John Fullerton recently spoke with filmmaker Katie Teague, creator of the soon-to-be-released documentary “Money & Life,” about the enormity of the challenges we face–climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable wealth inequity–and the foundational shifts in our economics, politics, and even ethics that we must make in order to weather the coming storm.
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.
Money & Life Documentary
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.
"It has always been so obvious to me that if you change the scorecard you change the game," says Hazel Henderson.
Capital Institute owes much to the thought leaders who have helped frame our perspective on “the purpose of capital," and Hazel Henderson is among those to whom we are most indebted. Hazel never ceases to amaze me. Susan Witt, Executive Director of the E. F. Schumacher Society, once described Hazel as a "national treasure." It's true. Never formally trained in economics, Hazel's grasp of the subject, particularly its shortcomings, is remarkable. Hazel is a systems thinker, with a unique grasp of the multiple disciplines necessary to be able to see, holistically, the systemic challenges we face. Yet it's Hazel's intellect, energy, passion, generosity, and drive, often against the grain where it can be lonely, year after year, "self inflicted" I might add, that is so special. I owe a great personal debt to my teacher, advisory board member, and inspirational friend, Hazel Henderson. —John Fullerton, Founder, Capital Institute