Growth Development and Justice Presentation

for Wellington Theological Consortium seminar: Infinite God, Finite Resources, Wellington 6 August, 2011.

My brief is to consider what may be proper economic and social development while distinguishing that from the exploitative underpinning of the doctrine of economic growth.

Development in the social and economic senses has various meanings and various versions (industrial development, institutional development, alternative development, people-centred development, etc). I will look briefly at the concepts and practice of economic and social development and deconstruct it to some extent.

Growth is part of the concept of development and can be a pernicious part of it but the brief of this seminar seems to accept that there can be a healthy growth and development (“within bounds…intrinsic to God’s creation”). I will try to see in what healthy growth consists in light of God’s creation.

In this process of examination and definition I hope some of the contours of justice become clearer – justice among human beings, justice in terms of human relating to the earth and justice towards God (if I can put it like that).

I will use some of the specific questions that were given to presenters (I’m not sure that every-one got these but I found them very useful in writing this paper). I must also warn you that development and growth are vast fields of literature. I am not an economist, my studies have been more in the field of political and social philosophy as well as theology. And I work in the fields of pastoral care and social justice advocacy. I will also draw on my experiences particularly in Latin America.

My assumptions about development
First I will start with the admonition that I don’t believe the economy is something separate from our ordinary lives. I believe we all (or most of us at some stage of our lives) engage in economic activity – bartering, trading, buying, selling, making products for sale or exchange, being paid, etc). “The economy” is an imagined creation, a beast of our own making (abstracted from on the ground activity) which then comes back to influence us. Thus the economy is “growing”, or “shrinking”, or “the deficit” is “out of control”, development needs to be “export-led”, beneficiaries are “a drag on the economy”, etc, etc. Who created this abstraction which has so much influence? Intellectuals, businesspeople, political figures.

The word development needs to be examined for the baggage it carries. This baggage is that of a Western model of development that is the example for all others to follow. While the Western model of economic and social development has very much shaped our present world and has brought many benefits it carries at least as many toxic elements as healthy ones and desperately needs revising. Fortunately the ecological crisis and global warming are forcing a rethink but the inertia of this worldwide model is such that it is difficult to stop. So first, what is development?

I. What is Development?
No-one is quite sure where this idea of growth and development as applied to economic development may have come from except that it is an organic idea from the growth and development of plants and animals. Some have traced the economic concept of growth to the words of an Arab historian and philosopher by the name of Ibn Khaldun who wrote the work Muqaddimah known as Prolegomena in the Western world in 1377 (cf . Dieter Weiss, 1995, Ibn Khaldun on Economic Transformation in International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 27 (1) pp 21-37).

Development is a word meaning growth, an unfolding a “de-veiling”, a revealing of what was already there. Thus the development of a seed, a flower, a person, a theme. In that sense growth is written into the idea of development. Some make a difference between development per se and economic development. They would advocate that development involves both social and economic factors because you can’t separate the social and the economic except intellectually. Their view is that the production or sale of something inevitably involves a social setting (a person doing the producing, where they live, what they wear, how they are nourished, what income they receive, how they came to have the knowledge and skills to produce, etc).

This broad approach then abstracts from the social setting the specifically “economic” factors (the business organization, markets, prices, number of products produced, sold, etc). In economic terms the word development has come to mean the unfolding of the means of production (skills, technologies, knowledge, etc) and usually means a growth in production and consumption of goods, an increase in what is called Gross Domestic Product.

In social terms the word development has also meant the unfolding and complexification of social organization and institutions. If you look at the UN website (and the UN is an organization dedicated to development in the broad sense of the term) their social development themes are the eradication of poverty, productive employment, social integration, crime prevention, drug control, peace and security, human rights, international law, etc. The UNDP website includes fighting poverty, building democratic societies, preventing crises and enabling recovery, protecting the environment, halting AIDs, empowering women and growing national capacity.

I.a. Development and Modernization, Westernization, Industrialization, Progress
The word development has also been tied up with words like modernization, westernization, industrialization and progress. Modernization refers to the complex of economic and social developments that began in Western Europe from the 16th century that included greater individualization, rationalization of production, development of new industries, technologies and social institutions. It means a move from traditional (communitarian, backward, unenlightened) to modern thinking. The theorists of modernization propose that any society can “modernize” if certain paths or stages are followed (cf. Rostow: Stages of economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, 1960). These paths might be economic, institutional, cultural, but basically the path western societies followed.

