In August 2020, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and North Ayrshire Council became the first two local authorities to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance as members. Both councils have shown leadership with their leading “build back better” campaigns, which seek to revitalize their local economies through a green, sustainable recovery.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

(Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region)

The announcement of Liverpool City Region’s membership follows the release of its economic recovery plan, Building Back Better. The plan provides a blueprint for how the City Region will recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic by building an economy that is globally competitive, environmentally responsible and socially inclusive.

The plan has four key themes—the business ecosystem, people-focused recovery, place, and a green recovery—and includes proposals for a £1.4bn investment from Government that would unlock £8.8bn worth of projects and create more than 120,000 jobs. This includes the Mersey Tidal Power project, which can contribute to the UK’s long-term sustainable energy mix, while creating employment for thousands.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “When I said that there was no going back to normal after the crisis, I meant it. That means building a society that focuses on the five Es: employment, the environment, the eco system, the economy and essential workers.

“I want the Liverpool City Region to be the most inclusive, fair and socially just economy in the country. Our economic recovery plan lays out how we’ll do that and I’m proud that we are is the first governmental body in the world to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). I look forward to working with them, sharing ideas from all over the world and making Liverpool City Region a model of how we can make the economy work for people, and not the other way round.”

North Ayrshire Council

(The North Ayrshire Council Building at Cunninghame House in Irvine)

When North Ayrshire Council became the first Scottish local authority to join WEAll, the council had already introduced its pioneering green recovery plan, based on community wealth building (CWB). CWB involves spending public money locally, keeping wealth generated within the local area, encouraging community ownership and using land and property in a socially just way to boost the local economy and tackle poverty and inequality.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council and Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building, said: “We are delighted to be teaming up with WEAll and look forward to speaking to a range of influential thinkers who can help inspire us as we look to radically overhaul what we are doing here in North Ayrshire.

“We are in the midst of a global recession and now is the time to be bold, think differently and build a new economy. That new economy must work for the benefit of people and planet, ending decades of an extractive economic model that has worked for neither and has saw inequality soar to record levels.

“That’s what we want to achieve through our Community Wealth Building strategy which, post-COVID, will help us build back better, fairer and greener…

“WEAll are leading the case for an economy that values the wellbeing of people and planet and I am excited by the opportunity to work with them to realise our joint ambitions for a fairer future.”

Some Thoughts from the WEAll Team

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll, said of Liverpool’s joining: “The role of government in transforming how our economies operate cannot be underestimated. So governments at all levels are natural partners for the wellbeing economy movement. WEAll is thrilled to welcome the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as a member of our diverse network. WEAll is excited to learn from them, connect them with our members, and amplify their pioneering work, which demonstrates that a wellbeing economy is not just what is needed, but with political will, it is entirely possible.”

Sarah Deas, trustee at WEAll Scotland and chair of North Ayrshire’s expert advisory group on Community Wealth Building, said: “North Ayrshire Council was the first Scottish local authority to commit to Community Wealth Building and is now the first to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). The Council appreciates that direct local action can achieve systems change, enabling the economy to deliver human and ecological wellbeing.

“Through participating in the WEAll network, the Councils will inspire others to adopt similar pioneering approaches while benefiting from ideas and innovations from across the world.”

WEALL member @r3dot0 held a one-hour webcast about the latest developments of r3.0, with a focus on getting participants an overview of the two forthcoming Blueprints on Sustainable Finance and Value Cycles, as well as an overview of the September 8-11 7th International r3.0 Conference.

As in earlier years the conference delivers a top-notch set of 16 keynote speakers in four plenary sessions as well as about 35 more speakers in breakout sessions and market-making sessions, covering eight important focus areas: science, behaviour, finance, growth, value, circularity, education and governance.

The conference is fully online and more details can be seen at www.conference2020.r3-0.org. r3.0 also informed about the start of two new Blueprint projects on Educational Transformation and Systemic Governance & Funding. Interested parties can find more information on www.r3-0.org or can directly contact r.thurm@r3-0.org or b.baue@r3-0.org.

To watch the recording of the webinar that was hosted last week, please view it below:

New WEAll Members, European Health Futures Forum (EHFF) and Feasta, have teamed up to deliver the Bridging the Gaps podcast series, which covers topics like:

• How best to measure wellbeing
• The politics of land
• Wealth distribution
• Diversity, both biological and cultural
• Blame, shame and compassion
• The role of digital technology in society

…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.

They recently put out a podcast episode: ‘Towards Wellbeing’, featuring David Somekh of EHFF interviewing Stewart Wallis, Chair of WEAll

The episode covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Reasons why a large majority of people consider the current economic system to be dysfunctional
  • Five basic things that people throughout the world say they need
  • Potential for Ireland to join the WEGo Partnership (which currently consists of Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and Iceland).

Watch the podcast episode (#6) and the rest of the EHFF & Feasta’s Bridging the Gaps podcast series, here.

Do you remember wanting to create change in the world, but not knowing how to achieve this through your career?

Promoting Economic Pluralism wants to give young people 25 and under a say in how we use the recover to Build Back Better.
That’s why they are holding the virtual Festival for Change, which offers expert career guidance for youth on how to help shape a better future through their career – for free! WEAll Youth is proud to be a festival partner.
From July 27th, people from around the world can enter a competition and enjoy a series of online events to change the economic outlook of the world, post pandemic.
1. Develop a proposal to shape new economic landscapes in a Challenge.
2. Join an Explore Workshop to discuss how to widen your thinking
3. Watch Provocation Sessions led by world-renowned speakers on new ideas and approaches to global issues.

Register here.

Do you instinctively support the principles of Wellbeing Economics, but don’t know how you can express that in your everyday life?

Over the next four months, the Grant Rule Trust is launching a  Build Back Better webinar series, which will discuss how we rebuild ourselves and our communities after the massive impact of COVID-19 on our health and wellbeing, our social cohesion and our economy.

The first two webinars are:

23rd July, 7.30 pm BST: How Is Your New Normal Looking?

Sue Rule will look at the political and economic landscape of the UK as we start to come out of lockdown, and some of the challenges and opportunities we face in the changing world, over the coming months.

27th August, 7.30 pm BST: How To Keep Going
Improving our resilience to stress and looking after our individual wellbeing.

Visit http://grantrule.org/events/ to sign up and to view past webinars, papers and slides.

Our WEAll member, the Post Growth Institute, recently shared a fantastic article on how we can reprogram our economic operating system to ensure a sustainable future – by adopting an indigenous worldview.

