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There are a vast selection of books that can deepen our knowledge of our economic system and our understanding of how to practically change the system to support human and ecological wellbeing. 

This past week, we reached out to our member network to suggest their top picks for these kinds of books. Here’s the result of this participatory process, listed alphabetically.

The  2021 Wellbeing Economy Reading List:

  1. Prosocial– Paul W.B. Atkins, David Sloan Wilson and Steven C. Hayes

2. Rethinking Racial Capitalism- Gargi Bhattacharyya

3. Humankind – Rutger Bregman

4. The New Possible – Philip Clayton

5. Sacred Economics – Charles Eisenstein

6. Green Swans – John Elkington

7. Debt: The First 5000 Years- David Graeber

8. Less is more – Jason Hickel 

9. Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer 

10. The Value of Everything- Mariana Mazzucato

11. The Nordic Theory of Everything- Anu Partanen

12. How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy – Raj Patel 

13. The Tyranny of Merit- Michael Sanden

14. The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

15. Growing Young: How friendship, optimism and kindness can help  you live to 100 – Marta Zaraska

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In case you missed them, here is a list of our Wellbeing Economics book recommendations from 2019 – 2020 This list  compiles recommendations from our members  WEAll members” and the WEAll Read book club.

  1. An Economy of Wellbeing: Mark Anielski
  2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Ha-Joon Chang
  3. Change Everything: Christian Felber
  4. Wellbeing Economy: Lorenzo Fioramonti
  5. The Divide: Jason Hickel
  6. New Economy Business: Margo Hoek
  7. Local Is Our Future: Helena Norberg-Hodge
  8. The Age of Thrivability: Michelle Holliday
  9. Prosperity Without Growth: Tim Jackson
  10. The High Price of Materialism: Tim Kasser
  11. A Finer Future: Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, John Fullerton and Anders Wijkman
  12. Economics Unmasked: Manfred Max-Neef
  13. The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
  14. Doughnut Economics: Kate Raworth
  15. What Money Can’t Buy: Michael J. Sandel
  16. Small is Beautiful: E.F. Schumacher
  17. Local Dollars Local Sense – Michael Shuman
  18. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: John Thackara
  19. The Economics of Arrival: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

By Isabel Nuesse 

This week, many American’s are gearing up for another Thanksgiving holiday. A holiday told to celebrate the harmony between the Pilgrims and Wampanoags – whose land expands from Southern Massachusetts, into Rhode Island.

Source: Wikipedia 

However, this narrative overlooks the genocide of the Native American peoples. It is said that between the 19th and 20th centuries, 75-90% of the Native American peoples were killed by the European Settlers

It is significant that the month of November, during which Thanksgiving takes place, has been named Native American Heritage month. Which was only officially recognized in 1990 by President George W. Bush. 

It has taken years to acknowledge the mass elimination of the Native American’s and the theft of their lands. Much of that acknowledgment is still missing. Though, understanding the true story of Thanksgiving is the first step in finding a better path forward for our society.

As we begin to plan how we ‘build back better’ in the face of the crises of COVID-19, inequality and climate change, this work is absolutely critical.

It feels obvious to say, but to address the crises we face and to build a Wellbeing Economy, we cannot use the same paradigm from which our current economic system was born.

We need alternatives. And, those alternatives exist. 

On this day, we consider the teachings of Native American communities and how these perspectives are necessary in building a more just and sustainable economy; both in the US and globally.  

WEAll members have collectively defined 5 universal human needs that a Wellbeing Economy must deliver upon, to truly be ‘better’ than our current system. The ‘WEAll Needs’ are: dignity for all, participation in decision making, access to and preservation and regeneration of nature, connection and fairness.

Indigenous value systems inherently already address each of these needs. 

In the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of ‘The Honorable Harvest’: Indigenous principles or rules that govern the exchange of life for life. She notes that while these ‘rules’ are not written, if they were, they would appear something like this: 

  • Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them
  • Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. 
  • Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
  • Never take the first. Never take the last. 
  • Take only what you need. 
  • Take only which is given.
  • Never take more than half. Leave some for others. 
  • Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. 
  • Give thanks for what you have been given.
  • Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. 
  • Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever. 

These principles highlight an incredible act; giving, which is in direct contrast to our current extractive economy, which is very much focused on ‘taking’. This mindset validates the endless growth paradigm and centers profit ahead of the land on which we depend. 

Crucially, these Indigenous principles highlight the truth that the Earth is the source of life, not a limit to life. And that everything that comes after, is dependent on that source.

In learning more about this ancient wisdom, I ask myself,“Can we learn from these perspectives? Can we better honor the land and give more than we take?”

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin speaks to a salient point. She notes that the Indigenous communities in what we call America observed, “The problem with these new people is that they don’t have both feet on the shore. One is still on the boat. They don’t seem to know whether they’re staying or not.” 

This speaks to an investment, in our lives, in our Earth. Robin then asks, “Can Americans, a nation of immigrants, learn to live here as if we’re staying? With both feet on the shore?” 

What does a Wellbeing Economy look like from this point of view? How can we ensure that we’re building a system that requires that both feet are on the shore? One that centers the earth and grounds the Wellbeing Economy movement in our living systems?

There’s much more learning to be done. Today, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from this wisdom and to start to help right the wrongs of our past. 

To deepen our understanding, we’re looking into these Indigenous organisations and resources: