Drowning in Debt: Intergenerational Mortgage, Student Loans and the Effects of Climate Change

The effects of climate change, mortgage crisis, and student debt crisis have left young adults drowning in debt—the Occupy Movement and year of Jubilee could help.

| July/August 2012

  • Drowning
    Drowning in debt, we say. Trying to get one’s head above water. Hoping to stay afloat. These water images are appropriate metaphors for personal debt and the intergenerational mortgage of climate change as the sea levels rise.

  • Drowning

There are many ways to foreclose the future. Here’s one: the “intergenerational” mortgage, a relatively new lending practice in the U.K.—and an image for our times. Described as “the debt that never dies,” the idea is that the children take over the mortgage after the death of their parents. The dead hand of the past, the invisible hand of the market in an economic afterlife, holds the child’s head underwater until the debt is paid.

Drowning in Debt

For young people in Britain and the States, the future is being foreclosed through unaffordable house prices, the introduction of steep student loans, an economy that privileges a wealthy minority, and, back behind all of these, the terrible foreclosure of the world’s climate. “We have no future” was a frequent statement given by the predominantly young people taking part in the U.K.’s street riots in the summer of 2011, unable to see how they will live, how they will dwell, in all senses of the word.

To dwell well is to be who we truly are: to know a place that shelters the best of our humanity, a place from which to see the future with tranquility. So intrinsic is dwelling to the human condition that philosopher Martin Heidegger drew parallels: As the root of the German verb “to be” is cognate with “to dwell,” so a human being is a human dwelling. The old High German word meaning “to dwell,” buan, also means to cherish and protect what surrounds you: your environment, in other words. In Heidegger’s analysis, dwelling involves caring for the “fourfold”: earth, the divine, other humans, and sky.

• The house as a dwelling place for the body: the earth.

• Education as a dwelling place for the mind: the divine.

• The economy as a dwelling place for the other 99 percent of humanity.

Mark Dunn
7/27/2012 12:01:02 PM

While I agree with the premise of the article, I'm having a difficult time overlooking its etymological foundation. Placing Heidegger safely aside for a moment, "dwelling" may not be the most sound concept on which to build this argument. The original meaning of "dwell" -- from the Old English word dwellan, "to go astray" or "to deceive" -- lends an ironic layer to the article. Even the closest non-English relative of "dwell", the Old Norse "dvelja", means something like "to delay." The article may have been more solidly built on "home" than on "dwell." As it stands, I took away an entirely different message than the author intended upon reading, "What is happening to the younger generation is fraudulent foreclosure; it is unfair and oddly unnatural, a reversal of the normal flow of things according to which the older generation bestows many forms of dwelling on the young." This statement comes eerily close to utilizing the root of "dwell," but with opposite effect. // The author also identifies the German "buan" as being correlative to "dwelling." Might the author have meant "bauen" from Heidegger's _Bauen Wohnen Denken_, which has been translated as _Building Dwelling Thinking_? If so the Bauen is literally "to Build." The "Wohnen," which could also be translated as "to live" or "to be," has unfortunately been brought into English as "to Dwell." It is just one of the many unfortunate aspects of Heidegger. // I do not intend to diminish the "message" of the article. It's intentions were solid and it brings forth many important ideas. It just needs a more solid structure if it is to stand on linguistic grounds.

6/15/2012 3:10:41 PM

Best I can figure, for the system we have as a humans, we have at least 1/3 too many people,... and it needs to be kept at that level, for the sake of all. What might that be? Maybe 4billion people tops is an acceptable human world population total. And plus, too many 'unattractive' people have children. If we're all admiring of beautiful people, let the beautiful people make the children,.... most everyone prefers beauty, and in addition to physical beauty, good character development is part of the deal, all in one. We have to be mindful of sustainability, everyone, even the 'trash' folks who have children they can't adequately raise. We like beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful writing, beautiful music, beautiful landscapes,.... and beautiful people. Things aren't 'automatically' beautiful simply by existing,...there are standards

Bill Day
6/15/2012 1:52:50 PM

It's a rare talent that can this much syrup to an article. Jay Griffiths is my new Aunt Jemima!

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me