The United Nations estimates that indigenous territories cover approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s landmass. This 20 percent landmass stewarded by indigenous peoples amazingly contains 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

The indigenous worldview has been marginalised for generations because it was seen as antiquated and unscientific and its ethics of respect for Mother Earth were in conflict with the Industrial worldview … But now, in this time of climate change and massive loss of biodiversity we understand that the indigenous worldview is neither unscientific nor antiquated, but is, in fact, a source of wisdom that we urgently need.

As the article explains, we can adjust or un-choose. Read about the two adjustments in our worldview that can help us work toward a more sustainable economy – and world.

By: Lisa Boll, ZOE Institute for future-fit economies

ZOE, the Institute for Sustainable Economies, is a non-profit think & do tank. Together with politics, science and civil society, ZOE develops trend-setting impulses for the fundamental questions of a sustainable economy.

COVID-19 has revealed the deep-rooted vulnerabilities of our current socio-economic system. “Business as usual” cannot guarantee sustainable prosperity on a healthy planet for all citizens. Relaunching the economy with the usual tools and policies won’t create the just transition we need.

This is a crucial moment to steer economic transformation towards structural resilience: enabling economies to be in a stronger position to absorb and recover from future shocks. It’s time to implement new policies that are fit for a just future. This means a shift away from structural dependence on the ‘growth paradigm’ and the use of GDP as the ultimate measure of success for policy decisions.

To tackle this challenge, today, the ZOE Institute has launched a new interactive website that offers a toolbox for ‘future-fit’ policymaking – which leads towards a sustainable, wellbeing economy.

Background Information: in-depth knowledge on different growth dependencies & strategies to overcome GDP-reliant economic frameworks, based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics.

Interactive Policy Database: The website features a state of the art, open-access policy database for sustainable prosperity, with over 200 transformative policies in the realm of employment & income, the environment, money & finance, and many more.

Users simply selected specific goals and objectives, and the interactive database displays relevant policy strategies for each topic, giving users concrete tools to work for a just and sustainable future for all.

Evidence-based Argumentation Strategy: Along with the policy database, the website features an interactive reflection game, which helps policymakers enhance arguments in favour of progressive policymaking, based on insights from scientific studies.

Visit www.sustainable-prosperity.eu to explore the vast interactive, open-access policy database and join a network of progressive thinkers across Europe.

Our member SOGH and Global Health Film are hosting a series of ‘Global Health Film Classics’ movie screenings every Sunday from July 5th to 26th! The series covers important and topical public health issues, including emerging pandemics.

This Sunday, July 5 at 7pm BST, they will screen The Islands and the Whales, which talks about ocean pollution and the impact on people’s health. After the screening, you’ll have the chance to speak to both the director and protagonist.

Here is the trailer for the series and the details for the next three films in the series.

Sunday 12 July, 7pm – My Amazing Brain: Richard’s War (brain injury)
Sunday 19 July, 7pm – Unseen Enemy (emerging pandemics)
Sunday 26 July, 7pm – I Am Breathing (ALS)

Do check them out!

Our friends at Cities CAN B have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of five Extreme Collaboration guidebooks, sharing their rich experiences with a view to helping businesses and communities everywhere build back better after the pandemic.

Message from Cities CAN B:

“When we imagine  the end of this global quarantine, we are flooded with dreams of us emerging on the other side more empathetic, sustainable and supportive, connected with our interdependence and with the urge to care for our planet and our society.

Our experience, over the past 10 years, in building different collaborative ecosystems in multiple countries has shown us  how collaborating with those we see as “our peers” is easy but  this becomes increasingly difficult with those who are more distant to us – “the others”. If our goal is to be radically collaborative and accelerate the process of change in our communities, we must learn to transform ourselves.

It is for this reason we have embarked on the great adventure to initiate a global movement called CITIES CAN B, in which we strive to attract entire communities  (people, institutions and companies) to collaborate with each other, to take charge of the 17 Great Challenges of Humanity as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

It is this goal of collaborating with everyone, no matter how distant we might feel to them, that we call “Extreme Collaboration”.

These five notebooks are the notes on everything we have learned  to date on “Extreme Collaboration” in CITIES CAN B, including sister projects in which we have participated, supported or simply admired.

We are hopeful these notes will be useful for citizens, mayors or foundations, who are mobilizing the changes these great challenges of humanity require. Additionally, these notes are designed for those entrepreneurs or large corporations that are committed to leading the changes the market and society are beginning to demand.

We are going to need help to finish them, translate them and print them!

And, to ensure anyone who needs them has access to them, the digital version of these notebooks will be distributed, free of charge, with a Creative Commons license in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

In the first notebook, we address why we believe it is better to work on these issues at the city-scale, while the remaining 4 focus on strategies we have developed to mobilize all participants to collaborate with each other, thus accelerating  the changes our society and our planet.

We set a fundraising goal to finish the books, translate and print them, but we want to triple that goal in order to expand the CITIES CAN B Global movement.

CITIES CAN B is a global movement co-led by Sistema B and Gulliver with the support of the BMW Foundation and B Lab Europe.

 Brief summary of CITIES CAN B:

In August 2015, Rio+B (RIO CAN B) the first city of the movement was officially launched, in November 2017, Santiago+B (STGO CAN B) and Mendoza+B (MZA CAN B) joined the movement, making it international. In August 2019 Cities CAN B launched a global call for proposals for new cities to join the movement, 14 cities from 10 countries sent proposals, demonstrating the potentiality of expansion of the project. At the end of 2019 an international executive committee selected the four most qualified proposals.

As of 2020 the project became global, with the four new selected cities now under development: Asunción+B (Paraguay), Edinburgh CAN B (Scotland), Córdoba+B (Argentina), and Barcelona+B (Spain). We hope more and more people and organizations around the world participate collaboratively in their local sustainable development, we count on your support to make it happen. We need to recognize personal and collective responsibility about our interdependence.

Reposted from the site of Social Enterprise Mark CIC, which is part of WEAll Member Social Value UK

By Sophie Short

Calling on Government to #SaveOurSocents

Social Enterprise Mark CIC is working with partners in the social economy to call on the Government to make some small changes to the way it is currently distributing business support, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the UK’s 100,000 social enterprises, co-operatives and community businesses.