However, to me, for all the benefits that modernization can bring in terms of technology, health care and standard of living, the theory and practice also carry presuppositions of superiority for the modern society and often ignore the benefits of “traditional” societies and the many, varying historical situations in which people and societies find themselves. So called “traditional” societies are often looked down upon or blamed for not “modernizing”. Modernization is closely related to the idea of westernization (the western way is best and the model for all other societies). Industrialization theory posits industrialization as either a prerequisite or an inevitable result of modernization. The idea of “progress” is closely tied to modernization and industrialization (ie, that by modernizing a society has automatically made progress).

There are many consequences of these theories and presumptions but it’s not necessarily an either/or proposition (traditional or modern, non-industrial or industrial, etc). Many societies blend the two in different ways. Example 1: In the 1990s in Peru there was much anthropological research on the influence of the Andean worldview and social practices on the informal entrepreneurs of the cities. The 1990 elections in (Peru) between the Japanese-descent agronomist Fuji-mori and the upper-class writer Vargas Llosa provided an interesting study of cultural interpretations of the candidates and their policies. There is an element of Andean modernization at work. Example 2: Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso trying to prevent Andean peasants producing for the market – small farmers rejected being kept as peasants.

Summary: The Western development model is a model that has been transported and adopted around the world. While producing many benefits, it has concentrated on exploiting both the human and environmental resources of the planet in such a way that the sustainability of the planet has been endangered. Anthropocentric climate change is one sign of this destructiveness. The polluting and destruction of ecosystems and disappearance of species are other signs. Present and future conflicts/wars are around access to vital resources such as water and arable land. This is the starting point of my paper.

I.b. Resistance to the ravages of development; globalization.
I am taking a position that development, at least economic development as interpreted by western, neo-classical economic theory predicated on an a-historical model of free markets, is injurious to the planet and creates serious social and wealth inequalities. However there have been efforts to mitigate the excesses of this both because too much inequality undermines the model of growth (if most of your population can’t afford to buy your wonderful products then your wealth is not going to grow) as well as for humanist and faith-based reasons.

The power of organized labour (unions) has been key to balancing many of the socially destructive aspects of neo-classical economic practice. Thus laws against sweated labour and child-labour have been passed and pressure for fair wages and conditions maintained. Many of the gains made by labour and by families through this are under threat in the developed world as the world economy is re-made into a single market under the banner of globalization. Workers with better wages and conditions are being pitted against workers where pay and conditions are lower.

Alternative economic theories to the neo-classical model have come forward from the time the in response to the destructive features of 19th century “savage capitalism” and subsequent systemic crises. Marx and Dickens observed the inequalities brought about by that industrial capitalism.

  • NZ’s leadership in terms of the 1890s Liberal governments old-age pension provision and the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act came out of the experience of the long depression of the 1880s and the industrial problems of the time.
  • Democratic socialist proposals (Fabian society) were born in England in the early 20th century and NZ’s 1930s re-distributist Welfare State policies were born in the mines of the West Coast around the 1908 Blackball strike.
  • John Maynard Keynes’ counter-cyclical policies were born out of his observation of the disastrous consequences of the extortionate war reparations imposed on defeated Germany after WWI. They were taken up to counter the 1930s Depression.
  • The UN itself was born out of a desire to spread the benefits of development around the world. The bulk of UN work is aimed at social development to balance the destructive excesses of purely economic development.

Rearrangements of the workplace (cooperatives, eg, Robert Owen, Mondragon; triple bottom line, etc) and of the whole economy (Participatory Economics – Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel) are other avenues for doing things differently. These have often been pejoratively labeled communism and until relatively recently the ecological dimensions have not been foremost but looking at them over the long term they seem salutary if not complete responses given the current economic and ecological crises. If all development involves the environment and has planetary ramifications then at the very least sustainable if not deep Green development models are necessary.

Is there any such thing as good growth/development?
Growth is an essential part of the idea of development. It is understood that without development and growth there is not wealth production nor a better life for more people. Consequently if there is a diminishment of GDP then that is treated as a tragedy. Having said that there is also a tradition of concern about the limits to growth. Thomas Malthus in 1798 is perhaps the most known questioner of the growth model but Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, J.M. Keynes and E.F. Schumacher (Buddhist Economics in Small is Beautiful, 1973) are also in that mould.

