Heated climate debate in Iceland

By Ann Pettifor
May 7, 2009

It has been another roller-coaster week. I am writing this from a volcanic island which is at once the most energy-sustainable place on earth and at the same time, the most financially unsustainable. The place is Iceland and I am here to talk about the financial crisis, the role played by Britain’s economics profession in the crisis and the Green New Deal.

Because of the way that Iceland is positioned on the earth’s tectonic plates, it is prone to earthquakes – but also benefits from enormous quantities of geo-thermal energy. Walking around the streets today, I peered at gardens littered with broken bits of volcanic rock, and asked my hostess how on earth Icelanders managed to grow anything.

"We don’t grow things outside," she said. "We heat greenhouses to grow vegetables and plants - with geo-thermal energy." I have even heard that Icelanders are working on ways of powering their fishing boats using geo-thermal energy.

Cod remains the island’s most important export and right now Icelanders are obliged to get back to fishing, to raise the money to pay their country's foreign debts. Somehow, I doubt if there is enough cod in all the seas of the world to finance the repayment of Iceland’s debts! No matter how you look at it, the depletion of the earth’s resources is closely connected to the exponential build-up of financial debts – and the stripping of the earth’s assets to repay those debts.

It is easy to be discouraged by these thoughts, but this week Graeme Taylor arrived on Operation Noah’s doorstep and cheered us up. He has written a wonderful book called Evolution’s Edge (New Society Publishers, 2008) – which takes a "four quadrant perspective" on climate change. And the most important perspective is faith. Graeme believes itis our beliefs, values and ethics which will drive the transformation of the economy and our ecosystem.

He says: "Our species has reached the edge of destruction because individual interest has been made more important than the collective good, ownership more important than relationship and money more important than morality. In order to avoid personal and collective disaster, we must once again put our common interest at the centre of our lives. This is a time for commitment, courage and sacrifice. Now, more than ever, humanity” – and I would add, the ecosystem – 'needs heroes.'"

Heroes like Noah, who stood out from the crowd and took action. We know there are many heroes out there, so come on, we at Operation Noah need you!

(For more on Graeme Taylor’s work go to his website at www.bestfutures.com ).

(c) Ann Pettifor is a globally-recognised political economist. She is the campaigns director for Operation Noah, www.operationnoah.org. This is the second in a new series of reflective pieces she is writing for Ekklesia in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit in December '09. The first is here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/blog/budget_climate_faith

Learn more about the ARK Campaign and send Gordon Brown an origami ARK at www.operationnoah.org.

Church Action Starter Pack for climate change: http://tinyurl.com/d6zwwu

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