We realise that many social enterprises have been falling through the cracks of Government support and are unable to access the necessary grants and loans to keep their businesses afloat. We are urging the Government to act now to ensure social enterprises are supported to get through this crisis, which we believe will increase the chance of a quick, fair and inclusive recovery from this lockdown.

We have written a letter to the Chancellor to outline a four-point action plan to ensure social enterprises receive appropriate support:

  1. Extending existing business grants to include social enterprises;
  2. Changing the delivery of loan finance to work for social enterprises;
  3. Opening up emergency financing for public services to social enterprises delivering services on behalf of the state;
  4. Providing business support so that social enterprises can use any funds they do receive effectively to transition their business.

Lucy Findlay, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC said “Social enterprises are part of the glue that holds our society together. They will now be needed more than ever to help rebuild a more resilient economy moving forwards. To not invest in them now risks huge holes in getting back to normal and will leave the most vulnerable without the support that they so desperately need.

How you can help

We are calling on our network and the wider social enterprise community to back our call to the Government for urgent support. Please complete this short form to add your support to our letter to the Chancellor.

‘If we share what we already have more fairly, we can improve people’s lives right now without having to plunder the Earth for more. Fairness is an antidote to the growth imperative.’   Jon Hicks[1]

Most consumers have heard of the term ‘Fair Trade’ even if they don’t fully understand what it means[2].During the noughties the Fairtrade label became increasing prominent on our supermarket shelves, with brands such as Café Direct and Divine Chocolate– companies founded on fair trade principles – offering a range of premium, ethical hot beverages and confectionery. At the same time big global corporations such as Mondolez (Cadburys) adopted the Fairtrade certification scheme, whilst major high street retailers – Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, M&S and even low costs names such as Lidl and Aldi – also joined the independently audited labelling initiative. It seemed that the consumer had easy access to and was choosing to make ethical purchasing decisions that put people and planet before profit margin.

Then things seemed to change. Alongside ‘ethical consumerism’ came low cost price wars between food brands and retailers as margins were squeezed. In this environment, the Fairtrade certification scheme was ditched by several significant brands and retailers in favour of cheaper ‘ethical labelling’ initiatives, including in-house labels such as Cadbury’s ‘Cocoa Life’.  Whilst arguably better than nothing, many such schemes are not independently or as vigorously audited, particularly in relation to human rights issues. In 2017 several large chains withdrew from licensing their own brands as Fairtrade due to the costs of the scheme. Overall, Fairtrade sales in the UK do (still) continue to grow and at the end of 2019 the UK household groceries sales of Fairtrade labelled products stood at nearly £798 million[3]. However, this figure represents a 5% decrease since 2017, whilst in Scotland the decrease on shopping basket sales of Fairtrade goods was 9%.  Consumer choice and visibility of ethical brands has been significantly diminished.

Meanwhile B Corps like Divine Chocolate, which turns over £16 million in sales and is 45% owned by a Ghanian farmers’ co-operative, now find the majority of its sales come from the non-UK market. Such Fair Trade Organisations have found it hard to maintain their UK market share, with major retailers ‘choice editing’ to reduce the premium offers on shelf, in anticipation of consumer demand for lower pricesAnd whilst it is commendable that low cost retailers have maintained the Fairtrade label on own brand coffee and chocolate, it’s worrying that these same companies score abysmally in independent reviews of their human rights and environmental practices, as revealed by Oxfam’s latest findings[4] .

How is this relevant to the Wellbeing Economy movement?

In an independent review of Fair Trade in Scotland carried out for the Scottish Government’s International Development division in 2019, we found  compelling arguments for closer alignment of the Fair Trade movement with WEAll’s goals. Just as the Wellbeing Economy Alliance advocates transitioning to economic models where ‘humanity defines economics not the other way round[5], so fairness and equity in trade aims to address the inequality of the world’s most marginalised communities directly suffering the consequences of richer countries’ consumption.  Fair Trade argues for an equitable trading model where social impacts take precedence over economic indicators such as GDP growth.   It is a “a multifaceted political and economic phenomenon, driving and catalysing change in the way business is done, how consumers consume and how producers produce’[6].

For those seeking to influence the conversation on more equitable economic models, efforts to achieve sustainable livelihoods for the world’s most marginalised producers, often women, cannot take second place to domestic concerns. It means advocating for wellbeing policies and fair business practices at national level and informing the way we relate to our trading neighbours internationally. Wellbeing in relation to trade has to impact on much more than governments’  international aid efforts and rather focus on the manner in which our public and private agencies procure, the rules of engagement for doing business with social enterprise (such as B Corporations and FTOs) and the prioritisation of dignified  and equitable trading relationships through EU and global trade rules.  It is not enough to use the Global Goals to interrogate a country’s domestic approach to inclusive economy, though this is a good start.

Scotland’s National Performance Framework

Scotland’s National Performance Framework[7] (NPF), has developed wellbeing indicators alongside more traditional GDP based growth measures, but it needs to view each indicator through a global lens in order to achieve real economic change. The Scottish Government’s Fair Work policy, for example, is reflected in the NPF and incorporated within a ‘Scottish Business Pledge’ to which Scottish business can subscribe.  It could be reflecting a global perspective in the way Scottish business interact with international labour markets, if it were to incorporate Fair Trade principles such as fair payment, good working conditions, no discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association into the way business is done internationally. All of these are Fair Trade principles, as can be seen in the figure below.

Graphic from International Fair Trade Charter, 2018

Using Fair Trade Principles as their ‘SDG+’ benchmark, governments aspiring to the Wellbeing Economy vision, including Scotland, can be more ambitious in challenging how their own statements about wellbeing translate into practice globally; it is not enough to speak of putting wellbeing first domestically, whilst championing business growth predicated on export and import practices which perpetrate environmental and human rights abuses.   Disrupting the status quo on the way we do business as nations requires a multi-pronged approach across education and upskilling of our workforce in public, private and third sectors; it requires serious support for ethical business models, and a recognition that as electorates we are increasingly aware of the complexities and ethical challenges of our purchasing choices and those which our Governments make on our behalf.

Pauline Radcliffe was the lead author of the Independent Review on the Future of Fair Trade in Scotland for the Scottish Government International Development division, published February 2020. This review included an interview with WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas.

Header image: Comfort Kumeah, a Ghanian cocoa farmer from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative which owns 44% share of Divine Chocolate and is led by women.  Credit to: Olivier Asselin on behalf of Divine Chocolate Ltd

 

 

[1] Hicks,J; Should we pursue boundless economic growth? Prospect magazine, 12.06.19.