There are several assumptions behind the development/growth paradigm.

  • One is about the nature of wealth which is seen primarily as access to and enjoyment of material goods. Modern development has produced much of benefit in terms of easing of hard labour, communications, etc. However development does not guarantee such benefits are equally shared or that everyone has equal access. Trickle down can be very slow.
  • Another assumption is that ‘the economy’ and ‘the environment’ are things separate from ourselves as humans. Both these things are constructs that affect us but at a distance from us personally. However we all participate in economic activity of some sort, either as makers, traders or consumers of goods and knowledge. We are all part of the natural world as breathers, excreters, users of resources for clothes, housing, travel, work. In creating constructs to stand back and look at aspects of our world we can forget we are also part of them.
  • Another assumption is that resources are not finite, or, if they are, human ingenuity will compensate and provide new ways out. However recent work on the planet’s biophysical limits (cf: VUW’s Institute of Policy Studies and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Re-search 2011 symposium on Biophysical Limits and Their Policy Implications, papers of Dr Daniel Rutledge on Global Biophysical Limits and of Dr Graham Turner on Revisiting the Limits to Growth) point to an environmental and economic collapse within 20 years (Turner).

There has been a movement in recent years to reduce consumption and live more sustainably – some of the movement comes from grassroots ecological, humanist or religious groups, others come from national political green movements and international Kyoto protocols. These may be more or less successful, gradualist or revolutionary. These are mostly movements within the developed world where there are high levels of consumption even if production has been shifted to the ‘developing world’. It could well be argued that it is precisely in high consumption areas that produce a large carbon footprint that reductions are most necessary while it is in the low-consumption areas that there needs to be some expansion of GDP for a more human life.

However to return to the growth-limitation proposals there are various strands:

  1. The steady-state economy. A well-known proponent of this has been Herman Daly and CASSE (Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy). The proposal is that economic activity should only be at (or preferably less than) the carrying capacity of the earth. This means a stabilizing of population and consumption and that both production and waste be at levels not greater than the planet can sustain, assimilate or regenerate. To reach this level there may need to be a period of de-growth (economic shrink-age). Although concentrating on what might be called physical limits (natural re-sources, human populations and stocks of human-produced capital) the model aims at both human and planetary well-being. It is a model in tune with how humans have operated in the world for the majority of their existence.
  2. The work of Dr Graham Turner (mentioned above) has included an examination of whether technological change or solutions will be sufficient to compensate. He has found that in fact technological solutions may actually encourage industrial growth and consumption thereby exhausting resources and producing more pollution. His conclusion is that technological change is not sufficient unless there is a complete lifestyle change away from consumption. There needs to be a 50% reduction in personal consumption by 2040, a 3-day working week, conversion to renewable energy sources and the stabilized population growth. His pessimistic (realistic?) opinion was that the human family would not manage it.
  3. Sustainable development proposes extraction and use of resources no faster than they can re-generate and deposit waste no faster than it can be assimilated. In this it is similar to the steady-state proposal although it does not push the need to reduce growth but more to manage it better. There is often an emphasis on operating in such a way as to ensure the next generation can also access resources.
  4. Green development prioritizes environmental sustainability over economic and cultural considerations. It is more intent on the need to restrict or diminish growth as the only realistic way to conserve the planet.

Conclusion: If a sustainable approach is the minimum required I would suggest we are not even managing that. Of course that depends on what the “carrying capacity” of our earthship is. If Dr Turner is correct in terms of what is required to maintain the planet there are many challenges, not least of which is the personal change and sacrifice required.

Such change also requires a concentrated and concerted political and social effort in which the burdens be fairly shared. If growth is to be reduced where that does leave people who are impoverished and hoping for a better life? How does that apply to “developing” countries that are seeking more to join those more economically powerful (eg, China)? Will those on the outer at the moment be condemned to remain so? How do you “stabilize” population growth in ways that respect freedom?

III.a. Justice: What is justice and what is justice in this situation?
Justice has had many definitions down through the centuries from Homeric times when justice referred simply to personal vengeance, to the idea that justice is the will of the stronger party or that justice is an attribute of God of which human justice is but a shadowy approximation. Some say it is a daughter of the law, others that it has nothing to do with the law. Others hold that justice is the tolerable accommodating of the conflicting interests in society. Whatever the truths or otherwise to be found in these definitions defining justice can be a complicated task, especially given that the word can be applied to decisions, people, laws, procedures, actions and events.

