Posted on December 4th, 2010


Since the advent of European colonialist 200 years ago to other continents   in search of wealth , dramatic changes in the moral Zeitgeist was designed  to exploit man and nature. In this context elimination of the Red Indians and Australian aborigines to the present day carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan has been justified. In a economic sense the Myth of creation of wealth in a world where the wealth is zero sum is nothing but a cloud to shroud the ultimate aim of redistribution of wealth.

 This transfer of resources has been carried out with ponzy schemes that emanate from the worlds large central banks.‘ SOME PEOPLE CREATE MONEY THE REST HAS TO EARN THAT MONEY’ That unfortunately is the mechanism of transfer of wealth. Nature which needs to be nurtured now   has been made into mince meat and sold as a commodity to achieve this transfer. All done in the name of capital, Economic Growth and consumption. The incestuous relationship between the Politicians, Businessmen, Bankers and media driven by corruption and violence under the guise of Democracy has been responsible for the continuation of this embezzlement.  

The growth of the economy is portrayed to the ordinary citizen in terms of a GDP which is an assessment of economic activity. However GDP does not take into account the negatives of the economic activity. It is Creative accounting to give one the illusion of progress. China has been growing at the rate of about 10% in the last two decades but the ecological damage is never reflected in the growth rate. It is interesting that the leading four most polluted cities in the world are in the two fastest growing  economies in Asia China and India  The more disconcerting factor however is the long term detrimental effect on humanity, A price paid from the womb to the tomb and to the future generations. In this very defined moment of history the international community is only focussing on the symptoms of ECOCIDE by  exercising their energies to curtail green house gases but do nothing to address the real causes . The cause been of course  the much hyped myth that westernisation is modernity and that the road to modernity is consumption economics.



Present  city centric development has attracted all the capital to cities at the expense of the rural communities . Thus the rural population has been not only marginalised but   it has created an impetus for the rural workers to migrate to the cities causing havoc in the sense of ever increasing ghettoes and at the same time disrupting rural societies. It also has created mass migration of the poor to rich Middle Eastern countries for slave labour. Other issues of human trafficking, prostitution and ever expanding sweat shops have exploited these vulnerable people. This disruption of families and the stresses and strains that the poor and the dispossessed undergo are never properly assessed and remedial actions taken. They are taken to be something that the poor has to endure. The marginalisation of these rural communities have instigated social unrest  in certain countries.


Mining  and drilling for resources have not only has transferred pollution to other countries but also has left large areas deforested and unliveable because of the toxic waste left behind. The recent incidences in Hungary of a leakage from an Aluminium plant that  destroyed a whole village and polluted the  river Danube and oil leakage in the Gulf of Mexico the USA are standing examples of what can go wrong and  the pollution left behind by these catastrophes. Up till now the pollution in the Niger delta and the other third world countries have been ignored by the corporate sector and the media. Not only has the resources been depleted at a faster rate but the soil and the rivers have been left barren. If this mayhem continues further damage to the earth in once desire to get at the less accessible resources is inevitable.

Hand in hand with the reduction in resources (mining) there is deforestation, global warming and growth of industrialised agriculture. The industrialised agriculture that is needed to feed the urban population is responsible for 10% of the co2 emissions. In addition industrialised agriculture has created antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause harm to humanity not forgetting the poor quality of the produce. Genetic modification, weedicides, insecticides have proven without any doubt to have detrimental effects on the health of humans. Vast areas in Africa and Asia have been enlisted to produce food for the rich causing further destruction of the environment not forgetting the speculative rise in price of food which has pushed the  poor further into poverty and malnutrition.



City centric development has also resulted in the rapid expanse of urbanised communities which unfortunately has been portrayed as a reflection of modernity and human advancement. The need for Housing, utilities, healthcare, water drainage  etc have been neglected. The Frequent flooding seen from Mumbai to Colombo is as a result of this unplanned development   instigated by corrupt politicians, businessman and the World Bank. The resulting ghettoes are partially responsible for the increased mortality in the recent earthquake and cholera epidemic in Haiti. Unfortunately these excessive expenses are never reflected in the GDP.

A recent lecture by Harvard  Professor Elizabeth Warren on THE COMING COLLAPSE OF THE MIDDLE CLASSES  emphasises the economic marginalisation of the two working Parent families and the stresses and strains it entails. She also says that the chances of a 16 year child having a mum at home was more likely in the 1970s than a baby of 6 months in 2003 in the world’s richest country. It is interesting that her research has shown that a two working parent families in 2005 saves nothing but a family in 1970 of comparable living standards saved 12% even though only one parent worked. The largest house hold expense was the mortgage payment. The collapse of the housing market in 2009 would have bankrupted many. In addition of course the family in 2005 was at a higher risk of bankruptcy if one parent felt sick compared to the family in 1970 where if one parent felt sick the other could work. The boom and bust economics of the present day is only geared to the benefit of a few and the expense of the many.The stresses and strains imposed on families in this present economic order have thus resulted in an inevitable increased family breakdown. If this is the case for the middle classes in the richest country in the world the marginalised poor in the third world would have no hope.  This is one of the reasons for the increased mental diseases in the cities. The greatest unaddressed problem in modern times is the effect of this economic system on motherhood and the future generations.


Children are the greatest asset of any society. Their well being and development will be reflected in the progress of any country. A mother is defined as a person who nurtures her young. It is this motherhood that has been at risk in this great drive to modernity where both husband and the wife have to work. No woman who is pregnant in the present time can escape the message ,that whatever she does will affect her unborn child. This has been formalised by the study of epigenetic’s in the present day. Essentially epigenetic’ s indicates that the behaviour of the genes are determined by the environment. Hence   the foetal environment will determine the settings of its genes and thus its future from the womb to the tomb be its Physical Health but even intelligence, temperament and even sanity. These subtle DNA changes can be inherited indicating how it could affect the health of future generations.