[2] In Scotland 90% of those surveyed in 2016 had heard of Fair Trade; across the UK, 83% consumers stated that they would trust the Fairtrade Mark; .

[3] Kantar Worldpanel: consumer Fairtrade sales in UK and Scotland 2017 and 2019, week beginning 05.11.

[4] https://oxfamapps.org/behindthebarcodes/

[5]WEAll Scotland home page

[6] Tiffen, P. Who cares about Fair Trade? Journal of Fair Trade 1:1, 2018.

[7] Scotland’s Wellbeing – Delivering the National Outcome: Scottish Government, May 19. P.14

By Liz Zeidler, Founding Director of Centre for Thriving Places

It’s safe to say that leading economists, environmentalists and political leaders rarely agree. But from the OECD Director General Angel Gurria, to Jeffrey Sachs and George Monbiot and many more, there are a growing number of powerful voices saying that some form of wellbeing economics is vital for a better future.

Few in the WEAll membership would disagree with this view of course, and thankfully it is increasingly not just an academic or theoretical discussion. Real progress is being made at a national level in pioneering countries around the world. From New Zealand to Scotland, Iceland to Wales, small nation states are starting to shift the compass from growth-at-any-cost to a new model of prosperity centred on wellbeing.

But there is a challenge at the heart of this progress, in that the unifying factor in these countries is size.  Smaller nations are innovating, taking some political risk and showing courageous leadership in this space in a way that larger are not. For those of us living and working outside of these pockets of progress, do we need simply to wait and hope?

Centre for Thriving Places (and under its previous name Happy City) has been tackling this challenge for over 10 years. It was clear even back in 2010 that it was never going to be easy to get national or global agreement to shift to a wellbeing economy approach. The transition needs cross-party, cross-sector, cross departmental and cross-generational collaboration.   New ways of thinking and doing, and new measures of progress are needed to build a credible base on which to deliver change. These are currently hard to come by in major national government environments.

Momentum can and must be built by pioneering people and places, at a local level and a national scale. The Thriving Places Index is designed to make this practical and achievable and it is being used by a growing number of Local Authorities, funders, community programmes and far-sighted businesses across the UK.

The approach needs to be as relevant to the mayor of a major city as they are to a junior community development worker on the frontline of tackling complex social and environmental challenges, so the TPI at its most fundamental level asks three powerful and unifying questions:

  • Are we creating the right local conditions for people to thrive?
  • Are we doing this equitably so everyone has the chance to thrive?
  • Are we doing this sustainably so future generations can also thrive?

Published annually for all Local Authority areas in England and Wales, the TPI is an asset based framework, drawing in a broad range of data from different recognised sources. It paints a meaningful picture of what supports the wellbeing of communities, and what can be done locally to improve it.

In every corner of the UK there are clear strengths and challenges when you look through a sustainable wellbeing lens. By providing comprehensive, but clear and comparable data for all local authority areas, the TPI allows learning to be shared, and a collaborative approach to systemic issues to be fostered.  It is a rigorous and accessible way to support local decision makers across sectors to assess and prioritise policy and practice, based on the impact it has on the wellbeing and sustainability of people and communities.

Whilst a national focus on wellbeing set by central or devolved government  is something to be celebrated, it’s not a prerequisite for beginning to make the change that we want to see.   Let’s not sit by and watch as levels of inequality spiral and the climate emergency deepens, waiting for the national political and legislative environment to support a new way of governing. Pioneering leaders from all sectors need to show the courage to innovate a new approach where they are now – one focused on growing our capacity to thrive, now and for generations to come.

 

About the Thriving Places Index: The 2020 results for Local Authorities in England and Wales are now live at www.thrivingplacesindex.org – head there to explore the data and find out more ways to get involved – wherever you are.  

The Thriving Places Index is delivered by the Centre for Thriving Places and supported by Triodos Bank.

About the author: Liz is an internationally recognised leader in sustainable wellbeing with over 20 years of experience in connecting, challenging and supporting change-makers. She has been a key part of the development of all Centre for Thriving Place’s wellbeing measurement tools and approaches. She is a globally in-demand speaker and advisor on community wellbeing and place-based approaches to measuring, understanding and improving wellbeing in all sectors.

Photography by Gareth Iwan Jones www.garethiwanjones.com

“Wellbeing Starts with We”

A California City Creates Community at its Inaugural Wellbeing Summit

By Juliana Essen

 

On November 16, 2019, the small coastal city of Santa Monica, California held its inaugural Wellbeing Summit – a free and interactive community event that brought together nearly 900 residents, city leaders, local organizations, and members of the global wellbeing movement.

The Summit was designed to engage a broad cross-section of stakeholders to both understand and implement the findings from Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index – the first in the US, which was made possible by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Julie Rusk, Santa Monica’s Chief Wellbeing Officer, summed up the day this way: “This is an opportunity for everyone to come together to connect, to learn from each other, and to share their best ideas for how we really become the sustainable city of wellbeing for all.”

I had the pleasure of attending Santa Monica’s summit as an invited presenter (representing the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – WEAll) and a participant. A month later, I find my-anthropologist-self reflecting: what lessons might be gleaned for those of us seeking to advance a Good Life for All? As a key event in the wellbeing movement landscape, what core message can Santa Monica’s Summit impart?

A flash of insight came in the form of a T-shirt – the ones silk-screened on demand at the Summit itself, with the slogan “Wellbeing starts with We.” Above all else, this event underscored the necessity of shifting wellbeing work from me to we, and it highlighted several characteristics vital to making a thriving community. Here are 6 of them, and just for fun, they all start with “C”:

1.     Celebrate the positive

2.     Connect with people

3.     Consider new ideas

4.     Co-create solution

5.     Care for others

6.     Commit to move forward together

For explanations and examples of how these community-making characteristics played out at Santa Monica’s inaugural Wellbeing Summit, read on.

  1. Celebrate the positive

Santa Monica’s Summit builds on 4 years of work to measure residents’ wellbeing through the city’s Wellbeing Index. The index tracks indicators of progress in 6 areas: community, place and planet, learning, health, economic opportunity, and overall outlook, using data from resident surveys, social media, and various other sources available to the city. In short, this data is used to understand how residents are doing so that the city can invest in areas that will have the greatest impact. So first and foremost, the summit was a celebration of progress made to date.

