What is preventing the Indians from growing globally

Grow differently

Live differently instead of growth without limits - Sermon on Genesis 11, 1 - 15…. To the Tower of Babel

The pastors of our church district meet quarterly in Grimma to discuss official issues. A few weeks ago, however, the superintendent invited to a special place on a special topic. We met in Colditz with the managing director of the food company Anona, Mr. Eismann, to talk to each other about modern management philosophy and management responsibility. There was a tour of the company and a good conversation with a lot of mutual impulses. According to its own website, Anona GmbH is Europe's leading manufacturer of powder products, capsules, tablets, bars and nutritional supplements in the field of sports nutrition. The decisive factor in a heated discussion, however, was not the laboratory-designed food, which Anona synthetically produces from over 1000 supplied raw materials and artificially produced vitamins according to customer requirements. The decisive factor was the business-political belief of the managing director that only the constant expansion of the entrepreneur and a permanent increase in market shares and sales volumes can ensure the survival of the company and thus the continued existence of our society. "We have to know today what will be eaten tomorrow in order to be able to react accordingly to the market," he said. This includes constant change and expansion of production. That is why new production halls are currently being built in Colditz because the old ones are no longer sufficient. In order to pay for the construction of the halls, loans must be taken out. In order to repay that, the company has to earn more. To this end, more and more raw materials are needed that do not grow back to the same extent as they are consumed. The gap between the natural resources of our earth and what we actually use is therefore getting bigger and bigger, because our natural resources and resources are finite, but our needs are getting bigger and bigger. This connection is clear to the managing director, Mr. Eismann. At the moment, however, he does not see a way out of this precarious situation. He is responsible for the continued existence of his company, for over 300 jobs; he feels the burden of the loans to be repaid. But when people's thinking changes, he admits, the world changes and with it the general conditions for his company. Then the production structure of his company will also change. At the moment, however, he sees no alternative to growth and improvement. And with it he expresses what our society, what we have all internalized: Everything has to go higher, faster, further, because standing still means death, means downfall. There is talk of “zero growth” as the specter of every politician. In this socially unifying belief in the principle of increase, I discover one of the main parallels to the ancient story of the Tower of Babel, which we heard earlier as a reading. Back then, too, it was about total dissolution of boundaries. An increase towards the infinite, what the sky stands for. Man had lost the standard for what is human and what is natural. All resources of natural resources and people, of knowledge, progress and innovation were brought together globally in order to implement a megalomaniac and ultimately self-destructive project. In the history of the Bible, God intervenes by scattering humanity so that people in many places live together in small communities according to a human and natural proportion. With this, God saved the world from self-destruction, so the old Bible story tells. The modern Tower of Babel today consists in turn of the idea of ​​constant growth, which has long been globalized. We have known for a long time that unlimited growth is a myth. After all, the think tank Club of Rome showed in its 1972 study of the limits to growth that the world was heading for an abyss. After that, many thought that problems such as environmental degradation, climate change and scarcity of resources could be solved by new technologies. But the belief in “green” growth is a great self-deception. A kind of surrogate religion that keeps us from doing the right thing to this day!

But how could it be otherwise? It's hard to imagine. Our life, work and thinking are so strongly shaped by the growth ideology that it seems almost impossible to take a different perspective. Because the industrial division of labor and the market economy form the foundation of our society. Production processes are broken down into as many isolated sub-processes as possible. Each market player can concentrate on his strengths. Overall, more can be produced than without specialization. So far so good. But the devil is in “always more”. If the specialization advantages within a region have been exhausted, new markets must be found and new raw material sources developed. The spatial and temporal delimitation of the interdependencies and trade relationships based on the division of labor occurs - a screw that keeps turning upwards. We as consumers are part of this system. We have got used to it and cannot imagine any other way.

