The scriptures for the third Sunday in Advent -- Gaudete Sunday -- call us to action – to be a voice in the wilderness, a light, and to bring the good news to the oppressed and poor in our world. In his May 2014 address to United Nations officials in Rome, Pope Francis urged the UN to promote development goals that attack the root causes of poverty and hunger, protect the environment and ensure dignified labor for all. He said that this involves challenging all forms of injustices and resisting the economy of exclusion, the throwaway culture and the culture of death which nowadays sadly risk becoming passively accepted.
The traditional form of measuring development and progress is through Gross Domestic Product. But GDP only looks at one indicator of development. It does not take into account the triple bottom line, or the social, economic and environmental indicators.
Nigeria and Colombia are generating new wealth from extractive industries such as mining and oil. But the cost has been great: communities have been displaced, lands and ecosystems polluted, and community leaders murdered. Meanwhile the governments have not re-invested the wealth generated from these industries into education, healthcare, or other programs that would improve the lives of low-income communities. When factors such as environmental destruction, lack of educational opportunities, and conflict are taken into account, progress might actually be negative.
Nations such as Brazil and Bhutan and states such as Oregon, Vermont, and Maryland are starting to use a Genuine Progress Index that measures up to 26 different factors that contribute to progress. More states here in the U.S. are considering such a tool to measure social, economic, and environmental factors.
Psalm 126 opens with, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” Just as Isaiah was anointed to bring good news to the oppressed, we too can bring good news through empowering our policymakers to invest in the triple bottom line.
Action: Use this link to write a letter to your representatives in the U.S. Congress and the State House to invest more of the budget in human needs and environmental protection.