The positive approach can be surprisingly controversial. An older Caucasian gentleman who came to protest at the entrance held a cardboard sign hand printed in red marker that read, “Wellbeing? What about Being Real?” A valid question, to be sure. His opinion (shared by others) was that the city should focus on “real” problems like homelessness and crime.

City Manager Rick Cole offered this response in his post-Summit reflection: “Pursuing a positive approach to our problems is not a naïve denial of them. All the challenging issues of our time were addressed on Saturday – but in a spirit of “what can we do to make things better?”

 

  1. Connect with people

One of the main goals of the Wellbeing Summit was clearly to bring the community together in a fun and festive atmosphere. From the up-beat kick-off by the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra’s Mariachi Band to the closing circle dance with Bhutanese dancers, summit goers were treated to countless opportunities to interact in the California sunshine.

We lingered over creative stations like the “What’s Wellbeing” wall, where participants could write in their ideas for heath or economic opportunity; the “Family Photo” studio, where passers-by posed with strangers for family-style portraits (and became acquainted in the process); and the Santa Monica Tourism board’s “Staycation” location, where kids played ball on Astroturf and adults lounged in pastel Adirondack chairs and dug their toes in sandboxes.

Perhaps it’s a “California thing” but we also chatted with each other as we waited in line. There were lines to sample free food from local vendors – like acai bowls, jackfruit sliders, street corn, and aguas frescas – and a significant wait to get a silk-screened T-shirt printed to order. In fact, my favorite memory from the day was dancing to Prince in the T-shirt line with an elderly African American woman I had just met. With the right conditions, that intercultural and intergenerational connection we try so hard to fabricate just happens naturally.

The summit planners indeed succeeded in this goal: early event surveying showed that 40 percent of participants met 5 or more people for the first time. As for the value, the head of Familias Latinas Unidas! (purveyor of aguas frescas) summed it up best as he twirled a volunteer during clean up: “It’s about ‘to connect’ because once we connect, we get along better.”

  1. Consider new ideas

Running concurrently with the outdoor festival were dozens of panel discussions and workshops that aimed to build participants’ understanding of the factors that affect wellbeing for people and the planet. The variety of session topics meant that was something for everyone – for different learning styles, knowledge about wellbeing, and interests.

The first panel of the day laid it out in a somewhat wonky but still accessible way: “Wellbeing: What it Is, What it Isn’t & Why it Matters,” with Anita Chandra (RAND), Carol Graham (Brookings Institution), and Neal Halfon (UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities).

I also moderated a panel that leaned toward serious: “Global Wellbeing from the United Kingdom to Bhutan to Latin America,” with Dr. Alejandro Adler (Earth Institute, Columbia University), Benilda Batzin (Health Citizenry Tutor, Guatemala) and Kinga Tshering (Institute of Happiness, Bhutan).

But there were also sessions that engaged local activists, like “Building Resilience in Communities of Color: Lessons from Virginia Avenue Park’s Parent Groups,” led by Santa Monica resident Irma Carranza, and an edgy workshop titled, “Creative Resistance through Printmaking,” in which participants learned about the role printmaking has had in California supporting movements such as the United Farm Workers while creating their own custom-stenciled posters.

The quality of these diverse sessions raised the wellbeing quotient of the summit beyond positive emotion and social interaction to incorporate learning, one of the dimensions of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index itself. As one Santa Monica resident remarked, the Summit was a “great way for the community to come out and … learn about things that we don’t normally learn about in our own insular world.”

  1. Co-create solutions

Rather than simply imparting knowledge, many sessions at the Summit aimed to inspire more collaborative, solution-oriented learning. In the “Mobility Matters” workshop, participants considered how reimagining the way we use our streets can impact wellbeing, looked at models from Los Angeles County, and worked elbow-to-elbow to design kid-friendly streets for their own neighborhoods. And in “Wellbeing Imaginarium,” summit-goers participated in an interactive visioning experience to create their own city of wellbeing.

At the summit, the City of Santa Monica also demonstrated its tangible support for resident-led co-created solutions in the form of Wellbeing Microgrants, a new approach to empower residents to make positive change. Each year, the city plans to distribute several grants up to $500 for small-scale, local actions to improve community wellbeing, with annual themes varying according to the Wellbeing Index findings.

To see the microgrant program in action, Summit-goers could visit a booth in the outdoor marketplace to meet past grant recipients, see displays of their work, talk to them about their experience, and even buy goods produced with the grant, like traditional Oaxacan shawls. Also on hand were applications for the next grant cycle and city staff to help explain the process.

Residents also had an opportunity to start co-creating their own projects at a design charrette I led. A design charrette is a fast-moving, interactive, creative process in which participants write quick ideas on Post It Notes (in this case representing improvements they’d like to see in their communities within the framework of the six dimensions of wellbeing), organize those ideas into categories, and then form small groups to discuss and decide. Besides a better understanding of wellbeing and knowledge/skills for project design, at least a few participants left with plans shaping up to apply for a microgrant together.

  1. Care for others

Perhaps the most vital characteristic for a thriving community is care for others. Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis made this assertion quite clearly in her blog post reflecting on the Summit:

Finally, we will know that we are a sustainable city of wellbeing when, in considering local policies, we stop asking what’s in it for me and start asking what’s in it for everyone.  This community spirit needs to permeate all our decisions, even those that involve asphalt and lane markers. Only when people in the community feel responsible for the wellbeing of others in the community—people they know and people they don’t know, can we truly reach our goal of being a sustainable city of wellbeing.

Unfortunately, care for others doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we just see the problems in our community rather than the people who are struggling. “Homelessness” is one such issue in Santa Monica (as well as my own coastal town to the south), in which discourse is typically framed in terms of public detriments such as visual blight and crime, not human suffering. The Summit’s solution? An interactive station with virtual reality headsets that allowed users to literally walk in another person’s shoes in a journey from homeless to housed. The station underscored the reality that it’s much easier to care for others when we can imagine their experiences as our own. Leave it to “Silicon Beach” to use technological innovation to do just that.

  1. Commit to move forward together

Overall, Santa Monica’s Summit represents the government’s commitment to placing the people and the planet at the forefront of their decision-making. City Mayor Gleam Davis sees this as her charge: “One of the sacred duties of all governments – federal, state, regional, and local – is to improve the wellbeing of their constituents.”

Anuj Gupta, Santa Monica’s Deputy City Manager explains, “We in the city government, we’re not really succeeding at our jobs unless our people are thriving and that’s really what this [summit] is all about: making sure our community is healthy, connected, engaged.”