The Oldenburg economics professor Nico Paech speaks in his book "Liberation from Abundance - On the Way to the Post-Growth Economy" of the progress in convenience that has left unmistakable traces in our professional and private everyday life. Lack of exercise, obesity, dwindling physical resilience and, above all, a stunted craftsmanship. Many people today no longer see themselves in a position to do grocery shopping without a car, to sweep a sidewalk, to write letters by hand, to carry out simple repairs or to share everyday objects with neighbors - what for? Comfortable technologies, services and enough money for the permanent purchase of new goods are taken for granted. Replacing one's own physical work with machine work or non-stop services that are ready to call up forms a core part of contemporary understanding of progress. Accordingly, it is important to free yourself from everything that could be time-consuming, strenuous, painful or unhygienic. With the constant shifting of the limits of reasonableness, a monstrous delegation machine is set in motion. However, the laws of physics cannot be overridden even in such a “comfort democracy”. In other words, the dirty work has to be passed on to someone or something. The possibilities opened up for this purpose are literally limitless. So-called “sweat shops” in Asia, Latin America and Africa have become a symbol of the global shift in the “dirty” part of the manufacturing chain. However, technical progress and global supply chains do not solve scarcity problems with regard to raw materials that are becoming rarer. Current shortages are only being displaced in time by intensified looting of the earth.

On the other hand, global supply chains that transcend space are emerging like the invisible tentacles of our northern model of prosperity. This gives direct access to coltan in the Congo, coal in Colombia (eight million tons were delivered to Germany in 2010 alone), natural gas in Siberia, crude oil under the melting polar ice caps, fruit from New Zealand, lithium from Bolivia (batteries for Electric vehicles), the jungle of the Amazon basin (clearing in order to be able to grow soy for fattening European livestock) or Indonesia (palm oil for the chemical industry and for the production of biofuels). The currently increasing land grab does not require any force of arms, the everyday madness of increasing consumption and mobility demands is completely sufficient. An interesting situation arose in Lower Saxony at the beginning of 2012: For the first time, the land in this state is no longer sufficient to meet its own demand for grain. The reason? More and more farmers have switched their previous grain production to energy maize, because this generates higher returns thanks to the EEG feed-in tariff. Where will the missing grain come from?

We finally have to clear our life and slow it down! Save, reduce, shrink, in short: live more modestly. This is the core of what Noco Paech calls the "post-growth economy". The economics professor has scientifically justified why it is high time for an economy without growth. He himself exemplifies what the “art of reduction” looks like in detail: The economist has no car, does not get on a plane and wears a jacket from 1987 when giving lectures. “Prosperity baggage” such as microwaves, MP3 players and digital cameras come along Sustainability researchers certainly do not come into the house. Despite everything, Nico Paech is not a joyless ascetic. He himself does not see his lifestyle as a sacrifice: “You are not rich if you have a lot. Those who need little are rich, ”he says. He needs two things above all to be happy. Books and music. Paech loves jazz, plays the saxophone. He enjoys going to concerts and spending long evenings with friends in the pub. Economy beyond growth does not just mean fighting for less consumption. He is also interested in using things for longer, sharing them, repairing them or, in the best case, making them himself. So it is only logical when the economics professor bakes bread in his spare time, gives tuition to children, swaps tools with neighbors in order to tinker with old bicycles.

Most people lack time and money in their search for happiness. He therefore suggests reducing the average working time to twenty hours per week: “Then people will have less money and more time.” Time also to be able to enjoy life and thus to perceive and enjoy the experiences, the moment, the things that God gives us every day as gifts of life. This includes the people with whom we are connected as well as nature, the animals and plants, the abundant harvest with fruits from the field, garden and forest. I believe it is up to each and every one of us to decide what internal program I use to view the world. I myself decide whether I let my life be determined by the thought field of “higher, faster, further” or whether I start more and more to decide for myself what I really need for a good life, what is meaningful and good for a human one Together, the preservation of our living space on this earth, a measured, human and nature-loving life for me.

With the story of the Tower of Babel, the Bible reminds us of where excess and dissolution of boundaries lead to. We ourselves have the freedom to choose how we want to live. When our consciousness changes, the world changes - and with it the framework conditions for the food producer Anona. Change, keep moving was one of the manager's maxims. The company will continue to exist without increasing sales figures. Perhaps the product range will shrink, the transport routes will be shortened, the employees earn a little less. In return, they will have more time for other things in their life, for their families, for friends, for hobbies. You will come to work less stressed and rested, household appliances will last longer and the consumption of raw materials and energy will decrease. Such a life will be a matter of course for our children and grandchildren. God's blessings be on us.

Your pastor
Henning Olschowsky