“Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”?—?Alanis Obomsawin

Most of us are raised in cultures where we are taught to value currency at a very young age. It’s one of the early, formative lessons?—?money is important. We might see our parents struggle to make ends meet or, conversely, see the comfort they enjoy by having more than enough. These lessons run deep and inform our sense of security, even as adults. We also see what happens to people who don’t have money?—?they are usually homeless, or vagabonds, eking out a meager existence by begging or dumpster diving.

Modern economies are driven by money. Tribal cultures had strong social bonds and took care of the weak and the helpless. People traded for whatever else they needed, and items of value were directly exchanged. Around 3000 BC, the Mesopotamians came up with the shekel?—?a standardized unit of weight to measure and trade grain. Silver and gold coins, emblazoned with a lion head, were first minted around 600 BC by King Alyattes of the Lydians (now Turkey). Moneys printed with silver and gold are commodity money, meaning?—?they are generally considered valuable in themselves. Paper money originated in China during the Song dynasty. Marco Polo incredulously recounted how this money was created from mulberry tree bark in The Travels of Marco Polo. Paper money is representative currency, meaning, it doesn’t have value, in itself, but represents either a small amount of something generally considered precious, such as the gold standard, or the word of a government or other official agency as to its value (fiat currency). Most modern currencies don’t have a physical existence at all, this includes the money generated by fractional banking and cryptocurrencies.

The shocking truth is that paper (and digital) money has absolutely no inherent value. The fact that we consider it important is the result of a consensual mass-hallucination, hoisted on us since birth. It’s literally important because we believe it is. We want it because it is considered valuable and it’s considered valuable because we want it, and it can be traded for things of actual value. In the pursuit of this imaginary wealth, things of real value are often destroyed. In my book, Ecological Awakening, I talk about these things of unquestionable value, they are: air, water, food (soil), clothing/shelter, and community. These are all you really need to live.

One of the first casualties of the hoarding of money is community. If you are more focused on acquiring wealth than having a society based on caring, you will end up with problems like homelessness and wealth inequality. In the pursuit the longest number strings, people close their hearts to each other. It’s no secret that the air, water, and soil are polluted by industries that are created to make a profit: forests are clear cut; coal and other fossil fuels are burned, tainting the air, water, and soil in the process and even changing the climate of the entire planet. Humans lost in the idea of money’s importance don’t see that they are destroying things that are very important (environment and community) for something that doesn’t actually matter at all.

Money can be useful when we realize that it only has symbolic value?—?it would be cumbersome to trade five-thousand loaves of bread for a car. The first promissory notes (the precursors to modern money) were created because Chinese iron coins were too heavy to move en masse. The problems begin when we think that these pieces of paper or numbers in a hard drive have actual value. It loses its rightful place as a tool and becomes enshrined. It is the predominant god of the modern age and most activity is in its service. According to google, an idol is: “an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.” Money fits this definition perfectly. Looking at the many destructive effects of money worship, we can say without a doubt that money is a terrible god.