At the same time, the Summit made it clear that wellbeing is a collective endeavor. In the final session of the day, a community conversation on “What’s Next for Wellbeing” with Mayor Gleam Davis and City Manager Rick Cole, the mayor shared this sentiment:

We truly are a Sustainable City of Wellbeing, but this is not something that the city government can bestow on you or can do alone. If we are truly going to live up to that title, then each and every one of us needs to invest in this community. I know we heard today that there are things we need to work on. But let’s do the hard and satisfying work of working on them together….

Santa Monica City Councilmember Ana Maria Jara offered a more inspiring reflection as the day came to an end:

This is only the beginning. A summit seems to me like it’s more of a closing. It is not. We’ve just started to climb. So let us continue together so we can all learn, so that we can all … act upon doing better for everyone.

For me, Councilmember Jara is speaking not only to residents in Santa Monica, but to all of us engaged in the global wellbeing movement.

To get a better feel for Santa Monica’s inaugural Wellbeing Summit, watch this recap and hear the individuals quoted above speak in their own voice:

And to learn more about Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project, visit the Office of Civic Wellbeing website: https://wellbeing.smgov.net

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Dirth, a member of the WEAll Research Fellow’s Network, has recently released two extensive reports offering solutions for both governments and business alike to support the Friday’s for Future movement.

The timing seems ever important as we’re watching an entire continent light up in flames. The question is, how can we support and amplify the initiatives of youth that are pushing for change in a loud and radical way? Both of Elizabeth’s tool-kits provide the answers that many governments and businesses are looking for.

Click the links below to learn more about how to participate in the global push for climate action.

The Futuring Tool: A Toolkit for Responding to the Demands of the Fridays for Future Movement (for Governments): https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/output/publications/2019/futuring-tool-toolkit-responding-demands-fridays-future-movement

The Futuring Tool: A Toolkit for Responding to the Demands of the Fridays for Future Movement. 2nd Edition (for NGOs and businesses): https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/output/publications/2019/futuring-tool-toolkit-responding-demands-fridays-future-movement-2nd

 

 

By Sam Butler-Sloss, Co-Lead of WEAll Youth Scotland and Organiser at Economists for Future

I got involved in the Wellbeing Economy Alliance because the case for repurposing and redesigning the economy to deliver wellbeing for people and planet is overwhelming. Yet, as a student of economics, it is unclear to me to what extent the economics profession agrees with this. 

In my experience, most economists want to enhance the wellbeing of humanity through analytical contributions. Yet, in the past several decades, dominant economic theory and practice has made a number of consequential errors that have compromised the discipline’s ability to fulfil this goal. Chief among them is the de-prioritisation of the single greatest threat to the wellbeing of humanity in the 21st century – the climate and ecological crisis. 

 Across teaching, research and public and policy engagement, economists have failed to adequately engage in this issue. The most cited journal in economics has never published an article on climate change. The teaching of economics remains abstracted from ecological foundations. And even as other academic disciplines have become increasingly vocal on this issue, economists have remained too silent. 

Worse too, when economists do engage, they often distort the problem. To name a few examples, their models tend to leave out tipping points, catastrophic risks and treat all threats as ‘marginal’. As a result, many economists’ contributions have been used as evidence to scale back, rather than scale up, climate ambition. 

The economics profession’s insufficient response to the climate crisis puzzles me – it appears they are not even living up to their own standards.  

Firstly, over the last several decades, economists have tried to convince the world that they are ‘scientific’. But, if they pride themselves on being scientific, then they must take the most important science of our day seriously.

Secondly, if the purpose of economics is to further human prosperity, then in an era of environmental breakdown, the exclusion of the natural world is only undermining that very goal.

 Thirdly, the priorities of economists are often governed by cost-benefit analysis, but there is no scenario that is more expensive than unabated climate change. Even when using this dangerously narrow framework, the economic imperative for urgent action is clear. With the inclusion of harder-to-quantify aspects, such as distributional justice, this imperative for action is only amplified.  

You might ask, why focus on economists? Is the inaction not the fault of politicians? Is it not a lack of political will? Sure, political willpower is in serious shortfall. As COP comes to an end, all eyes are on the world leaders. Rightly so. They must show leadership: they must take decisive and ambitious action or step aside for those that will. But pressure groups must also dig one layer deeper and ask how policy-makers make their decisions. For better or worse, economics has a central role in this process. If we are going to radically ramp up the ambition of climate policy, we must change how it is designed. We must change economics. 

That is what motivated us, a group of students from across the world, to found Economists for Future. To arrest the climate crisis, economics must move from getting it wrong to making it right. 

At Economists for Future, we are critical optimists. We have a deep belief in the power of good economics to make the world a better and more humane place. But we believe that we are currently not living up to our responsibility to help create and communicate a policy framework that accelerates the transformation to a more sustainable, prosperous and fairer world. 

At this stage, failure to step up to this responsibility and to seize this opportunity is to let down the world. If economists cannot engage in this economic transformation the science requires—then who? If we do not raise our game now—then when? The likelihood is it will be too late. In which case, history has every right to judge us harshly. 

In our one-page open letter we lay out the case for economists to raise their game. 

We are encouraging everyone to sign and share it. 

 

Let me start by telling you a secret, you can’t tell my boss though. When I first got a job at The Equality Trust I didn’t really know what inequality was. This is probably partly down to my privilege, but if you asked me to define it, there and then, as I was being interviewed, I’d have been toast. 

So when I started at The Equality Trust, I did what everyone does, I googled it. Then I read books on it, really good books. Then I watched Ted Talks on it and listened to podcasts but still it couldn’t quite stick. I couldn’t quite make sense of it in my head. Until I heard a story about it

Then I got it. Inequality is everywhere, every time you get that sick feeling of injustice in your stomach, the feeling you can’t define when you are a child, the feeling of sadness at the state of the world, that’s inequality. It’s everywhere and ever present. 

So how do we fight inequality? Well how about stories? After all, it worked for me.  

At The Equality Trust we have created a new platform to hear people’s stories about their experience of inequality… and it involves you. It’s called Everyday Inequality and brings home all the stats: think Humans of New York meets Everyday Sexism, but we’re talking about inequality in all its forms. 

We are facing unprecedented changes to our world. The climate crisis, shockingly unfair  levels of income distribution, insecure work and unequal pay. Inequality is entrenched in all these issues, yet there is no platform or forum providing information or access to the lived experience of inequality or its everyday impacts. Amongst the statistics, policy briefings and panels of experts, we forget real people’s voices and stories of inequality are lost. 

