Of course, you might think I'm talking about Notre Dame. Truly, when a thousand year old structure is destroyed by fire, its a loss for humanity. But of course, we're destroying Nature's cathedrals daily, and it motivates little real change. Not that Notre Dame hasn't really inspired much action. Just mourning. Billionaires get way too much press for donating hundreds of millions of dollars, which of course is little money to them. If Jeff Bezos (who is a fine example, but all billionaires are at fault) would give $151 million of his $151 billion, that'd be 0.1% of his wealth. Since I make 18,000 a year for my labor at Penn State (yes, you're paying a lot for college; but its not going to those of us teaching the bulk of the courses to you ... 1K/credit here and no healthcare), it'd be the same as if I'd give $18. Not a real laudable feat for me. CNN and MSNBC wouldn't run segments on my $18 generosity. Not worth bringing up at all, except that for billionaires, giving such a pittance, 0.1%, from their theft (theft from their underpaid workers who do everything to make that wealth) gets them a ton of good press. But its not laudable at all. Since no human can earn or be worth billions of dollars, anybody who has billions is a thief. Pure and simple. This isn't a communist statement: one might be able to work hard and earn millions, but not billions. The quantitative difference is just too great.
One of my favorite Paul Winter Consort songs is Song for the Earth:
The sea is where all life begins
The ocean is our origin
If she dies, nothing survives,
No nothing can, nothing can
And who will look with awe upon the monuments of man?
I actually like the gender-neutral lyrics written later by the song's author, Jim Scott (here's a nice acoustic version of that song). This song makes an excellent centerpiece to an elementary general music or choir concert. I don't share this song because Notre Dame shouldn't be rebuilt. It is after all, one of the great "monuments of humankind." But we are destroying the sea, God's monument "where all life begins." The UN produced an insightful video, "Plastic Ocean." Plastic is "coating our oceans like a disease." Consider the plastic Bezos puts into the environment alone! While he doesn't work to earn any of the wealth from Amazon (he "hires" workers, forklift drivers, managers, accountants, etc.), he is responsible entirely for Amazon's pollution impact. Worker co-ops are never so polluting. You can read about the impact of Bezos here, and about the environmental cost of moving from cardboard to plastic containers here.
The earth is the cathedral we destroy every day, not only by allowing vampire-billionaires to exist, but by allowing them to set the norms for consumption. In my book I bring up the fact that Amish communities decide on purchases communally. (I read about this in one of Michael Pollan's books). If a community decides that a technological device is good for the community, they make it available for purchase. If we followed this wisdom, any given community doesn't have to make anything like the same choices any given Amish community has made. I truly respect this way of choosing technology. Purchases don't become about what devious billionaires can trick people (especially children) into "wanting" (the advertising and manufacturing of false needs); but what everybody in a community thinks is best. Together. A community could choose to be highly technologically advanced, and still make choices in a more ethical way that will help us to repair our shared cathedral, the earth.