A simple definition of justice is to give each person their due. The classic statue of justice is the blind maiden holding the scales. She is weighing up cases. This is a key to the process of establishing what is just. The competing claims need to be weighed up. While there have been many movements down through the centuries reclaiming justice in various cases and in various ways in recent times the debate over what is just and how to define justice has received great attention.

In 1971 John Rawls published A Theory of Justice. It sought to define justice in liberal societies through a transcendental, analytical, social-contract model. It proposed a way for debate at the beginning of a time of renewed emphasis on classic economic liberalism. Others picked up the baton (eg, Michael Sandel, Harvard). More recently Amartya Sen’s The Idea of Justice proposes another model which is less transcendental, more comparative and practical. It is based both on his social-choice model of development and on Indian philosophy. His idea is not that the absolutely just must be achieved but that a more just situation of greater freedom and greater exercise of capacities may be reached, giving practical answer to the question.

That debate continues. I have brought in Sen for a couple of reasons. He is an economist as well as a philosopher and his thinking on development has had an enormous influence on the UN and on the UNDP index, a major tool for evaluating and comparing social and economic development across the world.

Within the world of ethical/moral theories it might be useful to know there are three major schools:

  1. Duty/Law/Deontology (Mystical). This is command(ment) based.
  2. Teleology or Goal-oriented: a)Thomistic b)Utilitarian
  3. Relationship/Responsibility (Norms + relationship + responsibility)

My own approach takes in bits of all 3 models but perhaps is more weighted to the third school.

III.b. Christian approach
For myself and for the Christian community a key part of weighing up what is just concerns the biblical witness, especially as shown/revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. My own Catholic tradition talks of what human reason can discover through reflection on the created world (natural law model). Some of its theological reflection has influenced modern international law (eg the debates at the Spanish court over how the indigenous people of the Caribbean and Latin America were to be treated).

At the risk of summarizing too hastily I see the biblical witness as defining human beings as being made in the image and likeness of God, that there is one human family, that the earth and cosmos is good, that God has a preference for the poor and vulnerable, and that full human flourishing comes when everyone is part of what Jesus called the kingdom of heaven (reign of God), something that begins on earth. In modern times these things have been formally recodified in what is known as Catholic Social Teaching. That’s a particular body of teaching with various principles and ways of seeing society and the world. A particular principle that is coming more to the fore is that of the Common Good and the place of care of the earth in that is becoming more central. I’ll come back to that later.

If I might take up that tradition of reasoning for a moment justice was one of the 4 moral virtues. First there were the infused theological virtues that connected you to God: Faith, Hope and Charity, and then came the moral virtues that enabled you to operate in an ethically good way among human beings and in the world: prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice.

Within justice there were different types of the practical doing of justice: distributive, commutative and more recently social justice. Distributive justice is the fair distribution of the goods and the burdens of this world. Commutative justice is more about fairness of in transactions, promises and agreements. The growing awareness of social institutions and processes brought about the concept of social justice – the responsibility of participating in achieving a fair and just society through the institutions of society. It includes equality, solidarity and human rights. The situation of the planet has brought into being the field of environmental justice (fair treatment of the planet, of the environment).

III.c. What is justice in the field of growth and development?
Traditionally from the Catholic Social Teaching perspective the concern has been for fair dist-ribution of what has been produced. Thus support for just wage (to support families, enable them to live in dignity), workers’ organizations (unions), fair international trade (Populorum Progressio, 1967; Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 1987), agriculture and land distribution, control of financial speculation. Latterly CST has reflected on the nature of companies, the place of profit and non-profit corporations, and markets (Caritas in Veritate, 2009). This has been part of the development of social justice – fair relations between peoples.

IV. Particular questions (from the seminar brief):
IV.a. What room is there for justice in the realm of economics?

There is always an ethical stance written into economics, just as there is into sociology, law, philosophy, etc. Even if economics is defined as a purely technical science of measurement (a difficult position to sustain I suggest) then that is an ethical position. In terms of its measuring and forecasting economics has to take into account human choices and behaviour.