Everyday Inequality aims to change this. We are bringing together blogs, interviews, podcasts, poetry, music, art, videos and photography that showcase the real, diverse stories of what inequality feels like.

Videos, words, poems, performances – all forms of creative storytelling are welcome. Anyone can contribute, you don’t need any experience or a specific story to tell. You just need to be open to starting a conversation and talking about your personal experience, in whatever form you are most comfortable. We want this to be diverse and unique. Because inequality is bad for all of us, not just for people at the sharp end but those at top as well.

To find out more about the project, please get in touch with  frankie.galvin@equalitytrust.org.uk or visit our sign up form here. 

Frankie Galvin is Campaigns and Administrative Assistant at the Equality Trust

This content is reposted from Corporate Europe 

“In preparation for the complicated process of hiring 27 new EU Commissioners, Corporate Europe Observatory joined forces with organisations defending women’s rights, democracy, public health and the environment, to outline the ideal profile of Commissioner candidates.

With the selection of Ursula von der Leyen as new President of the European Commission now behind us, EU Institutions are gearing up for the complicated process of hiring 27 new EU Commissioners.

Each EU Member State nominates a candidate to the Commission, who will then need to be vetted by the European Parliament. Those that followed this process in 2014 will surely remember the many problems that can appear during this recruitment – from Commissioners with severe conflicts of interest with the industry they are meant to regulate, to sexism.

To ensure we don’t see a repetition of this situation, Corporate Europe Observatory has joined forces with organisations defending women’s rights, democracy, public health and the environment, to outline and suggest the ideal profile of EU Commissioner candidates.

We also wrote directly to the EU Heads of State ahead of the May 2019 Sibiu Summitt. EU citizens now count on their governments to deliver a list of candidates that is gender balanced, conflict of interest free and who will put public interest first.

Job ad: European Commissioners
Primary Location: Brussels, Belgium
Job Function: European Commissioner

Mission of the role

The people of Europe are looking for European Commissioners for the 2019-2024 term to take strategic leadership in putting people at the center of EU policy-making and to champion a just transition towards a sustainable economy and society for all.

Every day, people across Europe struggle with growing poverty and inequality, deteriorating access to healthcare and worrying levels of youth unemployment. Urgent problems go unsolved – the climate crisis, air pollution killing hundreds of thousands of residents, refugees and migrants fleeing war treated inhumanely, to name a few. Causes the EU once championed, such as gender equality and guaranteeing civil rights and labour rights, have stagnated.

Many people in the EU feel frustrated, and have lost trust in the capacity of the EU institutions to respond to their aspirations, fueling Euroscepticism across the continent. The rise of nationalism and xenophobia across Europe is a worrying sign and a severe threat to the EU’s fundamental values, to our health and well-being, to our future, and to the European project itself.

As European Commissioner, you will have a unique opportunity to restore trust in the EU, provide a better life for all of us, and prosperity for future generations and the planet.

Role and Responsibilities

You will serve people in the EU and beyond, by developing and implementing public interest- driven policies and positively contributing to a vision of Europe that:

  • Puts public interest first
  • Achieves the 2030 agenda for sustainable development
  • Respects the universal values of freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law and human rights
  • Delivers a strong social pillar in Europe
  • Delivers decent, sustainable jobs for all
  • Ensures the freedom of expression, association and assembly, including free media across Europe
  • Takes urgent climate action to limit warming to 1.5°C and phases out fossil fuels quickly, showing global leadership
  • Promotes just and sustainable transition to a 100% renewable energy supply, which is clean, affordable and supports community ownership and does not lead to energy poverty
  • Promotes sustainable and healthy food systems, more environmental and nature protection, increased food sovereignty and regional farmers’ markets
  • Ensures fair taxation
  • Pursues a sustainable trade agenda that is designed to advance well-being and the public interest, instead of cost and burden reduction for companies, and that end existing VIP rights for investors
  • Supports legally binding European and international human rights obligations for its businesses that operate overseas, including push for a UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights
  • Puts human rights at the centre of the response to migration
  • Contributes to a people-centred and gender-sensitive EU budget
  • Develops a needs-driven and responsible research and innovation policy
  • Ensures a high level of protection of human health and well-being in all EU policies
  • Ensures Europe cracks down on corruption both within and outside Europe and promotes greater transparency in member state and EU policy-making
  • Ensures meaningful public participation in EU policy-making processes
  • Ensures the corporate and the financial sector deliver for people and planet, not for profit

Essential Requirements

Candidates are expected prioritise the interests of people over those of economic and financial actors; by, among other things, limiting meetings with corporate lobbyists and ensuring that those meetings that take place are transparent.

Only candidates without conflicts of interest will be considered for this role. Such conflicts of interest can arise from candidates’ – or their spouses, partners or family members – financial investments or professional roles. Cases of this nature can not only impair the ability of these commissioners to act with impartiality, but they also taint the image of the EU institutions.

Additional Information

The EU is now striving to be an equal opportunities employer hence we particularly welcome applications from women; people of different ethnic, religious, and educational backgrounds; migrants; people with disabilities and LGBTI+ people.

Compensation Packages and Benefits

  • A generous compensation package, according to EU standards;
  • Transitional allowance at the end of the term to prevent any conflicts of interests with regard to the candidate’s prospective employment after leaving public office.

With this compensation package, paid by taxpayers money, we only expect the candidate to defend people’s interests above all.

To find out more and apply contact your national government as they will be responsible for nominating the candidates.”

The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) has published a new working paper making the case for an early zero carbon target for the UK.

‘Zero Carbon Sooner’ by Tim Jackson addresses the question of when the UK should aim for zero (or net zero) carbon emissions. Starting from the global carbon budget which would allow the world an estimated 66% chance of limiting climate warming to 1.5o C, the paper derives a fair carbon budget for the UK of 2.5 GtCO2. The briefing then analyses a variety of emission pathways and target dates in terms of their adequacy for remaining within this budget.

A key finding is that a target date for zero carbon is not sufficient to determine whether the UK remains within its carbon budget. Policy must specify both a target date and an emissions pathway. For a linear reduction pathway not to exceed the carbon budget the target year would have to be 2025. Nonlinear pathways, such as those with constant percentage reduction rates, have a higher chance of remaining within the available budget provided that the reduction starts early enough and the reduction rate is high enough. It is notable that reduction rates high enough both to lead to zero carbon (on a consumption basis) by 2050 and to remain within the carbon budget require absolute reductions of more than 95% of carbon emissions as early as 2030. On this basis, the paper argues in favour of setting a UK target for net zero carbon emissions by 2030 or earlier, with a maximum of 5% emissions addressed through negative emission technologies.