Hand in hand with urbanisation goes the widening of the disparities between the rich and the poor. Malnutrition and economic deprivation has progressed faster in this new economic order.  Modern living with  the stresses ,environmental pollution and malnutrition  and the problems of alcoholism and drug addiction has long term effect on humanity.

1)      Impact of Air Pollution- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons which is found in Exhaust fumes, Cigarettes, Factory fumes causes  subtle damage to genes resulting in Increased childhood cancers and increase in the incidence of cognitive development and  poor IQ tests

2)      Malnutrition , smoking and drug addiction leads to low birth weight children which in turn carries higher risk of Diabetes , Heart Disease, Mental disease etc. Drud addiction will also lead to a increased incidence of drug addiction in the future of the unborn child.

3)      Obesity  which is a disease of the modern age due to unhealthy eating and lack of exercise will result in the unborn carrying increased  risks of obesity and all the health  issues such as Diabetes , Hypertension etc

4)      Stress and depression  in the mother has been co related to the Schizophrenia and depression of the next generation

Adult health care issues of urbanisation are well documented. The increased incidence of mental disease. Diabetes, hypertension and malignancies are well known.

 Destruction of Biodiversity and human disease

All stable environments have a well established structure and is in Harmony. When this is destabilised be it by global warming or deforestation   vectors that carry new diseases increase. This is attributed to be the cause of the recent viral epidemics like Dengue , encephalitis etc. Whether this was the initial impetus to the spread of AIDS  from simian monkeys in Africa is not certain.

Another threat to the stability of our ecosystem is genetic modification of agricultural plantations and its effect on the other species. Its effect on bio diversity is well documented. It is suspected that the Honey Bees fly away from genetically modified sun flowers indicating distaste for the pollen from genetically modified plants. Environmentally instigated   problem of collapsing colonies of bees is a great threat to humanity as it is responsible for pollinating flowers that give 30% of the food of humans.


Buddhist believe that humanity and nature are interdependent quite contrary to the present western philosophy of the hubris that humanity rules nature and that it is in the power of humanity to destroy nature for her material end without a price to pay. The poverty of that philosophy is now gradually dawning on humanity. The Buddhist ecological perspective is best expressed in the Noble Eightfold Path which is the RIGHT VIEW. This view is contained in the doctrine of PATTICCASAMUPPADA OR DEPENDENT CO-ORIGINATION, WHERE THINGS EXIST INTERDEPENDENTLY NOT IN THEIR OWN RIGHT. The Image of the jewelled net of Indra reflects it. This holistic model undermines the power of the self over others. Human Development thus is greatly intertwined with nature and it can never grow in harmony isolated.  Urbanisation in that sense would never be healthy. Buddhism does not believe in absolutism, it believes in relativism and therefore expects humanity to act with a view to “ƒ”¹…”WELFARE OF THE MANY’. In other words a Holistic approach to once actions.

 A interesting recent Dutch study has shown that the reduced incidence of 15 diseases  such as Asthma, Heart disease, Anxiety ,Depression etc was dependent on the amount of green space with in one kilometre of the patients home.


In an era when a 100 species are disappearing every day, humanity is being threatened the ruling elite are unable to address the problems; the new economic order has precipitated. There is tunnel vision with cognitive and structural fragmentation of their thinking. This compartmentalised assessment and their narrow vision has put humanity at risk.  Social silence has been achieved by the belief that the upper echelons are well in control of the situation and the illusion of a sense of well being in terms of monetary gain. This is actively propagated by the corporate media. Until such time that the ruling elite takes a more holistic view on development and economics, humanity is bound to suffer. TO PREVENT  THIS THEY NEED TO ACT WITH  GREAT VISSION   FOR THE WELFARE OF THE MANY NOT FORGETTING THAT PURSUING THE SAME POLICIES THAT INTIALY CREATED IT  WILL NOT CURE IT.




  1. gunarat Says:

    Thank you Janaka Goonetilleke.

    The Sri Lanka Government should apply the paticca samuppada perspective in assessing the development problems in the country. The recognition of mutual causality of everything (human society + environment) is fundamental to Buddhism. Nothing exists independently.

    Discard the slavish imitation of the Western developmental and modernization models. The GDP and GNP are shams that hide the truth of ti-lakkhana–anicca, anatta and dukkha.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    A superb analysis of world economics by Dr Janaka Goonetilleke ! Many thanks.

    A group of American academics, headed by Dr David Morris (1996) put forward the Theory of PQLI (Physical Quality of Life Index), which measures Human well being of a country through factors such Longevity, infant mortality, health care, education, etc. This way of measuring wealth of a country is in keeping with Buddhist Pattica Samupadda. Money can exist, but it should be secondary to human well being.

    The small family should be encouraged in small islands like Lanka. This can be done through the tax system, viz. a family with one child only pays no taxes, and taxes increasing with the number of children.

    P.S: How do we manage the problems with the wild elephants in Lanka ?

  3. Andare Says:

    Dr. Goonetillleke,
    You have done a service by writing this article. The world was first mesmerized by Communism, and now it is mesmerized by unbridled capitalism. There was a very good article on this topic by Gumperaliya. I have given the link to it below. Please check it out. There is a lot of similarities between the two. But you have put the facts even more clearly. I hope our politicians read these articles and take note.

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