Posts

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.

What do we want? To save the world!

When do we want it? Now!

How are we going to do it? Errr….

It was easy to be caught up by the exuberance of the Climate Strikers and Extinction Rebellion last Spring. Greta took many of us by surprise – a determined Swedish Joan of Arc campaigning solo against climate change. Who could forget her on the stage at Davos next to the venerable Sir David Attenborough, the old and the young united in purpose – calling for “a plan”? But as yet no masterplan has appeared to rescue the natural world and moderate climate change. And so, as we feared, the alarming decline continues.

For far too long an environmentally unaccountable economic juggernaut has dragged us towards a precipice of environmental collapse. But now the cohorts of climate protest have done something truly worthwhile- they have lit a beacon that will now be impossible to extinguish. However, it is vital that this beacon shines on the right place– the interface between economics and the natural world. The philosophical ground has been laid by Raworth, Klein and Occasio-Cortez and others. Their arguments are heartfelt, compassionate and elevating: the goals are admirable. Nevertheless, even the Green New Deal is as yet only a list of aspirations. We still lack the all-embracing blueprint for a practical, immediately realisable green economics revolution that doesn’t plunge the world into economic chaos. So where do we find that?

I’ve been searching for that blueprint for a long time, and I discovered it has been right under our noses all the time – in Nature itself.

It’s several decades since I first got seriously worried about what was happening to the environment and began the journey that eventually led to the publication of my book, Junglenomics, earlier this year. For years I suffered the pains of the ‘eco-anxiety’ that the American Psychological Association now recognises as a mental condition and describes as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Rachel Carson drove the nails in deeper. I may have been hard to live with sometimes, I admit. I found it difficult to see a future worth having children for (though I’m forever grateful to my wife for ignoring me!). Then I came across an old book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, by Dale Carnegie. Two pieces of advice stick in my mind: “compartmentalise” and “one step at a time”. The book taught me that you have to take control of your fears, not wallow in them. To do that I realised I needed to understand why we humans destroy the natural world that we depend on for our very survival. Not the superficial why- “greed” for example, but the genetic, developmental, anthropological why. “Look deep into Nature”, Einstein said, “and then you will understand everything better”. Few wiser words have been uttered. Yet I was to find that Nature not only helps you understand, it also provides solutions.

I began to see who we humans are in the big scheme of things: for example, that we are genetically driven to colonise resources, like all our ancestors before us since the beginning of life. I also came to realise that we live in an “economic ecosystem” that is an extension of natural ecosystems, with us as its “species”. But we aren’t tied to one niche like wild species: we are avatars, able to slip from one niche to another. Here, evolution is provided by ever more rapidly advancing technology and the new jobs it creates, while the out-dated go extinct.

And there lies the problem: our economic ecosystem has evolved too fast and too far to develop the fine synchrony that takes ecology millions of years to achieve; too fast in particular to build the checks and balances that in ecosystems keep species from destroying their environment. The chief reason our economic ecosystem has got so out of balance with the natural world is therefore because, unlike in ecosystems, polluters and degraders are divorced from the consequences of their destructive behaviour, so their own viability isn’t directly diminished by it. In ecosystems, “detritivores” have coevolved with potential polluters to clean up and recycle their outputs, each working for its own profit, innocently colluding to transfer nutrients back down into the soil to begin their life-giving journey once again. In contrast, markets have been free to degrade the environment yet thrive.

This is foremost an economics issue therefore. The power of markets, expressed through our ancient resource-hungry genes, now needs harnessing to work for the environment not against it, and until markets are subjected to the same economic disciplines found in ecosystems, the decline will go on.

There is of course much more to this, but the really exciting thing about this ecosystem approach is that it at last provides real beef- a manifesto covering all areas of the economics-ecology interface that any enlightened government could begin tomorrow: for example “Robin Hood” levies that take from polluters to fast-track a green tech revolution, and investment instruments that permanently protect important wilderness in return for infrastructure capital that benefits the poorest.

I believe passionately that if we can get our leaders to adopt it, such “ecosystem economics” could get us back in synch with the natural world before it’s too late.

Simon Lamb is the author of Junglenomics: Nature’s solutions the world environment crisis: a new paradigm for the twenty-first century and beyond

You can find the “12 Core Principles of Junglenomics”, and the “60-point manifesto for an environment-saving economics revolution” at https://junglenomics.com

As world leaders met at the UN this week, a small country was making a big decision about its approach to tackling climate change.

On 25 September, the Scottish Parliament voted to approve an ambitious new Climate Bill. With a target of net-zero emissions by 2045, the Bill stretches Scotland further than the UK as a whole and sets it apart as a world-leader in terms of targets. The 2045 target is legally-binding, meaning any remaining emissions would have to be entirely offset with measures such as increased tree planting and carbon capture and storage technology. In addition the bill sets a target to reduce 75% of greenhouse emissions by 2030 (on 1990 levels)

Úna Bartley, Director of WEAll Scotland said, “These new targets are to be welcomed and celebrated, especially given the role of civil society in driving up ambition in the bill’s final stage. However, setting targets is only the beginning; the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government must now take swift and bold action to drastically reduce emissions and ensure a just transition to a wellbeing economy begins as soon as possible.”

The bill also incorporates the UNFCCC principles, and a statutory duty to regularly report on Scotland’s consumption emissions, In addition, the bill pledges to hold Citizens Assemblies, which is a very exciting step towards more democratic ownership of climate policy and action. WEAll Scotland looks forward to engaging in these Assemblies, sharing ideas for economic transformation and helping connect our network to the Parliamentary process.