Download and read the briefing paper here.

 

WEAll member Local Futures has launched their founder Helena Norberg-Hodge’s new book, Local is Our Future. 

They explain the purpose of the book as follows:

“This book connects the dots between our social, economic, ecological and spiritual crises, revealing how a systemic shift from global to local can address these seemingly disparate problems simultaneously.

Distilling the wisdom gleaned from four decades of activism and direct experience in both the global North and South, Helena lucidly deconstructs the old narrative of ‘progress’ through technological advance and corporate growth, while presenting a concise and compelling case for economic localization.

Her arguments are supported by real-world examples proving that – beneath the radar of the mainstream media and far from the fetishized techno-utopia of Silicon Valley – healthy and vibrant futures, built upon connection to nature and community, are already in the making.”

Order from Local Futures online store

Local Futures would like to encourage readers to discuss the book as part of a book club or other community group – so they are offering a 30% discount for anyone planning to engage with the book collectively in this way. Please email seankeller@localfutures.org for details.

First published on Local Futures website

Imagine a world where food routinely gets shipped thousands of miles away to be processed, then shipped back to be sold right where it started. Imagine cows from Mexicobeing fed corn imported from the United States, then being exported to the United States for butchering, and the resulting meat being shipped back to Mexico, one last time, to be sold. Imagine a world in which, in most years since 2005, China has somehow managed to import more goods from itself than from the USA, one of its largest trading partners.

This may sound like the premise of some darkly comic, faintly dystopian film – albeit one geared towards policy wonks. But it’s no joke – in fact, it is the daily reality of the global economy.

The above examples are all instances of ‘re-importation’ – that is, countries shipping their own goods overseas only to ship them back again at a later stage in the production chain. And these are far from the only instances of this head-scratching phenomenon. In the waters off the coast of Norway, cod arrive every year after an impressive migratory journey, having swum thousands of miles around the Arctic Circle in search of spawning grounds. Yet this migration pales in comparison to the one the fish undertake after being caught: they’re sent to China to be fileted before returning to supermarkets in Scandinavia to be sold. This globalization of the seafood supply chain extends to the US as well; more than half of the seafood caught in Alaska is processed in China, and much of it gets sent right back to American grocery store shelves.

Compounding the insanity of re-importation is the equally baffling phenomenon of redundant trade. This is a common practice whereby countries both import and export huge quantities of identical products in a given year. To take a particularly striking example, in 2007, Britain imported 15,000 tons of chocolate-covered waffles, while exporting 14,000 tons. In 2017, the US both imported and exported nearly 1.5 million tons of beef, and nearly half a million tons of potatoes. In 2016, 213,000 tons of liquid milk arrived in the UK – a windfall, had not 545,000 tons of milk also left the UK over the course of that same year.

On the face of it, this kind of trade makes no economic sense. Why would it be worth the immense cost – in money as well as fuel – of sending perfectly good food abroad only to bring it right back again?

The answer lies in the way the global economy is structured. ‘Free trade’ agreements allow transnational corporations to access labor and resources almost anywhere, enabling them to take advantage of tax loopholes and national differences in labor and environmental standards. Meanwhile, direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels, on the order of $5 trillion per year worldwide, allow the costs of shipping to be largely borne by taxpayers and the environment instead of the businesses that actually engage in it. In combination, these structural forces lead to insane levels of international transport that serve no purpose other than boosting corporate profits.

The consequences of this bad behavior are already severe, and set to become worse in the coming decades. Small farmers, particularly in the global South, have seen their livelihoods undermined by influxes of cheap food from abroad; meanwhile, their climate-resilient agricultural practices are actively discouraged by the WTO and ‘free trade’ agreements. And food processing and packaging – both critical for food that’s going to be shipped a long way from where it was produced – account for a significant proportion of the global food system’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Food is not the only product that accrues unnecessary miles of shipping. The components of a typical smartphone, for example, have traveled a collective half-million miles – touching down on three continents – before landing in your pocket. This kind of excessive trade is why carbon emissions from international transport are growing nearly three times faster than emissions from other sources. At current rates of growth, international trade by sea and air will, by 2050, emit about as much CO2 as the entire European Union does today.

The link between liberalized trade policies and carbon emissions is clear and straightforward: A recent study from Japan’s Kyushu University found that when countries reduce or eliminate their tariffs – particularly on resource-intensive industries like mining and manufacturing – they see corresponding increases in the amount of carbon emissions associated with imported goods.

What this means is that if we’re going to effectively combat the climate crisis, we’ll have to pay attention to trade policy. Specifically, we’ll need to change it so that unrestricted, unlimited ‘free trade’ is no longer an option. But policymakers currently have little incentive to reduce international trade because, bizarrely, emissions from global trade do not appear in any nation’s carbon accounting. There are plenty of ways to fix this – for example, emissions from trade could be assigned to countries on the basis of where goods start out, where they end up, or where the ships and planes transporting them are registered. All that countries would have to do is agree on a standard. But at the moment no country is assigned responsibility for these floating emissions. The result is a situation in which policymakers promise to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously working to expand global trade – even though these two goals are wholly incompatible.

If policymakers continue to drag their feet, the impetus for real change in the way we conduct global trade will have to come from peoples’ movements working together to make their voices heard. We must call for an end to the deregulatory ‘free trade’ and tax policies that make practices like re-importation and redundant trade profitable. One of the most critical steps towards sanity would be the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels. When taxpayers stop paying part of the cost of global transport, transnational corporations will have to radically reconsider the way they operate.

These changes will be vigorously opposed by big global businesses, which means that generating momentum for trade policies that promote community health and ecological stability won’t happen overnight. But the first step is raising awareness of trade as a climate issue, and overcoming the unwillingness of most major media outlets, politicians, and think-tanks to discussit critically.

To that end, Local Futures has released a new factsheet and tongue-in-cheek short film on ‘insane trade’ and its consequences. We hope they can help draw attention to the absurdity of the current system, point to healthier alternatives, and make the issue of global trade approachable and understandable for a wide audience. So please, share them with people you know, and start a conversation around this critical topic.