The classical economic model is based on an assumed homo economicus (a calculating, self-interested individual making choices based on the marginal utility of objects). This figure is a fiction but it presumes self-interest and profit-maximization as the basis of human activity. There may be much evidence for this but the assumption that human beings decide on the basis of self-interest has yet to be absolutely proved. Any parent who goes without sleep caring for a baby would be highly insulted at the suggestion that they are only doing it out of self-interest.

If economics is to do with human behaviour and human choices then research will easily show that people start off from different social positions. This inevitably raises questions about how and who has access to a range of goods. Academic economics may not be able to achieve justice but it can show up inequalities and help point out where greater equity may be achieved.

It must also be remembered that economics grew out of moral philosophy, the study of ethics and right behaviour. Adam Smith – the great icon of early economics and writer of the Wealth of Nations was a moral philosopher and his earlier work, A Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), reflecting this. I consider a basis for morality has to be broader than sentiments but that does not negate the origins of his work.

In recent times the great influence in liberal thinking has been Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971) which brought the topic to the fore again in (neo)-liberal times. However Amartya Sen challenged Rawls with his own book on The Idea of Justice (2009). Both come out of a philosophy of the human person and of society (ie, a moral/ethical position on how to achieve the good).

These positions influence what we measure and what we value? How should we measure economic activity? GDP, productivity per capita, per-capita income have been the ways of evaluating economic activity in classical economic thought. The inadequacies of these measures have been pointed out by people such as Marilyn Waring (Counting for Nothing, 1989), the fact that aver-ages often hide inequalities, that sometimes negative activity can be registered as positively growing GDP, and of course often the costs of economic activity are omitted, especially with regard to environmental damage.

Alternative measures are not just the Happiness indexes or the Triple Bottom Line movements but those such as Sen’s development of human capacities that are not just about negative freedoms but look at development as producing positive freedoms.

IV.b. Can we move from growth to sustainability? How?

We have to move from growth to at least sustainability (understood as just mining the earth more slowly) if we are to leave a planet fit for life to the next generations. This will involve (cf previous seminar) less consumption, sustainable technologies, a cultural change and a new spirituality. There are models in terms of the steady state economy proposed by Edward Herman (growth only to the level of population expansion).

The new/old spirituality will have to be one that links us more explicitly to the natural world, that emphasizes human smallness and the need to live in harmony not just with one another but with the planet. Most indigenous spiritualities make this link naturally (cf. Maori link with maunga, awa, whenua, etc). We do not all cannot all become Maori but we must re-examine our traditions and renew our traditions in this matter. Some Christians are looking at this via the works of geologian Thomas Berry et al).

IV.c. How might we go about population control in ways which respect life and freedom?

Some say the world’s population is too much already and that we need to have much less population than now. Sometimes this question has racist overtones: there are too many of “those” sorts of people. Some of the roots of the population control movement go back to eugenicist proposals – limiting the stock of “undesirable” people in the world and I think this is a tack to be definitely avoided, given its growth in terms of Nazi ideology.

If we look at who is damaging the world most, producing most pollutants, it’s probably the rich world. The poor tend to be more frugal and recycle much more fiercely and leave a smaller carbon footprint. However leaving aside that if the world did have to reduce its population can this be done in ways which respect life and freedom? Perhaps education is the way, especially the education of girls? This has been shown to be a way of both improving family and child health but also reducing the size of families. The girls/women have more access to other world views and possibilities. It also involves resolving issues that would demand large families (eg high infant mortality rates). The difficulty with some population control campaigns is that they promote the idea that with fewer children you can consume more (ie, higher carbon footprint).

Coercion is inimical to human rights and often the burden falls on women (India, Peru, China). The problem with the raising of education levels is that it may also bring greater consumption. This is where the question of worldview and spirituality comes in.

IV.d. What is the nature of and origin of the right to private property and is that right absolute?

From my background I make reference to Catholic Social Teaching on this matter (despite some Catholics who say the right to private property is absolute) and will answer the second part of the question first. No, the right to private property is not absolute. In the face of another’s need such property and such a right is always a limited right. Therefore another’s hunger supersedes my right to possess a loaf of bread. This is also the basis of the right of a state to nationalize some private property for the greater good of a people (although whether there is also a responsibility to compensate the previous “owner”) will depend on many factors).

