We’d like to call our Capital Institute community’s attention to four not-to-be missed events upcoming this spring. “Degrowth in the Americas,” to be held in Montreal from May 13 to 19 will focus on what degrowth means for our Hemisphere. BALLE’s “Prosperty Starts Here,” to be held in Grand Rapids from May 15 to 19, is the organization’s annual gathering of local economy entrepreneurs and visionaries. On Earth Day Slow Money NYC will showcase five pioneering food entreprenuers from the lower Hudson Valley of New York in Pocantico Hills, NY. Capital Institute Founder and President John Fullerton will be a speaker at the Degrowth and BALLE conferences. The Public Banking Institute is hosting its inaugural Public Banking Conference in America in Philadelphia April 27 and 28, taking a look at public banking success stories and the hidden costs of our current banking system.
Chet Baker’s warm, presencing voice and trumpet ushered in the inaugural event of Demos’ “Sustainable Progress Initiative” at the public policy research and advocacy group’s Manhattan offices on the night of October 6. The Initiative’s new senior policy analyst Mijin Cha and its director Lew Daly introduced best-selling author and economist Juliet Schor and her plenitude model, and the evening (which was cosponsored by the World Policy Institute) became an exploration of the model’s potential to free up Americans to be present to explore the dimensions of a more meaningful “livelihood.”
Schor’s latest book, released in paperback under the title: True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans are Creating A Time Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy, describes the plenitude model, which calls for Americans to work fewer hours and reap the benefits of both “time wealth” and reduced carbon footprints. Schor reports that she wrote True Wealth as a solutions manual, sensing that Americans were yearning for an alternative pathway rather than a dissection of what we all know is a broken economic and social system.
The new documentary “The Economics of Happiness” draws attention to the ills of globalization in both the developing and developed world, and features a number of friends of Capital Institute, including Juliet Schor and Bill McKibben. The director, Helena Norberg-Hodge, a champion of the localization movement, is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture. The film’s pro-localization message is a welcome counterpoint to the pro-globalization mantra we hear from most policymakers these days. However, the well-intentioned “relocalization” strategies that Norberg-Hodge highlights and promotes in this film are likely to provide neither the most effective nor the most realistic solutions in a world increasingly driven by the forces of globalism.
Juliet Schor, a Professor of Sociology at Boston College, writes and lectures on the connections between consumerism, work life, and environmental sustainability. She is a founding board member of the Center for a New American Dream and author of the best-seller The Overworked American: the Unexpected Decline of Leisure, of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need, and Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture.
We spoke with Schor about her new book Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (published as True Wealth in paperback), in which she questions the conventional wisdom that maximizing income and growth is the path to well-being.
“Mismeasuring our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up,” a panel discussion held at Columbia University on December 7, brought four distinguished economists together for an open conversation that began with the need for policymakers to look beyond GDP as a standard economic measure to address both ecological constraints and human well-being but moved to the central challenge of our time: can economies continue to grow without degrading the ecosystem and if not, what are the alternatives?
Sponsored by the public policy research and advocacy organization Demos, the event featured panelists Alan B. Krueger, most recently the US Treasury's Chief Economist and currently Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University; Glenn-Marie Lange, Senior Environmental Economist at the World Bank; Juliet B. Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College; and Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate and Co-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University.
Many members of the Capital Institute community believe that the emerging markets for ecosystem services hold considerable promise as tools for redirecting the flow of capital toward economic activities that honor ecosystem constraints. However, a paper that recently circulated among us entitled "The Environmentality of 'Earth Incorporated'" raised some questions that challenge that belief. The author, Sian Sullivan, argues that the “intrinsic fallacy at the heart” of ecosystem services market initiatives is that they attempt to incentivize environmentally ethical behavior. She maintains that the market does not produce “virtuous behavior” and that it is essentially naïve to take the view that if only we design them correctly we can halt or reverse ecosystem degradation. She further states that the danger of these market initiatives is that they promote the “valuing of nature as money,” and do not acknowledge “nature's immanence or sentience,” or the reality that humans are merely one of many “companions” in nature’s community. Sullivan’s argument might lead one to conclude that efforts to save our fragile ecosystems should be focused more on shifting humanity’s view of its place in the natural order rather than harnessing the financial markets to restore that natural order.
Third Millennium Economy
Global Wealth Gap Indicators:
1. Only nine countries, representing four percent of the world’s population, have narrowed the wealth gap while for 80 percent of the world’s population the wealth gap has increased. The five hundred highest income earners earn more than the poorest 416 million people (Source: UN Human Development Report 2005).