there is money to be made by excavating the tar sands, but not by protecting the wilderness and the indigenous way of life there? After all, money is a mere social agreement, created by human beings. It is a story – a system of interpretations of symbols that defines value. How have we come to assign value to those activities that are destroying Earth?

The answer has to do with how money is created: as interest-bearing debt. At any moment, because of interest, the amount of money in existence is always less than the amount of debt. The only way to avoid defaults, unemployment and concentration of wealth is for new money to be constantly created through further lending. Lending can only happen and loans can only be repaid when there are profitable investment opportunities: the creation of new goods and services. That is, it can only happen in the presence of economic growth. When the economy stops growing, debt rises faster than income, defaults rise, employment falls, and the concentration of wealth intensifies.

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Sacred Economics – The Short Film

Today I’m excited to release “Sacred Economics” a short film dedicated entirely to the work of Charles Eisenstein and his book of the same name.

After watching the film, head immediately over to listen to a livestream Q&A with myself and Charles.

About the film: Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme – but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.

After first reading Charles Eisenstein’s book in the summer of 2011, which speaks eloquently about the return of the “gift economy”, I felt compelled to gift back. The best way I knew how was to use my filmmaking skills to share Charles’ work, and spread it to communities around the globe.

His vision of “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible” is the salve that so many of us need at this time, in the age of great transition. My hope is this film catalyzes those who work with passion and dedication to live this world right now.

Thanks to Velcrow Ripper and Gregg Hill for their help co-producing the short. Enjoy!

– Ian MacKenzie, Director