The question of whether there is a right to private property in the first place and the origin of such a right is more difficult. CST accepts that there is a right for the good of the family and of society. However the original envisioning of what constituted private property I think was that a person (head of a family) would have enough to shelter and support himself and his family. This may involve a house and some land. The Distributist vision was part of this idea. Private property in the sense of major companies and huge wealth accumulation in the modern industrial sense was not envisioned. The other question is the ownership of shares in companies which to some extent constitutes an ownership although the degree of ownership varies with the size of the shareholding. Times have changed but the basic principle of any right to private property being a limited and provisional right stands in CST.

Some would say private property originated in human beings with beginnings of agriculture and questions of land. The desire to control resources for oneself and one’s family meant that the “primitive communism” of the roving hunter-gatherer bands dissolved and pieces of suitable land and wives to ensure progeny grew. Whether that’s true I leave to better anthropologists and historians than I. Later theology deduced a right from the human need to support oneself and one’s family. This need produced a right and also a responsibility – to use one’s property in service of the Common Good and if someone was in need there was a social mortgage on that property. That worked on both a personal and a social/political level, so for the greater good private property could be socialized/nationalized.

V. My proposal for justice in this context: Kinship with creation.

We live in the context of Pluralist society: Socio-economic differences; ethnic diversity; globalized economy. But we also share a common humanity and a common planet. In this view, even if for self-interest, it is in our common interest to care for what God has given us: one another and this amazing earth.

And amazement is the first step towards a true care for the earth: a radical amazement at the wonder, beauty and complexity of the earth, the cosmos and the mystery and complexity of the physical and spiritual dimensions of the human being. (Psalm 135). Without this appreciation and frequent opportunities and reminders of it then we don’t have the experience to build good practice and good laws on.

So whose responsibility is it to ensure an appropriate care of human beings (social justice and an appropriate care of the earth)? I believe all are responsible but in different ways (ie, differing responsibilities). Each of us is responsible to do what we can in our homes, communities and work-places. Governments have a primary responsibility as states are the main means of exercising power and responsible authority. Therefore government and international bodies have a crucial role, especially as pollution and environmental damage do not respect national frontiers.

So there is a responsibility to act justly towards the earth and one another. Creation is the first book that God gives us to read. Creation is the first incarnation of God. And if the biblical text is true, that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God then we have to discover what that God is like. And the image of God is not just in rational, tool-making, spiritual abilities of humans but also in the atoms, genes, chromosomes of the human body, much of which we share with other animals and plants. They also are our kith and kin.

In the Christian understanding God is also a God of Love. It that is true to live in God’s image is to love. That is what we are made for (teleology). If so then it is our duty (deontology) also to love the earth and the human beings that God has placed us among. Justice is a particular minimum way in which we live out that love. That means acting justly towards the earth, other human beings and honouring the Wairua Tapu (Holy Spirit) that is in them all.

The point about our kinship with other parts of creation is important. It reminds us we are part of this creation not apart from it or above it. On this basis there is no conflict (in theory) between justice towards creation and justice towards the earth. Rather to care for the earth and its people flows from our relationships. And I think it is on the basis of a renewed spirituality as well as the necessary socio-political actions and technological change that there can be some hope.


  • Consumption patterns need to be reduced
  • There must be a massive shift to renewable and non-nuclear energy sources
  • There must be a massive shift of resources towards those in need
  • There needs to be a move towards a non-growth development model (steady-state approach)
  • And the onus is going to be on wealthy to change

then we need a different spirituality or ethos for this. Here we can learn both from the scientific world (which can open to us the wonder of the creation and our planet) and from the indigenous peoples of this world (eg Maori). The world’s indigenous peoples carry a pre-industrial spirituality often linked to the natural rhythms of the planet and the cosmos. We can learn from that.

A traditional Maori introduction is to speak of one’s mountain, river, land and people (ancestors) before one gives one’s individual name. The sense is that all these people and elements are part of the person. The mountain, the river, the tupuna live in that person still and are part of that person. To me this is a chronologically, biblically and scientifically correct approach. Chronologically all these things and people come before me. Biblically, since we are made from the dust of the earth, it is correct also. Scientifically we can identify the earth’s elements in us, genes shared with plants and animals and ancestors.

We are part of a network of relationships. We are kin with one another and the earth. When we really realize this then caring for the earth and one another is just being part of the extended family. That understanding of kinship might be a source of hope for us all.