By Sister Denise Sausville
Many in the global North live in a trance from which we do not see the day-to-day costs of our lifestyles or the tragedy of our belief in the myth of unlimited growth.
The Prophetic Voice Commission of the Sisters of Mercy of the Caribbean, Central America and South America (CCASA) aims to wake us up with a series of three educational workshops on extractivism, gender violence and defense of territory. These topics are specifically related to the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Recommitment Statement, Called to New Consciousness. Here, we sisters committed ourselves to address ecological conversion, institutional racism, oppressive social norms and systems, extractivism, and issues around gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Prophetic Voice Commission took this charge seriously and did their own analysis on these issues. They have structured the three educational sessions in such a way as to expose the root causes of the various issues by looking at them through the experience of the poor.
The first session was on the topic of extractivism—the extraction from the Earth of resources such as oil and gas, minerals, lumber, water, fish, etc. If unregulated, these industries cause irreversible harm to the Earth and to human communities. In this first session, through a video with testimonies and through analysis, the theme of liberal capitalism was explored as the primary driver of the extractive movement. Liberal capitalism is a doctrine or ideology that promotes free, unregulated, markets. In this schema, corporations—often with the collusion of governments—are able to over-reach the rights of local people and of the Earth.
Liberal capitalism continues unbridled because it is supported by colonialism, racism, patriarchy and anthropocentrism, or placing primacy on human beings over all other living creatures. These four phenomena, as defined in the session, are the pillars that support liberal capitalism. For many in the United States, consciously or unconsciously, liberal capitalism and its four pillars are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, as much a part of them as the air we breathe.
I found this analysis important though not totally new. I have previously participated in webinars presented by a new movement led by indigenous peoples of the North, known as Build Back Fossil Free, in which they highlighted colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy and eco-fascism as major factors undergirding aggressive extractive measures employed around the globe. I could not help but see similarities in the perspectives of both the Prophetic Voice Commission and the Build Back Fossil Free movement.
We in the North need to explore in greater depth the root causes that support extractivism, including colonialism, about which I believe we are especially naïve. We fail to realize that, rather than being a relic of the past, it is still very much with us; it exists not just in lands that continue to be confiscated from indigenous peoples, but in the corporate and state hegemony we continue to see around the world.
I applaud the call of the Chapter 2017 Recommitment Statement and the efforts of the Prophetic Voice Commission to educate the community on the issue of extractivism, an issue that touches every area of our lives in the North, from the cell phones that are always in our pockets to the electric lights that brighten our homes to something as seemingly simple as a glass of clean drinking water.