MONEY doesn't only make the world go round, it also determines where it's going. If it is schools and hospitals we want, it is money that we use to build, equip and staff them; if we are plundering and spoiling our planet - and with it our children's future - it is money that is being earned, spent and invested doing so.
MONEY has been with us since ancient times, but we have not yet learned - nor shown much interest in learning - how to use it responsibly. Instead, it is used as the most versatile form of power in the struggle for survival and advantage in the socio-economic environment.
Historically, those who made the rules (laws) for the use of money, naturally enough, designed them to favour themselves, who were already in possession of virtually all the wealth, which - true to their animal nature - they wanted to retain or, if possible, increase.
We have come some way since medieval kings considered themselves to be the "owners" of their whole kingdoms, but not nearly as far as some like to think: we still accept that just one man or family can "own" virtually limitless amounts wealth - not least because an army of lawyers have made very comfortable niches for themselves rationalising the irrationality and justifying the injustice of it. Just like our socio-economic order at large, modern finance and the rules that govern it are largely rooted in man's "more animal than human " nature, and unfortunately, there is far more money to be made from plundering our planet than there is from saving it.
One of the most fundamental uses of money is in the creation (through investment or speculation) of more money. It is a pillar on which our entire economy rests, it is the "capital" in capitalism. Like most other people, investors are primarily interested in making money - not saving the planet (although they should be, because their children too will suffer and die if we don't). The economy (the household of man) is given priority over ecology (the household of nature) as a result of it having replaced the natural environment as the focus of our primitive behavioural programming, and this is causing us quite literally to plunder our planet - because there is so much money to be made from it. The use of money to make more money (as much as possible) is such an integral part of the system, and appeals so strongly to our animal desire for a free or cheap lunch, that no one who questions it is taken seriously. An army of clever minds, providing for themselves in the socio-economic environment by rationalising and justifying our more animal than human behaviour, sees to that.
The irresponsible (amoral if not immoral) use of MONEY by our "more animal than human " nature is the central cause of non-sustainability.
The responsible (moral) use of MONEY by our more enlightened human nature will be central to us achieving sustainability.
It is not just the rich, banks, big business, or governments which use money irresponsibly. We all do. If not directly, then indirectly, every time we hand over responsibility for its use to others, when we buy products and services without knowing how they were produced or provided, when we save or invest our money, so that it will work for us, without knowing how it will do so.
With every pound, euro or dollar that we earn, spend or invest, directly or indirectly we are contributing to a certain kind of economy, one that is fair, humane and sustainable, or, far more likely at the moment, one that is not.
MONEY is not just important - it is vital, to society as a whole, and to each individual. No one can survive without it. We need it as much as we need air and water. In contrast to air and water, however, it seems that we can never have enough money. This is because money has very special, almost magical, properties. Although worthless in itself, it can be exchanged for almost anything (including air and water). As mentioned above, it can even be used to create more money (if that is not magic, I don't know what is!). We depend on it for our most basic, vital needs, but the same money is also used to satisfy some people's most extravagant, unnecessary and wholly unsustainable wants and whims.
Even after satisfying all our own needs and wants - which may be modest - there are still those of our family and friends, and even strangers, whom it would be nice to help. Then there are all the worthy people and causes one could support, whether for genuinely altruistic reasons, for the sense of power and importance it gives, or for the respect, praise, love, appreciation, etc. that generosity will buy for us.
With MONEY we can satisfy not only our material needs and wants, but also many non-material, psychological and social, ones as well. It largely determines our status amongst family, friends and acquaintances, as well as in society at large. Money may not buy you "real" love, but if you are generous with it, it will buy you something very similar.
MONEY is the most versatile form of POWER. It can be used just as ruthlessly as a fist, a sword or a gun, but with the advantage of legality; more usually it is simply used thoughtlessly or irresponsibly. We don't mean to do any harm with it . . .
Those with little or no money are effectively in bondage to those who have much. A powerful man, whether he is wielding a gun or a cheque book, is intimidating to the powerless.
If we have MONEY enough, it gives us apparent independence from others, since it enables us to take (i.e. buy) what we need or want from them. We can buy other people's time and skills and the fruits of their labour. Slavery was only abolished when the rich and powerful realised that paying someone for their services was not just a more moral way of getting what they wanted, but was also more effective, and freed them from responsibility for their slaves. Many of today's "wage slaves" are probably worse off than some actual slaves were in by-gone times.
Most of us feel and fear our dependency on others (society), and seek security, and "independence " in the power of MONEY. This is the way things are - have always been - and few think to question it; but it has had and continues to have a terribly corrupting effect on human relationships, and now, most threateningly, on our relationship with the natural environment.
A fair, humane and sustainable socio-economic order will have to have radically different values, attitudes, aspirations, morals and laws in respect to the use of money than those we have at the moment, ones rooted in our more enlightened human nature.