Scotland’s approach to climate change is a critical component of its contribution to the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative. Nicola Sturgeon declared in her recent TED talk that in the context of climate emergency, “the argument for the case for a much broader definition of what it means to be successful as a country, as a society, is compelling, and increasingly so.”

Achieving Scotland’s new climate change ambitions in a way that is inclusive and sustainable simply will not be possible without a transformation of our economic system. Young people are taking to the streets (and many of us not-quite-so-young people are joining them) demanding system change: targets are not all that we are asking for. We need policies and incentives to drive a complete redesign of Scotland’s economy. Check out this blog series that WEAll edited for Bella Caledonia with some of the ideas to make that happen.

Next year Glasgow will host COP26, and all eyes will be on Scotland as the world reckons with its progress on climate change five years after the Paris Agreement. The meaningful work for Scotland to live up to its climate leadership ambitions starts now: Scotland is on its way to having a leadership story worth telling at the COP.

Image – Andrew Cowan, Scottish Parliament

Dear Adult,

We are WEAll Youth and hereby we are inviting you to join the global climate strikes on the 20th and 27th of September.

In recent months, Greta Thunberg and millions of other students have been striking for the climate.

Right before our governments will gather at the United Nations for the Climate Action Summit on September 23, we will strike again.

Join us at the global climate strike on the 20th and 27th of September.

This is not just a call for students and young people, this is a call for everyone. We need to show our politicians something needs to happen now, to show them that business, as usual, is no longer an option.

Let’s make them see that we all need economic system change, that we all need to transform the current profit focussed economy to an economy that puts people and planet first.

WEAll Youth will be there, will you join us? Use #WEAll and #WEAll Youth on your banners and let’s see how many places we can take the message that in order to tackle climate change we all need economic system change. If you can’t be there in person, you can participate in the digital strike.

For more information and to check if there is a strike near you check out this website: https://globalclimatestrike.net/ 

We can’t wait to see you there,

WEAll Youth

Esther, Pien and Mara are part of the WEAll Youth core team. For more about WEAll Youth see here.

This article was first posted on Open Democracy

A few weeks ago I spoke on a panel at an economics conference alongside an academic who specialises in analysing results from surveys that ask people how they feel. These are the kind of surveys that ask people to rate how happy or anxious they are on a scale of 1-10, which in turn inform the evidence base of ‘subjective self-reported wellbeing’.

The results from these surveys certainly matter, but they do not depict the whole story of how a society is doing. To put it simply, you could report being very happy in an economy that is doing a lot of damage to the environment, becoming more unequal, or failing to ensure everyone has their basic needs met. But that’s another story.

What was interesting (and irksome) was his response to my suggestion that we need a new economic system. A system that does not see nature as simply an input to the production of things and a waste sink at the end of the production processes; but one that enables people to collaborate and build strong communities; that attends to reducing the inequalities that separate people from each other. In response to this, the academic declared that this was “fluffy bunny stuff”, and that I was being naïve.

This was not the first time I have been called naïve. As with this panel, every previous instance has been from a man older than me who seems to pride himself as a defender of the current economic system. The naïve insult is hurled to give the impression that to even think that things might be done differently is daft, and that serious and sensible people do not talk about changing the economic system.

My fellow panellist told the audience that if they “look at the data” they will see that things are fine in the UK, that the welfare state is working well, that people are naturally competitive, and that inequality doesn’t matter.

The problem is that just as only looking at how happy people say they are does not provide the whole picture; by only looking at selected pieces of information, defenders of the status quo effectively turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence against it.

There are many examples of this. For example: data is often subject to the tyranny of averages, as is the case with GDP per capita which masks the extent of inequality. Moreover, looking at headline employment statistics misses that many of those in work are not earning enough to live on and are turning to food banks. And while average subjective self-reported wellbeing in countries like the UK might be relatively high compared to other countries around the world, it misses the growing number of people self-harming or feeling stressed or lonely.

Furthermore, those who say that we are in an era of unprecedented prosperity conveniently disregard the impact that the creation of this ‘prosperity’ has had on the natural world. And even if, when pushed, they recognise that the environment matters, they tend to point to ‘green growth’ or casually say that things are fine due to the potential of decoupling CO2 from GDP growth. But that again ignores other aspects of environmental breakdown, and that decoupling is often achieved by offshoring to other countries – like a child sweeping their toys and books under the bed in order to tell their parents their bedroom is tidy.

As my intellectual hero Maja Gopel says, the burden of proof now sits with those who claim the current economic system is working fine or – perhaps worse – that it is the best we can do.

The defenders of the status quo need to explain why ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ will sufficiently attend to the interlocking crisis: how it will give people a sense of control over their lives; how it will ensure they are optimistic about the prospects of their children; how it will stop the world plunging into dire climate change; how it will bring people together rather than push them apart behind gated communities and twitter bubbles.

Fortunately, those of us working on building a wellbeing economycan do this. We can explain how a new economic system which is geared up around the purpose of human and ecological wellbeing will attend to these questions, and how it will be better for current and future generations. That, of course, doesn’t mean that shifting to such an economy will be easy, it just means the possibility is there.

Returning to that panel.

As an Australian, from a country where rabbits were introduced and did great damage to native flora and fauna, I’m not the biggest fan of bunnies.

But in the context of asking who really is naïve in discussions about the economy and the future of society and the world, then I am proud to be a fluffy bunny.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Image by Joe Brusky, CC BY-NC 2.0