I was in the middle of an Australian speaking tour when Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army invaded Kuwait and sparked the chain of events that has brought us to the brink of war in the Middle East. I stayed up very late one night to hear President Bush speak live to the American people in his first speech after the crisis began.
During the hour before his address, the television station aired a documentary on the environment, specifically the growing dangers to the earth's ecosystem from global warming trends and pollution caused by the industrial world's massive dependence on fossil fuels -- i.e., oil. Then I watched George Bush tell the American people that we must be prepared to go to war to protect the supply of oil. Nothing less was at stake, said the president, than "our way of life."
It was a very vivid and frightening picture I saw, in the middle of the night and halfway around the world, of my own addicted nation -- addicted to a way of life that is slowly killing us. In all the coverage and commentary about this crisis over oil, few have asked the most important question: What does the oil fuel?
What the oil fuels is a global economic system of massive consumption at the top and massive misery at the bottom -- which we now know is doing incalculable damage to the very natural order with which we live. Consuming a grossly disproportionate share of the world's resources, the West suffocates in its own affluence while desperately worrying now about the price we may have to pay to keep the oil flowing.
The world economic order is not only unjust, it is also unstable, as the present crisis graphically demonstrates. The truth is that the West has itself helped to create the situation in which we now find ourselves.